I think they were close. But there was a tension, a tension that I believe was created and relieved by the tiny, bald baby girl that the mom nursed off on on. The non-mom (I hate calling her this, because it seems to define her as what she is not, but it's the easiest way to differentiate for this story) was asking questions about motherhood: kind, curious questions like, "Are you loving it?" But mostly, they just talked about life--their time in college, their moms, gossiping about friends. But every once in a while the little thing would coo and quietly demand something. And it was clear that the non-mom knew she did not, and would not for some time, if ever, have the full attention of the mom again. I now remind you that this is speculation. And probably some projection. Even when the baby was sleeping in the car seat on the bench next to them, it was clear that the mom was, at best 90% there. And that 10% is important.
I have been on both sides of this, and although I am most recently on the side of the mom and will now forever be on the side of the mom, I have been on the side of the non-mom and felt keenly for her. It is confusing to have a friendship redefined this way.
I remember it first when my sister had kids. There is a ten year gap between us, and I think for a long time I filled that roll of little one to love for my sister. She would often come home late, hear me murmur as she walked by my bedroom, then come sit on my bed and stroke my hair until I fell asleep again. My sister has magical hands that make you feel beautiful and relaxed when she places them on you. (I think this is a large reason why her children are such lovely people, because they've been raised under the touch of those other-worldly hands.) Then, when I was seven, she had her own child. She moved out and no one ever had her undivided attention again.
This sounds dramatic, but that is what it felt like. As her youngest child grew up, it wasn't quite that bad, but then she had another. And then more people started having babies and I realized that something changes in moms that either never goes back or takes a long, long time. And sometimes I would feel cast aside, then I would feel selfish for feeling cast aside because, hello! they suddenly had real live little humans to take care of. And when friends started having babies (I was also going through a divorce this time) I pondered the many ways people might see me as a failure.
But then it was me who was having a baby, and when I was pregnant a lot of people told me that my mom friends would become increasingly important and precious. And they did. My relationships with other moms have grown in ways I could not have imagined. They have listened to incoherent fits of crying and sat with me in silence and looked at my baby with the same love I did, because they were feeling the love for their own babies. And you always have something to talk about with other moms ("How old are your kids?")
But, what about my other friends. Sometimes our friends who don't have children get short changed, and sometimes even shamed. I once heard someone say, when rehashing an emotional high school reunion: "Oh, you think your job helping homeless is hard, try having children!" This is extreme and she was probably, definitely in the throws of dealing with other shit. I've also heard the equally mean accusation that you don't know what life is about until you have kids. But, mostly, I hear a lot of less intense, more insidious things like, "I used to have time to paint my nails, then I had a kid!" Or, "I haven't read in years; I have kids!"
Other people have written more extensively about this, so I'll stop here. Well, I'll stop after this video. Carrie says is so well.
There's so much judgement women face when they chose to: not have children, or to put it off, or have more than one, or only have one, or adopt domestically, or adopt internationally, or adopt inter-racially, or babysit their grand-kids full time, or send their kids to daycare, or hire an in-home nanny, or enroll in full time preschool. But under all the judgment and change of roles and people's constant sharing of opinions about what we do or don't do, I think pretty much every woman I know shows up for me and each other on a regular basis.