I can’t remember where exactly I met Emma, but it was friendship at first sight. Her little boy was born right around the same time as my son, she lived only a couple blocks away, and we got along great. I really admired her humor and frankness, and it felt like we were having deeper conversations than the usual “So how are they sleeping?” or “How’s breastfeeding going?”
True, we’d only known each other for a short time—like a week—but I was really feeling the connection. I’d found a new mom friend! Our boys would grow up together and be best buds! Visions of morning playdates, dinner parties, and late-night chit-chats danced in my head.
And then she ghosted me. She stopped responding to my texts.
I was stunned and confused. Maybe she was just busy or out of town, I reasoned. Surely she, too, had felt that fellow-mom friendship spark. I mean, a connection like that couldn’t have just been one-sided, right?
Something must be up in her life, I rationalized. If I just waited it out, our inevitable best friend-ness would come to fruition. But I never did hear from Emma again. In fact, the next time I saw her and her son was in a picture posted on social media … in another new mom acquaintance’s post. Emma dumped me—at least, that’s how it felt.
How Do Moms Make Friends?
Meeting people and making real connections as an adult is hard and often requires you to step outside your comfort zone. Toss in the demands of caring for a baby (or toddler or kid), and it gets even more difficult. Most of my inner circle is made up of ladies I met back in school or college, and they haven’t yet had children. I love this group of friends, but when I had my baby, I wanted to bond with people experiencing the same things I was in life. After all, creating, birthing, and raising a new human are pretty big things that I longed to talk about with others going through these changes. I wanted a support group.
I thought I needed pals who were also parents, so I started consciously seeking them out. I didn’t realize how difficult, uncomfortable, and—sometimes—hurtful the process of making new mom friends would be.
In addition to my experience with Emma, there were also other times when I tried—and failed at— making mommy friends. I stalked potential playdates at the park and worried if they liked me (it was like dating, but with a newborn and more desperate). And at one point, I was banished from a mom group, high-school-style, for not fitting in. (Hey, mean girls grow up and have babies, too.)
Eventually, I had to learn not to take it personally and start trusting the process, which was easier said than done.
Will My Friend-Making Abilities Affect My Baby?
At times, I’ve felt like my failure to make mom friends made me a failure as a mother. Would my babies grow up to be friendless little hermits because I couldn’t lock down another mom for music class meet-ups or playgroups? Was my inability to make good friends stunting my kid’s development and ruining his chances at future success?
Of course not, say the experts. In their first two or three years of life, the primary form of social interaction babies really need is from their families. Their ability to form and foster friendships (with a depth beyond parallel play) doesn’t really develop until they’re a little older, in the toddler and preschool years.
“When it comes to moms making friends with other new moms, the benefits in the earliest months likely skew toward the moms rather than their babies,” says Laura A. Jana, MD, associate professor at Penn State’s Edna Bennett Pierce Prevention Research Center and author of The Toddler Brain: Nurture the Skills Today that Will Shape Your Child’s Tomorrow. While these connections can certainly help put you at ease in the early days of parenthood, the point is for friends to make life a little easier, not more difficult. “The take-home message for new moms? Don’t add any additional stress to your new parenting life,” says Dr. Jana.
Where To Find Mom Friends (Hint: Get Creative!)
Despite the reassurance that my baby won’t suffer from my lack of mom friends, the whole situation still hurts. I thought that after I got married and stopped the dating process, my feelings of rejection from another person would end. But alas, my attempts at making friends with fellow new parents introduced me to rejection of a new sort. I had to shift my mindset: Just as every guy isn’t going to be “The One,” every mom isn’t going to be “The BFF.” And that’s OK. Luckily, I’ve succeeded a few times.
I met a lovely local mom via an online ad she posted looking for a mom friend. (Yes, I stooped to online ads to make friends—and it worked!) I also reconnected with a former colleague who happened to get pregnant shortly after I did and whose own friendship tribe hadn’t gotten around to having kids yet, either. We hadn’t been that close before our babies were born, but now we see each other frequently at story times and birthday parties.
My neighbor, who’d been friendly in passing before but nothing more, had a little boy five months before I did, and we continue to grow closer every day. Over time, my childless friends stepped up, taking a greater interest in my kid than I expected for women enjoying the single life.
If you’re an introvert and the idea of small talk is too painful, or if you simply don’t know where to start pursuing friendships, online resources may be a good place to start.
Just like dating in today’s world, apps now connect parents, too! The Peanut app matches moms based on similarities, like the age of children, lifestyle preferences, and location. For example, if you’re specifically looking for stay-at-home moms in New York City who enjoy coffee shops and jogging-stroller exercise groups, you can search for those types of connections with Peanut.
Similarly, Facebook groups are another way to meet like-minded moms before rushing to get together. Joining a group for tandem breastfeeding or homeschooling acts as the icebreaker for conversation. Bonding over something important to both of you is a great first move toward your (hopefully) beautiful friendship.
I still stress out about not knowing enough families with babies and toddlers to invite to birthday parties and feel, sometimes, like I’m letting my kid down due to my own failings to make new friends. But I’ve also learned that at least for right now, at this early stage in their lives, I’m enough for him, and my tried-and-true childless friends can be as much of a support to my son as they have always been for me.