Making friends as a new mom can be challenging. First, time is strictly limited. When you’re not playing with bub, you’re changing a diaper, preparing food, serving it (or trying to), cleaning up, then repeat. Second, you’re often sleep deprived, which doesn’t always make for great conversation, and it can really impact your overall mood. But the old adage It takes a village to raise a child still runs true. Female friendships are more important than ever during this time.
These bonds have saved me, as a mom of a colic reflux baby, from spiraling into postpartum depression. I craved those connections with like-minded moms who could talk through my struggles, anguish, and joys with me. But finding them can be tough. While I had many friends without kids, they didn’t always understand what I was going through, and finding new friends who are also moms can be tough. Just because you both have kids doesn’t mean you’ll click, and to be honest, it’s just not enough. Having been through this myself, I pulled together a few tips that helped me and also asked a few other new moms what they did to establish new connections.
It sounds so simple, but sometimes you can overlook the obvious when you’re sleep deprived. I know how hard it can be as a new mom to put yourself out there, especially when you haven’t had a full night’s sleep and your judgment is compromised, but think how empowered you’ll feel once you do! Connecting with other women who are going through a similar experience is incredibly motivating; it can bring you out of your negative spiral and sense of loneliness.
Buru founder Morgan Hutchinson is a mom to 3-year-old Olive and has another one on the way, so she knows firsthand how tricky it can be to balance work, life, motherhood, and friendship. She urges other moms to go out on a limb and push past that comfort zone to make real connections, but it’s not easy. “I find that the older I get, the harder it is to make real, solid connections with new friends,” she said. “My mid-30s have been the busiest season of my life so far. We repatriated to the U.S. from China, we had a baby, we started a business, and we moved yet again (but just cross-country this time). The baby-making phase of life is not only busy; it’s exhausting.” This can be as simple as going for a walk while your baby naps in the pram, or heading to your local park every afternoon for playtime before dinner. After seeing the same mom at the park every day, I struck up a great friendship, and we ended up having coffee.
While finding the time to invest in new friendships can often fall to the bottom of Hutchinson’s “to-do totem pole,” she knows how important it is to her emotional and mental health. “It might actually be the cruelest thing I do to myself, but the truth is mamas need other mamas, and not just for the surface stuff,” she said. “I need those sanity checks that I am not alone in this, and I need reminders from other mothers that my failures are not really failures, but just part of the journey.”
So you’ve started putting yourself out there—congrats! Half the battle is just getting out the front door, baby bag in tow. Now what? Make your move. It’s hard at first, but what’s the alternative? Isolation is a very real feeling when you’re a new mom, and it can be alienating. But the truth is you’re not alone, and there are so many other women out there who are feeling the same way and need support. So next time you head to the park, strike up a conversation with the cool mom you see every afternoon. Don’t wait around; compliment her, find ways to engage the children together, and once the kids are playing, it will automatically break the ice without any effort.
When Bare Beauty founder Jessica Morse had daughter Annabel two and a half years ago, her family said she’d make new friends with the moms of Annabel’s friends, but it wasn’t that simple. “Maybe she just wasn’t putting herself out there enough socially, but I must say that my newborn didn’t have many friends,” she said. Since she works from home, Morse felt really isolated, so she enrolled Annabel, then 8 months, in a church preschool program where they could both make friends, but once again, it didn’t pan out as planned. “I thought this would spare me from taking her to a million mommy-and-me classes that I didn’t have time for and we would both benefit socially,” she said. “It certainly worked for Annabel; she loves school, but I’m usually running in or out the place as quickly as I can so that I can maximize my workday. I see other moms chatting and making plans for playdates at drop-off, and while I’m sometimes envious, that just isn’t me.”
