And Carol, a successful graphic designer, recently described her meltdown while babysitting in the lobby of a museum for a friend who was in the bathroom filling up a baby bottle with a breast pump. "I can't tell the difference between a pacifier and a teether," Carol recalls, "yet there I was, trying to get a colicky newborn to calm down by pushing him in his stroller back and forth for a full 20 minutes while everyone was staring at me."
Maybe there is a good reason why mothers and non-mothers have trouble finding common ground. Only the most devoted buddies are supposed to stick around. Mothering is not for the fainthearted. Mess, chaos, and pandemonium are to be expected. So if you can't take the heat, get out of the nursery.
Yet, as out of touch as they sometimes are, baby-bashful girlfriends are a healthy influence on both mother and child. Born in the heady days of early feminism, my daughter was raised among my friends, women for whom liberation was synonymous with solidarity. A number were childless by choice, yet felt compelled to support peers who, like me, were single with a baby in tow. These liberated girls would bring over their knitting for the evening and, while I did the dishes, show my kid how to purl. From these impromptu "aunts," my daughter learned something I couldn't have taught her on my own: that she belongs to a large tribe of generous and multitalented women.
In the long run, the presence of a child can be an opportunity for girlfriends to get closer to each other. Cathy and I didn't drift apart forever. When her son was three, she emerged from mental hibernation: One morning (perhaps because she'd had an almost normal night of sleep, at last), she woke up and was her old self again. She called me and we resumed our relationship with renewed energy. Today we live on different coasts, but we are very close. We are linked by a common history—that of our friendship. Together we have grown as much as, if not more than, the children we have nurtured over the years.
This article originally appeared in the May/June 2003 issue of Organic Style . Reprinted by permission of the publisher.