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 “Are you going to start him on rice cereal?”
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 chats danced in my head.
And then 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 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 BFFness 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 Facebook … in another new mom acquaintance’s post. Emma had dumped me.
Why can’t we be friends
Making real connections with other women as an adult is hard. Toss in the demands
of caring for a newborn, and it gets even harder. 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 them, but when I had my baby I wanted to bond with people experiencing the same things I was. After all, creating, birthing and raising a new human life are pretty big things that I longed to talk about with other women going through these changes.
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 mom friends would be.
Some of these experiences, like with Emma, stung. There were other times I tried—and failed—at making mom friends, too. I stalked potential playdates at the playground and worried if they liked me (like dating, but with a newborn). And I was banished from a mom group, high-school-style, for not fitting in. (Hey, mean girls grow up and have babies, too.) >>
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 tummy time meet-ups? Was my inability to make another grown woman like me stunting my kid’s development, ruining his chances at future success?
Of course not, say the experts. The only social interaction young babies really need is from their family. Friends don’t come into play for them until they’re a little older, in the toddler and preschool years. And even then, the most important thing for our children’s development is feeling safe and loved by their parents.
“When it comes to moms making friends with other new moms, it’s likely that the benefits in the earliest months skew toward the moms rather than their babies,” says Laura A. Jana, MD, spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics and author of The Toddler Brain: Nurture the Skills Today that Will Shape Your Child’s Tomorrow. “The take- home message for new moms? Don’t add any additional stress to your new parenting life.”
Seek and ye shall find
Still, it hurts. I thought that after I got married, and thereby stopped the dating process, my feelings of rejection from another person would end. But alas, my attempts at making mom friends introduced me to rejection of a new sort. I had to shift my mind-set: Just as every guy isn’t going to be The One, every woman isn’t going to be The BFF. And that’s OK.
Luckily, I’ve succeeded a few times.
I met a lovely woman via a Craigslist ad she posted looking for a mom friend. (Yes, I stooped to Craigslist to make friends— and it worked!) I 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 baby gyms 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 grow closer every day. My childless friends stepped up, too, taking a greater interest in my kids than I expected for women enjoying the single life.
I still stress out about not knowing enough babies and toddlers to invite to birthday parties and feel, sometimes, like I’m letting my kids 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 them, and my tried-and-true childless friends can be just as there for my kids
as they have always been for me.