Instead of the usual places, Morse found friendships with other professional women, mostly entrepreneurs, who she met through other friends or at events. “Yes, most of them are also mothers, but we don’t really talk about our children that much when we get together for drinks or dinner,” she said. “In fact, in many cases, our kids barely know each other, and that’s okay. I’m not necessarily getting parenting advice when I’m out with my friends, but I am still getting support. We talk about work/life balance, we bounce creative ideas off each other, and most importantly, we laugh—a lot. On those evenings, I go home to my family in a great mood, which makes me a better wife and mother, and my work benefits from an amazing community of like-minded women.”
Since your whole world revolves around this precious little being, you can tend to forget yourself. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned, is that if Mom isn’t happy, no one is. Molly Fienning, founder of Babiators and mom to Sawyer, 4, and Fox, 6 months, said she developed new friendships at various kids groups. “My mother always said that my next great female friendships post-college would be mothers of my own child’s little buddies,” she said. “And aren’t mothers always right? There is something incredibly bonding about experiencing the wild, uncharted territory of motherhood with those who really get it (and preferably just recently went through it, so they can offer expert tips).”
Fienning developed amazing relationships at her son’s first school program, his “2s” class. But if two years is too long to wait for those supportive friendships, she recommends music classes for babies starting at 6 months (such as Music Together, Kidville, My Gym and Little Gym) or host one at your house. “I also found that distant female friends who recently had babies became much closer when I became pregnant,” she said. “Reaching out to them early and often for advice connected us in unexpected ways. Who knew ‘Does my child really need a wipes warmer?’ would be such an icebreaker? (PS: That answer is NO!)”
While going to the gym might feel like the last thing you’d put on your to-do list, the myriad of wellness benefits far outweigh anything else. Not only will the post-Pilates endorphins lift your spirits to new heights, but it’s also a great opportunity to mingle. Most gyms have amazing nurseries and even kids’ classes when they’re a bit older. This is a great chance for you to meet fellow moms. If you’re nervous about leaving your baby while you work out, then plan a gym date with the mom of one of your child’s friends. They will comfort each other and feel settled knowing there’s a familiar face while both of you have a sweat session.
While your baby is young and nap times are still a daily ritual, turn them into mommy playdates. Because let’s face it: If you don’t, you’ll end up cleaning or taking a nap yourself, which is totally necessary but not every day. If you spent every nap time cleaning, you’d send yourself crazy, and no one wants that; believe me—it never ends well. So try to mix it up. Now that you’ve put yourself out there and made the first move, set a date and meet up somewhere new. Find a kid-friendly coffee place where the children can run around in a safe environment while you sip on tea and chat about life. Sometimes the nap times of your child aren’t always in sync with theirs, so make sure you decide on a time that suits both, or alternatively, have her come over to your house. Which brings me to my next tip.
I’ve always said that my son is a professional time-waster. After a full day of playing, feeding, washing, and napping, I would put him down at night and wonder what I did all day. They are all-consuming little beings, which certainly impacts the window of time you have left to make new friendships. For Hutchinson, finding time is the real challenge. Her solution? Set lunch dates with someone once a week. “This can be a challenge as we are all so busy, but so far, so good,” she said. “It’s amazing what one hour of chatting can do to boost your mama morale.” Since she only has one hour of girl time a week, Hutchinson doesn’t hold back. “I’m not going to waste time talking about silly stuff,” she said. “I dive right into the good stuff (aka the hard stuff.)”
Now that you’re surrounded by all these amazing moms, it’s important to maintain the connection. You’ve done all the hard work and pushed past your comfort zone to break the ice, so don’t lose the momentum. Show your new friends that you care and want to be involved. Morgan Hutchinson says she keeps in touch via text with both new friends and old “I find that sharing ridiculous kid stories helps,” she said. “Like Olive just told me, I’m the worst mother ever because I made her keep her dress on while she pooped as we were trying to get out the door to a doctor appointment. In those instances, I almost always receive an equally amusing story back. Using technology to feel connected is key in this crazy, fast-paced world we live in.”
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What are your tips for making friends as a new mom?