Over the long term, forced together by a thousand school picnics and holiday pageants, working and nonworking mothers can eventually make their peace. "There were a couple of cocktail parties at people's homes where I found I had to break into conversations with the nonworking moms," remembers a corporate headhunter of her teenage son's earlier school years. "They seemed to have so much in common. They'd work out together, have late breakfasts with each other. There was always something being said that made me feel out of the know."
She felt more comfortable hanging out with the dads, some of whom she knew professionally. "The path of least resistance was to the men," she says. But after ten years at the same school, she's gotten to know the stay-at-home mothers and finds several of them far more entertaining than most CEOs. On the other hand, some of the full-time working moms become increasingly guarded and chilly as they reach the upper echelons of corporate power.
"At this point in my life," she says, "I just like cool people. I don't give a shit if they work or not." Besides, friendships are often decided by children, not their parents. If your kid loathes a classmate, it's hard to cultivate his parents, no matter how much you'd like to see their apartment.
Believe it or not, Ann and that high-priced mom who allegedly walked away while Ann tried to make nice have even become something resembling friends. "She's very nice to me now," Ann admits. "Because her kid likes my kid."
At a recent school event, they found themselves sitting next to each other. "She said, 'Hi, how are you?' " Ann recalls. "I thought, Is she really talking to me? Now she'll call and ask for a play date. She'll call at the office. I have respect for the ones who call me at work, because they know that's where they're going to find me."