Yesterday, a friend of mine came over to my house at 8:30 a.m. to drop off a pair of her child’s underwear for my child to try on. That is a thing that happened, a thing that was not only extremely helpful, but also one in a long string of things your pre-kid self would have judged with a signature Simon Cowell, “It’s a no from me.” It got me thinking, first about the transformation your “squad” makes when you have kids and again as they get older. And then about just how important the friendship of women is to me now.
I started school living on a cul-de-sac that housed seven little girls, three of us Jennifers. Like many groups of girls in the ’80s, we gave our group a nickname, “Pink Ladies,” rode banana seat bikes, and played on the block ‘til dinner time. Even though I know I had all kinds of friends as a kid, my first BIG memory of boys isn’t even until fourth grade when a group of them laid out cardboard to break dance on the corner in front of my house.
Somewhere in middle school, at least that’s how I remember it, I started thinking I liked having “boy” friends better. I read an incredible New York Times opinion piece, “Why Women Compete With Each Other” by comedy producer, former therapist and enviable bangs-wearer Emily Gordon. And I now see the “guy friend” thing as a misguided attempt to get off the comparison roller coaster of having petite friends with endless clothing options, who, in my mind were without flaw or turmoil. I mean, I was wrestling with billowing puffs of poorly managed curly hair and with a nearing-adult-sized body that was taller than lots of my friends’ mothers by high school. I always had girl friends, but as I got older and older, the “dudes” side of my friendship ratio grew and grew.
By the time I was leaving high school — I believe now wrongly and at my own expense — being in a big group of girls just didn’t feel like “my thing.” Comedian Amy Schumer is often in my social media feeds talking about her group of female friends. Some are a group of girls she went to high school with and others are women she supports, employs and works with in the business. This now seems like a work of art, or an act of defiance, in a “Who Wore It Better?” world.
This ratio naturally started to change as my friends and I were getting married. That is typically a time where some don’t add as many opposite-gender friends and where you start adding friends’ spouses into the mix. For me, this really brought more and more women into my world. However, nothing in my life so far — working in a male-dominated business with male-dominated interests — would have pointed to the group of women I befriended, was befriended by, got help/learned from, cried to and in front of, and was there for me when I was having a baby, and eventually another. As someone who could hardly keep from doing a spit-take after hearing “It Takes A Village” — the book came out the year I was old enough to drink (legally anyhow) — it was surprising to be be a cog in the wheel of said “Village.” This doesn’t mean only Moms; in my case, from early on, those who didn’t have kids were also lifelines for me.
I am currently above my baseline of “over-emotional,” due mostly to my transition from having a job I go to, to not having a job I go to, and also because the friend I am in the most contact with is out of town. (I mean, my every-day agenda is actually different because she’s on vacation.)
I thought it would be a good time to acknowledge how great/vital having a group of women friends has been and, as I #LeanIn by letting people help me, remembering “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Even if all of this means I am going to have to hug more people.
I am grateful for the acceptance for those that share in my spazziness as I send a text for each sentence I type, as opposed to one civilized text causing one phone buzz. For those who say they totally hear that I’m upset over something that may prove inane or those who get mad with me when someone does something wacky. Especially grateful for the one who said, “There is an epidural in your future.”
I am grateful to be able to pay it forward by comforting mothers or picking up slack in harder times like was done for me. For, continued understanding that what works for their kid, might not work for mine while still continuing to share not only what has helped, but also when Triscuit Thin Crisps are on mega sale at Freddy’s.
I am grateful for continued invitations and also for understanding over the last nine years as I said “no” to so much in fierce defense of what was my crazy work and therefore sleep schedule.
And, I’m grateful for the listening and for talking and for just letting me watch their struggles and see I’m not the only one who is sure they’re blowing it.
— By Jennifer Marx
Jen Marx, a mom of two young boys, is always looking for a fun place to take the kids that makes them tired enough to go to bed on time. You can find her trying to make sense of begging kids to ” just eat the mac n cheese” at jen_marx . If you have a kid-friendly event you’d like to share, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.