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The Relationships You Really Need as a Mom

Erin Zammett Ruddy

I write a lot about the importance of nurturing your marriage post-kids, but there are other relationships you can’t ignore, either: Girlfriends.

Do you ever get together with friends—sans kids, sans husbands—and when you get home think, “Wow, that was awesome. I need to do that more often”? Yeah, me too. Last night I had book club (loose term—we haven’t actually discussed a book in almost a year) and it was, as it always is, just what the doctor ordered. I left feeling recharged from the laughter and the candid, honest girl talk/oversharing (this is not a group for the faint of heart). The crazy part: I almost didn’t go last night because I am overwhelmed with deadlines and have a ton of other things I’m supposed to be doing (thank you notes, to name a thousand) and, in all honesty, there was a part of me--the exhausted part--that wanted to spend the rainy night on the couch. Looking back, I can’t imagine if I’d given up that real-life girl time for the Housewives of anywhere.

I’m lucky that I’ve always had great girlfriends throughout my life and have maintained so many of those relationships from so long ago. My kids are now friends with the kids of some of my oldest friends, which to me is both astonishing (are we really that old?!) and totally awesome. I’m still super close with the girls I used to hang out with in junior high and elementary school, before we called it hanging out (“play” I believe was the term). They live in NYC still so I don’t get to see them as often as I’d like but we were all together last weekend at my friend’s bridal shower and, like always, it was as if no time had passed at all. Being with friends who knew you when you had braces and a bad perm is so bizarre—in a good way. There’s a built-in connection and level of intimacy that’s harder to find with newer friends. So many things don’t need an explanation. Everyone gets your old-school references. We all know where we’re coming from because we’ve been there. Literally. (The sleepovers we used to have at each other’s houses were epic.) I get to be with them again in a few weeks at the bachelorette and I can’t wait.

I’ve also made new friends in the past few years, which is hard but so important. It took time after moving out of the city to build a base of girl friends I cherish, but I now feel so lucky to have so many great women in my life (much of that is thanks to wine club, which, as I mentioned, overflows with that level of intimacy/oversharing I crave with friends). I’m now tight with the wives of some of my guy friends from high school and I’ve become close with old acquaintances, which happens when you move back to your hometown and have kids the same age (husbands who adore each other is a huge bonus). I’m even friends with some former frenemies, which I think is the coolest. And I've reconnected with friends that go way back. And then there are the college friends of your friends or coworkers of your friends who you get introduced to and love. Or the random person who pops up on your radar seemingly out of the blue and you hit it off like you were meant to find each other, like friend soul mates. To me, there is no greater joy as an adult than making a new friend who you know will be in your life for the long haul.  

Many of my friends from high school and college are scattered around the country but we try to see each other when we can. I actually just booked a trip back to Knoxville for a big University of Tennessee football weekend this fall, where I’ll be hanging with my old roomies plus some girls I haven’t seen in over a decade. Yipes! And every time I’m in the city, I try to schedule visits with old coworkers—when you work on an almost all-female staff for over eight years you're bound to make lifelong friends (you're also bound to do a lot of oversharing, so these ladies know me well!) It’s not that I’m some crazy social butterfly who rolls everywhere in a pack of women. I don’t see all of these friends all that often. But when I do I always feel great. I feel lucky. And I want more. Because it’s different than doing the couple thing (which I love, too) or the kid playdate thing. Obviously this exclusive time gets harder to schedule and getting out for a girls’ night usually means having a good man willing to stay home with the kids (Nick loves when I go out because he can order disgusting Chinese—I only like the non-disgusting kind—and watch something other than Bravo). Sometimes, though, you have to really prioritize it. A few weeks ago when Nick was out of town, I hired a babysitter on a Tuesday night to watch the kids and six friends and I went out on the boat. We ate and drank (not the captain) and swam and when we got back to the dock, we lingered until nearly 11:30 p.m., that’s how much fun we had. And we’d all admitted to really needing a girls’ night. You get to vent, you get to share, you get validation knowing that someone else may have been through whatever it is you’re going through, you get advice, you listen and you laugh. A lot.

I guess I’m saying all of this because I think it’s so important to nurture these relationships. And nurture doesn’t mean you have to meet for coffee once a week or even speak on the phone all that often—or ever (I text with many of my friends as a way of keeping up and I love it). It shouldn't be another thing on your to-do list but you should do it. The best part about all of the current ladies in my life (old and new) is there’s no pressure. We all have busy lives whether it’s with work or kids or dating or marriage or all of the above. We don't make anyone feel guilty for not being available. We just pick up where we left off. And whatever time we make for each other is always a good time. And these past few instances have been a reminder of that.

Do you do girls’ nights/get togethers? If not, you should! Do you keep up with old friends? What do you love about it?