When I was pregnant with baby No. 1, “how to make mom friends” was nowhere near my ever-growing to-do list. Why would it be? I had friends. They threw me a kick-ass baby shower, visited me in the hospital and brought me sweet treats and coffee once I was home recovering. But honestly, it wasn’t enough. I was lonely. I had no clue what I was doing and all of these perfectly awesome ladies were no help. They were all child-free and, while they loved and supported me, they just didn’t get it.
“It’s understandable,” says Suniya S. Luthar, PhD, professor of psychology at Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona. “The challenges of motherhood are unique and it’s very important to have friends who do more than sympathize, but understand the pain, the joy and the anxiety of parenthood.”
And it turns out that finding and fostering this type of mom community is essential for new moms to feel like good parents. In fact, women who have close, authentic relationships with other moms are better buffered from the challenges of motherhood than those without, according to Luthar’s 2015 study in the journal Developmental Psychology.
But Luthar’s not talking about the lady you sometimes chit-chat with while pushing swings at the playground. She’s talking about the mom you share breastfeeding anxiety with; the one who still invites you to playdates even after your kiddo refuses to share his Thomas train time and time again; the mom who you raise a glass with at that kid-free happy hour. “The key is finding mom friends who allow you to be yourself—with no facade,” Luthar says.
It doesn’t take most moms long to understand the need for that kind of camaraderie, but finding your mom tribe can be easier said than done. “Putting yourself out there and being vulnerable to make new friends can be especially tough for new moms,” says Miriam Kirmayer, a therapist, friendship researcher and PhD candidate in clinical psychology at McGill University in Montreal, Québec. “Because there’s so much pressure to be seen as the perfect mother, moms often feel inadequate or insecure, making it hard to approach new people and connect in an authentic way.”
I certainly didn’t know how to make the first move. I’d awkwardly sit next to other moms at mommy-and-me meet-ups while my baby fussed, not knowing how to soothe him, let alone how to connect with strangers with seemingly perfect babies. I hated it. And I know I’m not alone. You don’t have to be either. Here, your guide to finding your very own mom community.
How to make mom friends
Making mom friends who’ve got kids the same age as yours is a smart move not only for playdate opportunities, but for building a “blanket of love and support,” as Luthar calls it. In other words: They get what you’re dealing with. “You’re all going through the same things, so you all can offer each other emotional support and practical, tangible types of support too,” Kirmayer says. That means playdates, babysitting trade-offs and sharing resources, whether it’s the number for a great sitter or information about daycare. But it can also mean a good girls’ night out when you need it, with people who just get it.
Making connections during pregnancy
Pregnancy is a great time to start laying some friendship groundwork, says Melanie Dale, author of Women Are Scary: The Totally Awkward Adventure of Finding Mom Friends. “Once you’re a new mom, it’s often hard to get up the energy to even leave the house, let alone seek out new friends.”
I mucked this up from the get-go. I scheduled my birthing class near my office, ensuring that every future mom I met lived nowhere near me. Do yourself a favor: Find a birthing or baby CPR class in your zip code, even if it’s inconvenient at the time. You’ll be thankful you did. And visit your local baby boutiques, lactation consultants and pediatricians, who often have old-school Due Date Club sign-up sheets, connecting you with other parents set to give birth the same month you are.
Heading back to the gym is also a great way to make new mom friends. Many gyms offer a variety of prenatal classes—Pilates, yoga, swimming, Zumba and more. Plus, there are exercise studios that cater to the pregnant set, like Oh Baby! Fitness and FIT4MOM. But it’s not enough to simply sweat side-by-side, you have to talk. “When you see someone you want to talk to, be honest and genuine,” Kirmayer says. “Tell her that you’re looking to meet fellow moms-to-be. Most are actually relieved to have someone else make the first move.” Dale suggests always leading with an encouraging word. But if going right for the IRL chat is too overwhelming, simply search (or post) for fellow moms-to-be in a local parenting community board, like The Bump community.
Making connections when you have a newborn
One of the first things you do when newly single is notify your established tribe of your ready-to-mingle status, right? Do the same as a new mom by asking friends, family, coworkers and your Facebook connections if anyone can make an introduction to any new moms nearby, Kirmayer says. If your current social circle offers zero matches, it’s time to put yourself out there with local events specifically geared toward newborns and the moms attached to them, like breastfeeding and baby-wearing classes or mommy-and-me fitness classes and stroller walks.
“It’s really important that you figure out where the moms in your own neighborhood are,” Dale says. Scope out nearby parks, playgrounds, coffee shops and libraries when you’re still pregnant to see when and where moms gather. “The reality is, you are not going to want to travel far once you’ve got a new baby.”
Take Julia Goodman, a mother-of-one in…
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