It's Me, Not You: Breaking Up with My Mom Friend
Years ago, I met a fellow mom (let’s call her “Jane”) at the park when our children were preschool-aged. Seeing that I had a daughter around the same age as her son, she struck up a conversation with me and we talked while our children played in the play structure.
“Your daughter looks just like you!” she said. “Where does she go to preschool?”
The questions were flung rapid fire at one another – two moms eager to share in the journey of motherhood.
“Do you guys do any other classes outside of school? Henry loves gymnastics and I just signed him up at this place in Culver City. It’s amazing!”
“Have you taken him to the Skirball Museum yet? We love the Noah’s Arc exhibit.”
After an hour of chatting while our children played, Jane and I exchanged phone numbers and made a plan to have lunch – just us moms.
Within a week, we shared articles of interest with one another, recipes for homemade smoothies, and met up for a walk. We compared notes about raising a family, balancing motherhood with professional interests, nurturing our relationships with our husbands, and everything else in between.
“Do you get along with your mother-in-law? Does she annoy you?”
“Are you guys traveling anywhere fun for the holiday weekend?
I liked Jane. She was thoughtful and witty and she had many of the same ideas I had about motherhood and childrearing.
But after a handful of mommy dates, I started to feel uneasy about being around her. There were complaints about her son’s preschool director, her sister, and even neighbors. I began to feel annoyed by her criticisms of others, her competitiveness, and her overly sensitive nature. Suddenly, I stopped wanting to participate in Jane’s conversations.
“She can’t wear normal workout clothes from Target? It has to be Lululemon? Does she have time to do yoga and Pilates on the same day? I don’t think so!” Or: “Seriously, I would never exclude anyone from my son’s birthday party. How rude is Samantha for not inviting my Henry to Jordan’s karate party!”
I had only known her for a couple of weeks, so it felt awkward and poorly-timed to tell her to just chill out. My discomfort only grew stronger and after avoiding her invitations for a while, I agreed to meet her for lunch one afternoon.
Immediately, Jane sat down and made a bold statement. “I haven‘t seen you in a couple of weeks. I was beginning to think you didn’t like me anymore.” Though I explained to Jane that I had just become busy with other responsibilities, her intuition about my reticence to continue our friendship proved accurate. I really didn’t want to be friends.
But there’s more to the story. After a good long hard look in the mirror, I realized why I had grown so irritated by Jane’s behavior. Essentially, I had grown terrified that I had, in fact, held the same annoying characteristics that had turned me off of Jane. The complaints may not have been exactly the same, but the criticisms and judgmental attitude were frightfully familiar.
Without confrontation, Jane and I ended our friendship after lunch that day. After a couple of years, I noticed she had actually unfriended me on Facebook. It stung a little, but it didn’t surprise me (and I deserved it). I didn’t want to be around Jane because I didn’t want to be like Jane. We hadn’t known each other long enough for me to call her (us) out on the judgmental behavior.
What I have learned is that the universe is a brilliant mirror. What you dislike the most about yourself, or what you subconsciously wish to change about yourself, will magically be reflected back at you – if you are paying attention.
After the Jane episode, I’m paying a lot more attention to what triggers the strongest reaction from me. Without fail, it has everything to do with me.
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