Phoebe Buffay is the quirkiest Friend, unafraid to walk (or run) to the beat of her own drum. And while some may have been surprised by her desire for a more traditional family in Friends’ later seasons, if we really take a closer look at her character, it actually makes a lot of sense. So here’s our Take on why Phoebe would make a great mom and how her journey of discovering herself over the show’s ten seasons led her down this path.
Phoebe, secretly the mom friend
One of the first things we learn about Phoebe is that she had an incredibly difficult and traumatic childhood, though this is usually played for laughs. She never had a safe, secure family structure and had to take on the world alone from a very early age. In this process, she became both wise about the world and good at reading people – two skills that actually make her very smart but in a way that her friends often overlook because of her kooky vibe. Phoebe’s secret wiseness allows her to help her friends in ways that no one else could because she can step back and see the bigger picture due to having more life experience, just like a great mom does. In this way, Phoebe is kind of the “mom friend” of the group – the one everyone goes to for advice, help, or a laugh, but whose emotional work is often overlooked; she’s always there for the people who need her, she brings out the best in those around her, she isn’t afraid to stand up for herself or her loved ones. Her weird ways actually make her a lot of fun.
Phoebe isn’t afraid of failure or being made fun of and won’t let a little pushback stand in the way of getting what she wants. She, in turn, helps draw out the confidence in her friends in the same way a mom would lead her own children along the path to self-assurance. Phoebe knows how important it is to believe in yourself and be able to go after what you want, even if it might be a little scary at first. She’s always ready to lend an ear to her friends and to give advice – even if it’s not always the advice they might want to hear. She’s also very accepting and willing to see her friends as they are instead of who she thinks they should be. This allows them to be themselves around her and even opens them up to seeing new sides of themselves. And Phoebe doesn’t just care about their tight-knit little group – she makes it a point to help improve the days (or even lives) of people all around her. She shows the group how important it is to look outside yourself at the bigger picture.
At first glance, it might seem like Monica or Chandler would be the ‘parent friend’ – they generally have stable jobs, are mostly responsible, and usually try to keep things in order. But it’s Phoebe that everyone turns to for guidance or that extra push they need to follow their dreams or accept their real feelings. And while she might not initially seem all that responsible, she clearly is: in addition to surviving on the streets as a teenager, as an adult, she manages to afford rent in New York City through odd jobs while setting her own schedule so that she’s able to hang out with her friends and enjoy her hobbies. She might not have some conventional high-powered job, but she’s carved out a life that works for her through her tenacity. And we see in the alternate universe episodes how unhappy she would have been if she had gone after those more traditional markers of success. Phoebe’s life path has allowed her to develop her resourcefulness, smarts, and sense of self in a way no one else in the group has. And it’s all of these different facets of herself coming together that allow her to be such a great friend – and that would also allow her to be a great mom.
By season 9 of Friends, Phoebe has decided that she wants to settle down and start building a family, leading her to break up with Mike when he says that he doesn’t see marriage in their future. Phoebe’s attachment to a tradition like marriage might have seemed odd at first, especially given how quirky and unbound by tradition she had always seemed to be. But if we really look at Phoebe’s story, one of her biggest goals was always building her found family and holding them close. As someone who has never had a lot of consistency in her life, it’s not that surprising that she might see something like marriage as an important step towards a feeling of normality and stability. She also starts to realize that motherhood is an important part of her dream as well.
Inside Phoebe’s desire for stability and motherhood
This felt a bit out of left field at the time since Phoebe never fell into the stereotype we often see on screen of women who want to be mothers, cooing at babies on the street and staring longingly into toy store windows. But Phoebe was always great with kids and clearly felt a special connection to her nieces and nephews.
Though we never see Phoebe have her own kids during the show’s run, we do get a peek into what she’d be like as a mother when she’s the surrogate for her half-brother Frank Jr. and his wife, Alice. The pair were unable to conceive and asked Phoebe if she could carry their embryos. When Phoebe goes to her birth mother for advice, she is given a puppy to take care of and then give up, with her birth mother noting that giving up a baby will be many times more difficult. It does prove to be incredibly difficult to let the puppy go – but when she sees how happy it makes Frank Jr. and Alice (whom she gives the puppy to instead of giving it back to her mother), she decides that she does want to help them have a baby. Phoebe goes through the many stages of planned pregnancy, like the fear that you won’t be able to get pregnant, glee at finally getting a positive result, fatigue and aches, weird food cravings, and the pain, intensity, and joy of giving birth. Phoebe does find that she feels deeply attached to the triplets and doesn’t want to let them go. When she does finally accept that she won’t get to keep any of the babies, she’s clearly sad and disappointed on a deep level. It’s obvious that she’s developed a profound love for the babies as she’s carried them for nine months, and this likely sparked a longing in the back of her mind for children that she would get to keep and build a loving home for.
It’s also important to remember that the Phoebe we see in the final seasons of the show is a decade older than the one we met in season one – it’s not at all surprising that someone might have different wants and goals in their late thirties than they did in their late twenties. When first we meet Phoebe, she’s only 29 – an age when many people are still trying to work out what they really want out of life. She never really had a traditional family structure as she grew up in a chaotic household and then was out on her own from a young age, so it makes sense she didn’t even initially think of that kind of family as something she could have, much less would want. But by the time she’s in her late thirties near the end of the show, she’s realized that any path is possible for her – and just like she always pushed her friends to accept their true feelings, she also stands steadfast in what she realizes she really wants.
As the show neared its end, Phoebe and Mike finally got on the same page about their future, and while some saw this as Phoebe settling, the truth is that she was really making an active choice to go after what she wanted. Mike might not have been as wacky and fun as Phoebe, but he did present an opportunity for her to capture things she had always felt she missed out on: permanence and love. While they seem different on the surface, they have a lot of very important things in common, like their creativity and shared sense of humor. And most importantly, he loves her for who she is, quirks and all. And it’s this mutual love and respect that makes Phoebe’s turn towards wanting a more stereotypical lifestyle feel optimistic instead of off-putting or sad – she’s not settling for less or giving up on her true self, she’s just expanding the horizons of her weird, quirky world to include her husband and eventual kids.
Phoebe had to learn the ways of the world, and how to take care of herself, from a young age – but instead of letting this harden her and make her spiteful, she has instead always enjoyed using her knowledge and perception to aid the people in her life. She worked hard to surround herself with good friends and build a tight-knit found family. As she got older and realized she did actually want a traditional family, too, she didn’t let the fear of becoming “too conventional” hold her back. She found a way to stay true to herself even as her desires and opportunities shifted over time. She provides an important example to all of us, even those of us who don’t want to be parents, that it’s always okay to change things up to create a happy, safe life for yourself, even if that means doing something you never would have dreamed of in your younger years.
Being a good parent is about more than just being responsible in the traditional sense, it requires a whole range of skills and emotional maturity. And Phoebe’s winding, weird life got her ready to take on anything, including motherhood. In the same way, she’s a great friend, sweet girlfriend, and a probably-too-nice sister. She will use everything that makes her so amazing to create a wonderful, happy environment for her kids and help them grow into adults who are just as confident and zany as she is.