Motherhood transforms us in so many ways that we don’t always notice the changes occurring in our relationships until they’re firmly in place. This “friend revolution” is key to sanity—not just for new moms, but for all moms. But gaining and maintaining friendships requires a little TLC. Here are a few tips for keeping in touch and branching out as you forge into motherhood.
Make new friends
The first fellow mother I befriended after I found out I was pregnant was a coworker whose son was born six months before mine. We bonded over our hormone-induced emotional insanity, took bets on our babies’ sexes, and gave the thumbs-up or thumbs-down for each other’s baby name ideas. Because she was several months ahead of me in her pregnancy, she also became my go-to girl for all questions regarding delivery, nursing, colic and developmental milestones. Her son was my son’s first playmate, and they remain friends to this day.
Making additional mom friends can be essential to your confidence as a mother. Mom friends encourage each other, offer advice, listen to sleep-deprived rants, and say you look beautiful even when your clothes and hair are disheveled and the puffy dark circles under your eyes are screaming for cucumbers and concealer. Best of all, they get almost as excited as you do when your little one achieves new milestones.
Keep old friends
Forging new bonds with fellow mothers is certainly gratifying, but how do you maintain friendships with girlfriends who don’t have children? New mothers have a tendency to retreat from their former lives and become absorbed in the “baby bubble” for the first few months of parenthood. This bubble is understandable and often necessary for a new mom to form a close relationship with her baby and navigate the unchartered waters of parenthood with her partner.
Eventually, however, you need to adapt well enough to let outsiders into your bubble of love and allow yourself to step outside your role as a mom for periods of time. Childless friends may feel neglected and even abandoned once you have a baby, so finding ways to maintain your prebaby friendships is important. Try these approaches to keeping your long-standing connections solid while expanding your network to include new friends.
Include childless friends in your experience.
Your girlfriends don’t need to hear every gory detail of pregnancy, delivery and parenthood (especially if you want them to have their own kids one day), but there are aspects of the experience in which they can be included. Designate your closest childless friends as honorary “aunts” and share exciting news with them. Show off ultrasound pictures and put them at the top of the call list once you go into labor.
Stay involved with your friends’ lives.
Fight the urge to become self-centered in your friendships. You’re likely to be consumed by your new life as a mom, but keep in mind your friends still need you to care, listen and be involved. Be sure to balance your baby stories with inquiries about what’s going on in their lives.
Remember your first name.
Recalling who you are apart from your identity of “Mommy” is critical. If you lose yourself completely in the joys of motherhood, the nuances your friends love so much will slowly go into hibernation. Don’t be afraid to leave the baby with someone you trust and indulge in quality time with an old friend. These are women who brought you diet soda and greasy sausage biscuits when you were hungover in college, and they are the ones who will be there for you throughout motherhood if you let them.
Build your mommy network
Over time, your first mom friend will turn into an entire network of incredible women you view as comrades simply because of your shared experience of bringing up babies. Playgroups and mommy-and-me classes can serve as avenues to connecting with other moms. Other organizations, such as MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers), help novice parents or newcomers to a community find a safe place to express the highs and lows of motherhood and receive friendship and support in a fun, active environment.
Whether they’re old or new, never underestimate the value of your friends. Friends will embrace who you are both as a mother and as an individual, and provide support when you need it. Cultivating these relationships not only nurtures your spirit, but also reminds you that you’re never alone in this incredible adventure called motherhood.