I'm not here to make friends!

The early years of motherhood can be lonely for a mother who stays at home, and she may find herself frequenting parks, toddler music classes, and the public library, partly for the benefit of her child, partly to meet some like-minded mothers and probably mostly just to get out of the house. Like a young, single man going for a “run” with a puppy, this mother is ready and available for conversation. (Understandably so.) Unlucky for her, then, when she runs into another variety of mother, a mother of many children and/or older children. Out for a jaunt with one baby or toddler, this mother may be enjoying time with her youngest, who can not yet ask questions like “so, how exactly does the baby get out of the mommy’s belly?” (“Birth canal,” of course.)

When the new-ish mother sidles up to chat about diaper bags and preschool, the more experienced mother may be thinking, “oh please, please, don’t make me engage in small talk! This is boring enough already.” Whereas, she once would have welcomed the interaction of an informal mother’s group, now, she just wants to watch her child play/dance/explore and possibly sneak in a little time with her Blackberry. So what is the well mannered mother to do about this? Clearly, acting like a reality TV contestant and declaring "I'm not here to make friends!" is out. Packing up and heading home is also not likely an option. Instead, she could politely indicate a disinterest in conversation by keeping her answers short and questions few. She could casually mention the older children. Or, she could remember her own boredom and loneliness as a new mother, smile, and chat. In no time at all, she may find herself enjoying a casual conversation with her husband's college roommate's sister's friend, with a former buyer for Bergdorf's, or some one who used to clerk for a supreme court justice. She may even find the whole experience a bit interesting, fun, or informative. And, all while watching the her child giggle and clap his chubby hands or scale a playground ladder for the first time.

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