When I decided to leave my job and stay at home, one of my first concerns was that I had no friends.
Maybe I should rephrase. Yes, I did have friends. Lots of them - just not in DC. They are primarily scattered amongst Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, and London, and derive from high school, college, and grad school. Despite the distance, I am forever bonded to these friends through so many shared experiences: the trauma of leaving home and going to college, the stress of breakups, the joy of falling in love, the dilemma of choosing a career, more inside jokes than I can count, and lots of cheap beer. They are true lifelong friends. So no need to feel too sorry for me.
With my friends across state lines, most of my socialization prior to leaving my job was with work colleagues. There were work happy hours, work holiday parties, and the occasional dinner gathering. And even if these weren't necessarily the people I would have been friends with in a college setting, we were also bonded by shared experiences: the trauma of leaving our youth behind, the stress of long hours, the joys of a case settling, the dilemma of whether to leave a demanding career, lots of inside jokes (usually concerning annoying clients and/or asshole partners), and lots of free alcoholic beverages.
When I was still working and would daydream about staying at home, an overwhelming anxiety surrounded how exactly I would spend my time. When I was working part time, I had two days at home with Braden, and even then, the days would get long. I did have a few mom friends I had met through a new mom's group, and we would get together every other Friday. But those moms worked 4 days a week. With a potential five days a week at home, every single week, every other Friday wasn't going to cut it.
Despite this concern, I bit the bullet. (You all know the story, and if you don't, you can read it here.) On one of my first full days at home, I decided to take things into my own hands. I took Braden to a Children's Museum in Bethesda, determined to come home with a few phone numbers. Yes, this was like dating. Scarily so.
I sized the women up. I had a few criteria - I wanted them to have a child around Braden's age, with no older children (just makes playdates easier). No preference on son or daughter. I was hoping for someone near my age (+/- 5 years). Appearance didn't matter much, as long as they weren't sloppy or smelly. I preferred someone who didn't have a designer purse (an indication of a high maintenance personality). State of origin also wasn't too important, although I had a slight aversion to New Yorkers. A European passport was a plus.
Well, I think it was fate. Because within 20 minutes or so, there she was. We got to talking. She had a daughter one month younger than Braden. She was from Mississippi. She was my age, friendly, pretty, and wasn't even carrying a purse. Her name was Sabrina. Obviously she wasn't European, but I was probably reaching with that one. We exchanged numbers. And that was it!
She introduced me to several of her other friends, who also met all of my criteria. And in any event, I started realizing that my criteria didn't matter much. As long as they were someone pleasant to talk to, and the kids got along, who cares about the other stuff? I even made a mom friend who is a New Yorker. And every now and then I sport a Coach purse. But I digress.
I guess my point is, it only takes one good one. Once I had Sabrina, I knew things would be okay. We saw each other several times a week. Our husbands became friends. Her good friends became my good friends. Then, we had a new neighbor move in, with a boy Braden's age. A stay at home mom from Minnesota. Score, another great friend, who we even do wine nights with (major bonus). And those moms I met at the new moms group? One (also a biglaw attorney) recently quit her job to stay home. Enter a new friend into the group. It's a love fest really. And I am so, so lucky.
I have to say though, I do miss my former colleagues, from both firms. Unsurprisingly, we don't keep in touch the way I do with my friends from my pre-career days. But the camaraderie, especially among law firm associates, is unique. Last week, when I was at my husband's summer associate event, I caught a glimpse of it and it made me sad. I miss the indulgence, but more than that I miss the feeling that you have collectively earned the indulgence. The stress and the long hours that bind you together also mean that you have a reason to really celebrate together, when you can. And I can say, at both my jobs, we did.
There is definitely camaraderie amongst my stay at home mom friends too, but it isn't as glamorous as closing a deal or settling a case, and there are no free drinks involved. It's a potty training accomplishment. It's the birth of a new sibling. It's complaining about our husbands' long hours or business trips. It's a much deserved girl's night out, where we drink cocktails and talk about our kids and start yawning around 10pm.
In many ways, my fellow stay at home moms are my colleagues. We have meetings, conference calls, and celebrations. And I venture to say that the friendships of these particular colleagues will be long lasting.
Love you girls.