Rebecca* thought she had her mom friends all lined up. After her son was born, she was planning to spend time with two friends who had young kids. But once he arrived, her friends were too busy with their children and other responsibilities to squeeze in much face-to-face time. "I was isolated," she says. "I was very depressed and fearful. I thought my baby would be safest at home, so that is where I stayed most of the time." By her son's first birthday, this Colorado Springs, CO, mom knew it was time to find a larger group of friends, but she wasn't sure where to start.
She's not alone. New moms who don't have close friends on the same motherhood track, let alone the same block, find themselves craving a friend to share the ups and downs of motherhood. "It's nice to be able to reach out to someone else who has experienced nursing problems or who is as sleep-deprived as you are," says Irene S. Levine, PhD, author of Best Friends Forever.
Where to Meet Moms
With a little creative thinking, it's not hard to find ways to meet other moms in your area. There are the obvious places: parks, playgrounds, library story times, community centers and bookstores. Your church may offer a parent group, or find an indoor play space at a mall when the weather is bad. Beyond those places, search for online mom groups in your city on sites like yahoo.com or meetup.com. There are also several national mom organizations that have chapters around the country, like La Leche League, MOPS, Holistic Moms Network, Mocha Moms, Mothers and More, MOMS Club or Stroller Strides.
If you've tried these routes to no avail, you can always start your own group. Post a note on a community bulletin board at a coffee shop or library saying you're looking to meet other moms with kids your child's age. If you work at a large company, ask your human resources department to help you start a working moms group that meets over lunch. Before you know it, you'll be flush with mom acquaintances.
How to Turn Acquaintances into Friends
Now that you know where the moms are, the real challenge is making a genuine connection that could blossom into a friendship. "Making intimate connections takes time because they are based on feeling a sense of trust and loyalty and having shared experiences," says Levine. It won't happen overnight, but here are some ways to move your mom relationships to the next level.
Don't assume someone isn't looking for new friends. One of the things that holds us back from making friends at any age is the belief that other people already have all the friends they need. Don't fall into this trap, says Care.com's Parenting Expert Dr. Robi Ludwig. "I think people are always open to meeting and interacting with people who they find rewarding and fulfilling," she says. "If somebody's not interested, try not to take it personally because you never really know what's going on in her life."
Make the first move. Trying to make new friends can feel a lot like dating. "You can't always rely on somebody else to make the first move," says Ludwig. "If you don't put yourself out there, you'll never know." If you see someone at the park you'd like to talk to, introduce yourself, let them know you're a new mom and you'd like to connect with others. "People appreciate that kind of openness and honesty," says Ludwig. If your child starts playing with another kid on the playground, exchange numbers with her mom and set up a play date.
Find common ground. For shy people or those not skilled at small talk, starting conversations with near strangers can be challenging. When a playground chat hits a lull, start asking questions until you hit on some similarities. Maybe you delivered at the same hospital or you're both having trouble with your babies' naps. If your kids are close to school age, ask for advice on schools or toddler classes in the area. If you're having trouble coordinating schedules with a potential new friend, these friendship-building chats can be done online as well, says Levine. "One of the wonderful things about the Internet is that it allows for asynchronous communication," she says. "You can chat while your baby is napping, and your friend can respond when hers is asleep as well."
Be a regular. "One of the best ways to deepen friendships is to have regular contact," says Levine. "Over time, you feel more comfortable with another person and will be able to get a better sense as to whether or not you 'click.'" This strategy worked for Lauren* an Omaha mother of two who made new friends by committing to attend a La Leche League meeting every month for as long as she was breastfeeding. "After about five months I found I could really connect with the ladies there," she says. Whether it's a library story time or a play area at the mall, "as long as you commit to showing up regularly, you will meet people," she says.
Play with her kids. Lauren suggests engaging with a mother's child as a way of warming up to her. "When moms see you engaged with their children they will feel good about being around," she says. Offer some of your child's snack to her child, with the mom's permission. Help pick her child up if he falls down, or give him a push on the swings. "It's hard being a mom 24-7, so when you have someone there to help with the burden, it's a wonderful feeling," says Lauren.
Did any of these methods work for Rebecca? "Yes. I met a great mom at a restaurant because our boys were smiling and laughing at each other," she says. "We exchanged phone numbers." The moms bumped into each other a few weeks later and planned a play date. "The boys had a great time, and we moms enjoyed ourselves as well," she says. "I hope we get together again this month! "