Photography by Danny Fulgencio.

Calvert Collins-Bratton stands in the Bodega Wine Bar entryway waiting for the rest of her party to arrive. She counts on her fingers and murmurs under her breath as she tries to calculate the number of kids who belong to mothers in her friend group.

“Twenty-five?” she asks. A friend corrects her, saying it’s 26. Collins-Bratton leans in and excitedly asks if she’s pregnant. 

Kaitlin Moore walks through the door just as the question is asked. She smiles sheepishly and raises her hand. “I am,” she says. The group erupts in gasps and squeals and laughter as they take turns giving Moore a hug. 

There’s never a dull moment in the “mom squad.”

Over nearly a decade of friendship, the group of 11 women has walked together through dozens of pregnancies, the death of relatives and the stress of being a working mom — all with a comical realness that has produced numerous laughs along the way. 

Most mom squad members live in Lakewood or on the M Streets, with a few outliers. But only three are from North Texas. So how did a group of Dallas transplants become fast friends? The threads run as deep as their relationships. Some were classmates at the University of Texas School of Law. Two are sisters-in-law. Others met on a booze cruise in Lewisville.

“It speaks to what is great about Dallas,” says Collins-Bratton, vice president of the Methodist Heath System Foundation. “People come here for work, education and opportunity. When (my husband and I) moved back to Dallas for work, he was like, ‘I don’t want to hang out with people you went to high school with.’ And we don’t.”

Despite busy professional lives in stressful careers like law, medicine and education, the mom squad prioritizes quality time with group outings scheduled at least once a month. Before they had kids, they would spend a weekend at Eagle Mountain Lake, riding jet skis and playing flip cup. They still take family vacations to the lake — but with a lot less flip cup. Now the most popular game is Marco Polo in the pool with the kids.

“We were more fun before we had kids,” says Samantha Martin, an M Streets neighbor who works as an investigative attorney for the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Get-togethers often include birthday parties and baby showers, but when the women do rally for a moms-only event, they make sure to go out in style by hitting up happy hour at a hip new wine bar or brunching at a restaurant in the neighborhood. The events just take a little more planning or a gentle nudge out the door when their husbands think they need a break.

Their husbands get along too, but they have a long way to go before a “dude brood” reaches the same level as the mom squad. The women tried to help by arranging a play date at the bowling alley, but they remain skeptical about the long-term future of their husbands’ group.

When the women aren’t laughing at their husbands or their kids, they’re usually laughing at each other — like the time Lakewood neighbor Leanne Thoreson got locked in Moore’s chicken coop.

Moore was in Arkansas visiting family when security footage from her coop camera showed Thoreson entering the pen to collect eggs. The gate shut and locked behind her, separating the attorney from her baby, who sat in a car seat in the yard. Moore would have called Thoreson’s husband — eventually. But first, she watched as her friend struggled to unlatch the lock with her hands.

“I didn’t know (Moore) could see me, and I thought I was going to be in there for hours,” Thoreson says. “I was like, ‘No one is going to hear me if I scream.’”

Even after getting locked in a chicken coop, the friends go out of their way to offer support — especially with so few extended family members in the area. From lending maternity clothes to sharing childcare services, help is just a text away. In a daily group chat, the women share beauty tips, parenting hacks, health advice and funny memes to get through a stressful day at work or at home.

“Everyone is understanding when you just can’t make it to an event because you’re so beaten down,” says Divya Srivastava, an associate professor at UT Southwestern Medical Center. “In a lot of mom groups, it might be like you’re betraying a friend. Everyone here is supportive. They’re not like, ‘I can’t believe you didn’t make a three-tier cake for this.’”

With full-time jobs and multiple kids all under the age of 6, the women say there’s no time for drama. And with 20 daughters in the group of 26 kids, the mom squad wants to show how to encourage other women in their personal and professional goals.

“The worst thing is when you see women tear each other down,” Collins-Bratton says. “We’re in the trenches parenting, wifing and working together. Life isn’t always easy, but we’re doing the best we can. It makes it a lot easier when you have a mom squad.”

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