I Use My Baby to Make Grown-up FriendsAngela Johnson
It’s a well-known fact that babies are the ultimate chick magnets. Something about their ever so smooth skin and adorable little toes makes them irresistible to the fairer sex. Just try getting through the grocery store without being stopped in every aisle by women who want to coo at your little one. It’s for this very reason that I don’t allow my husband out of my sight with our Baby Bjorn. But what he doesn’t know is that I have been shamelessly exploiting our daughter’s cuteness behind his back for the past 13 months.
Before you judge, I already know how awful it is to use my baby to pick up women. But I have good reasons for doing so. She’s way more charming and, unlike me, doesn’t need two glasses of wine to start a conversation with a complete stranger. She hasn’t experienced the sting of rejection from mean girls who go out of their way to embarrass you for being different, or the cute guy who overlooks you for the girl who is way too well-endowed to be in the seventh grade. My daughter is fearless; I simply sit back and let her do all the work.
Without a doubt, she’s the best wingman anyone could ask for. She scouts them out wherever we go: women about my age with kids (usually boys) about her size. Once she locks in on her targets, she delivers her best two-toothed smile, rendering both mother and babe completely helpless, until they have no choice but to engage us in conversation. At that point, it’s up to me to close the deal.
That’s where things get tricky. My daughter inherited her congeniality from her father. She will not hesitate to approach a group of kids, even if they’re twice her size. I’m more of a shrinking violet and usually rely on other people to initiate contact. And since making friends at 35 requires a lot more than sharing your Oreos, I haven’t been the best at establishing relationships as an adult.
Case in point: During a recent trip to our local bookstore, my little girl noticed a mother reading to her son. She instantly leaped out of my arms and made her way over to lovingly pull the hair of the tiny object of her affection. I apologized profusely to the mom for my daughter’s boldness, but secretly thanked my partner-in-crime for stumbling onto an opportunity to make a new friend.
At first glance I could tell that this woman was my kind of mom: casually chic in black leggings and knee-high boots with a modest heel. Her oversized handbag served double-duty as a fashion accessory and transporter of baby gear. Over the next half-hour, we learned that we both loved knitting, ’80s pop, and were in the process of reinventing ourselves as work-at-home mothers. I gave her advice on making baby food, and she gave me the heads-up on a new neighborhood playground. The conversation flowed so effortlessly, we hardly noticed our children attempting to topple the display in the middle of the store. As I prepared to leave, I tried to think of a way to make sure I could keep in touch with my new mom crush.
But, as usual, nothing clever came to mind. I ended the conversation with an awkward promise to check out the playground and hoped that no one else could smell my desperation. I kicked myself all the way home for leaving without the woman’s contact information. After that, I stalked the playground for weeks, hoping to run into her again. I didn’t.
I knew my life would change after giving birth. I was totally prepared to lose sleep, money, and any sense of privacy, but I had no idea that I would lose most of my friends in the process. Since becoming a mom, it’s been increasingly difficult to maintain relationships with many of my carefree comrades. Leaving the house is a complicated balancing act, requiring me to schedule my outings precisely between my daughter’s nursing and napping windows. This fact usually gets me left out of the loop all together. A couple of my tried-and-true pals have remained faithful, meeting me and the baby for a quick lunch on their way someplace more interesting. The rest wouldn’t be caught dead walking down the street with a stroller – even if someone else pushed it. I adore my little girl, but spending 9 hours a day with someone who can’t talk can be lonely. I think it’s only fair that she help me replace the friends I lost.
I figured (naively) it would be an easy thing to do, especially in Brooklyn, where hip city girls go to die. My baby’s sparkling personality would attract a new group of like-minded mommies who would fill the void left by my single gal pals. I’d do some of the legwork by putting us in the best situations to meet other moms. But after several unfulfilling meet-ups and Mommy & Me classes, I discovered that it wouldn’t be so easy to cure my post-partum blues.
I wanted so badly to fit in, I couldn’t get over the fear that these moms wouldn’t accept me into their already tight-knit groups. They flaunted their plans for play dates in my face and made it clear that I’d missed the window of opportunity to join the “in crowd.” Friendships had been formed in their prenatal classes while I had been sentenced to bed rest for most of my pregnancy.
And when someone did attempt to include me in the conversation, I felt as insecure as I did on my first day of high school. My daughter always did her part – being adorable at all the right moments – but she was oblivious to how uncomfortable I felt when the conversation turned to summer homes, nannies, or some other topic that caused me to force a dim-witted smile until someone changed the subject. These moms were housewives by choice, eagerly accepting the responsibility of keeping spotless homes and warm cookies on the table as if it were their birthright. I was awkwardly forced into my role due to downsizing and could barely afford to leave the house. I didn’t think there was a way I’d ever feel at ease with this SAHM set.
Though I lack the social graces and the adorableness of my daughter, her innocent confidence inspires me. I’ll continue to encourage her gregarious little spirit while we try out new social situations, and hopefully, once she starts talking, she’ll be able to explain why her mother is such a wallflower. And when I find a group of women that enjoys drinking wine while knitting and listening to Wham! between 4 and 7 pm, I’ll owe it all to my little girl.