Finding mom friends is just like dating. You have to figure out exactly what it is you’re looking for. Then you must scour the earth for someone who meets your needs and awkwardly ask them on a play date with all of the anxiety of a pubescent teen.
I have never needed friends so much as now—as I am knee-deep in laundry and my dining room table coated with a distinct layer of yesterday’s oatmeal. There is no one else, not even my adoring spouse, who understands the emotional roller coaster that is daily life with small children.
My mom friends are my rocks and I cling to them through the storms of parenthood.
Through trial and error, through growth pains and additional children, I have whittled down the qualities that I think are most important in a great mom friend. Although these attributes are not uncommon, they are hard to find all in one, perfect mommy package.
But search, and ye shall find.
1. Can you participate in a lively discussion?
I don’t need you to agree with me—but I want you to challenge me. If I have an opinion and you think I’m full of it, call me on it. I desire to engage in dynamic debates about today’s issues because to be honest, sometimes I need to talk to someone about something important and adult. My days are filled explaining why Oscar the Grouch lives in a garbage can or discussing the value of clean underwear.
I am still a person. I need to ask my own questions—what do we do about gun violence? What are the pros and cons of vaccinations? How do you brave the fits of a fiery toddler? And most importantly—the man with the yellow hat from Curious George—is he a drug dealer? Where is he always running off to?
2. Are you non-judgmental?
I want you to be forgiving in your judgments of my parenting abilities. You’ll learn in time that I have the best intentions but that intentions are sometimes left by the roadside when you are trying to push three little children out of the door. When I show up to our play date with one kid dressed in pajamas, one with a knot in her hair the size of Texas, and the other wearing a Ninja Turtle shirt that is a size too small, I need you to recognize that some days it is incredible that I left the house at all.
I’m not perfect. And that’s OK.
3. Are you into food?
My world revolves around snacks. If you show up to my house with food, we’re going to be friends. If you suggest we grab a burrito on our way to the park—we’ll get along fine. Do you lose your temper when you haven’t eaten? Do your kids melt into puddles when they haven’t been fed? Us, too.
I once saw a friend open her purse and it was like the light from heaven was shining directly in there—it was filled with snacks that she had prepared just for us. She brought homemade hummus. And sourdough! Sigh. Some friends are rare gems and you gotta hold on to those suckers tightly.
4. Do you have a great sense of humor?
This might be the single most important quality to find in a mom friend. I need someone who can laugh at the pitfalls of parenthood alongside me. When I come to your house wearing two different shoes and I’ve attempted to dye my hair at home—I need you to laugh with me over a (large) glass of wine. You will say things like “The orange hair compliments your eyes,” or “It is better when I look at you with sunglasses on” and we will laugh.
If I drop a reference from The Office, I expect you to pick that up. When I describe letting go of my Gyno and use the phrase, Bye Felicia, that better register deep within you.
(I once had an entire texting conversation with my bestie using only GIF’s. You cannot manufacture that kind of chemistry that is required for that kind of tête-à-tête.)
5. Can you be honest with me?
I don’t want a friend who will placate me. When I ask you a question I want a sincere answer. This can be really hard for some women but it I crave an honest opinion. You have to tell me if my breath stinks or if my three-year-old I having trouble pronouncing the letter “r”. I am counting on you to set me straight.
And don’t worry—I will reciprocate. When you ask if your two-year-old daughter has a mullet I will gently, but surely, assure you that she does. I will suggest that you skip going to swim lessons and take her straight to the hairdresser instead. (Priorities, am I right?)
Eventually someone is going to come along and just like falling in love, your pulse will race and your palms will sweat.
You may see her feeding her kid food off of the grocery store floor or sweetly singing Gangsta’s Paradise to her baby while pushing him on the swing. No matter where or how you connect, hold that mommy friend close.
The good ones are different.
They are special.
And they are worth the wait.
This post first appeared on Mother.ly