Friend groups—everyone has them. Even if you consider yourself to be friendly with, and hang out with, lots of different people, most people usually have a core group of friends that they spend the majority of their time with. While friend groups are varied and unique, there is one role that is nearly always fulfilled: the “mom.”
If you are the mom of your friend group, you know exactly what I am talking about. If you are not the mom of your friend group, you know exactly who is. The friend group mom has a few key traits and responsibilities that are instantly recognizable.
Arguably the biggest job of the mom is to watch over and take care of her friends when they are drinking. The mom usually has one drink or stays sober so she can keep an eye on her tipsier friends. She dutifully follows her friends around all night, toting their coats, phones and other personal items. She encourages them to take water breaks and overall ensures they make smart decisions.
Outside of the party scene, in the daylight, the mom always has Kleenex, hand sanitizer and Band-Aids on hand. She usually carries a stocked purse or bag, able to pull almost anything you might need out of it like a magician plucking a rabbit out of a hat.
Friend group moms are also good at scheduling. You can count on her to text you to make sure you are up for your class, or provide you with a wake-up call on the day of a big interview or class presentation. Do not be late meeting her for lunch—you will be reprimanded.
All kidding aside, the role of the friend group mom is a pretty taxing one. Being the mom can cause conflict and rifts in your friendships. The natural tendency of the mom is to be protective, and this can especially become an issue when it comes to a romantic relationships. Moms can be hypercritical of boyfriends, girlfriends or other romantic interests.
It can be grating on a friendship when one friend is head over heels for a new crush, and another friend is less than enthusiastic. After all, a friend group mom is not a real mom, and you are still peers at the end of the day.
I have found myself fulfilling this role more over the past term. I have realized it can be hard to maintain the equality of friendships without making it seem like you disapprove too much of your friends’ choices or like you are trying to control them.
While it can be hard to sit on the sidelines while watching my friends make questionable choices, I have to remind myself that sometimes, it takes mistakes and experimentation for people to learn about themselves. Where I draw the line is at safety; as long as my friends are safe, I give them the freedom to do whatever they feel like they need to do. However, if a situation becomes dangerous, there will be no holding me back from interfering.
Just like being a real parent, taking on the mom role in a friend group can really take a toll on your personal well-being. Being the mom means being selfless and willing to drop everything to talk to or care for a friend. This can lead to neglecting your own mental health. In caring for others, I have become much more conscious of the way that I care for myself.
It is truly difficult to create a healthy balance. On the one hand, I am more helpful to others when I am feeling secure in myself. On the other hand, taking time for personal care can often make me feel guilty for not attending to others. This is something I have not quite worked out yet.
All in all, taking on the role of the mom has taught me a lot about how to navigate friendship in college. It is a unique time in a person’s life where they are hanging in the balance between childhood and true adulthood, so friendships operate differently than they do in high school or after college. It has also taught me quite a bit about myself.
So, to the other group moms, maybe it is time to give ourselves a break. If you are not a friend-mom yourself, but know someone who is, give them a break. Step into her shoes for a night—you might just learn something.