I had heard of people having difficulties making mom friends. So, I kind of expected it might be a thing when I became a mother. I only had one close friend who was a mom, and she started waaaay before I did, so our kids would be nowhere close in age. I think that many women sometimes strike it lucky in birthing class. You make friends, all have your babies right around the same time, and then start going to play groups and mom groups together. Built in friends.
But in my birthing class (HypnoBirthing, incidentally), our instructor was not very warm and welcoming. On the third or so week of class, my dad came with me when my husband was unavailable, and SHE DIDN’T RECOGNIZE ME. Thanks, lady. Anyway, in addition to that, it was obvious that my husband and I probably had almost ten years on the other couples in class. And most of them were hipsters, planning to go a “birth cottage” or have a home birth and other things that scared the crap out of me. (And, in my case, it was handy to be in a hospital as I had severe preeclampsia and needed a lifesaving C-section. Fun times. HypnoBirthing helped not at all. Not to rail against hypnosis in general, because I otherwise find it very helpful.) So, there were just no connections to be made.
I also attended a pregnancy group at a local women’s center. There was a former coworker, so that was at least helpful. But most of the women there were going to be working moms, and I wasn’t. I hadn’t worked in almost a year and was planning to continue staying home. I just wanted someone like me, who could get together spontaneously when we were both losing our minds. Finally, someone spoke up who was also going to be a SAHM and was from England! I saw my opening. Introduced myself, announced that my parents were from across the pond as well. And she had another two girls in the group who she connected with. My introvert instincts kicked up, telling me to back away, but I held out and made sure I was included in their plans to get together.
This is it, I thought. This is how you build a tribe. It’ll be great. Even though I was 2-4 months ahead of them in pregnancy months. It would be fine. Months later, two of them moved away, and the other went back to work. I started attending mom groups, but I just couldn’t connect with anyone. I made friends with another woman whose baby was only a week older than mine. Unfortunately, her husband was military, and they moved across the country. It was disheartening, discouraging, demoralizing. I’m an extroverted introvert with geeky interests. It shouldn’t be impossible to make friends! But it seemed like everybody already had somebody, or the age gap between the kids made it awkward. (This does become less of an issue as they get older. But when they’re under 2, it can be really tough! The activities you can bring them to are quite different.)
But I kept going to groups. Tried new activities. And I forced myself to keep saying hi to other moms. Just keep taking the chance that you’ll make a connection. And if they weren’t on Facebook, I kinda considered it a dead end. Social media incompatibility! How are we supposed to coordinate? Email???
The thing I started to notice was that a lot of other moms were nervous, too. Uncertain, lacking friends. And when I realized that, it did make it easier. When I confessed to one mom that I did consider myself shy, she was shocked. That’s how far out of my shell I have grown and pushed myself.
And in the end, it paid off. I connected with a mom at a children’s gymnastic class. When I asked for her last name to look her up on Facebook, I recognized the name. Her husband’s cousins played soccer with my brothers as kids. Small world, right?
And I was able to take those outgoing skills and apply them in other situations, including Zumba class. Besides asking about pets, you know what’s a great conversation starter? Tell someone with ink that you like their tattoo. And because I did that, I got introduced to her twin sister: mom with a little boy a year older than my son with geeky interests. Bingo.
So, you keep putting yourself out there, keep chatting, ask if they’re on Facebook (or whatever method of communication you prefer). Join Facebook groups and, if they have events, attend them.
Now, here’s the important part, and this goes for new friendships as well as older ones that you’re maintaining. Mom friends, non-mom friends, whatever, this is the key. When someone says that they want to get together, stop what you’re doing and PULL OUT YOUR CALENDAR. Make a date. Right then. Everyone’s got a calendar in their pocket with smartphones these days. If you don’t make a date, IT WILL NEVER HAPPEN. If you want the friendship to grow beyond whatever weekly meetup it is that you see each other at, you have got to make plans. Don’t just say that you will. DO IT. Make a date. Do what you can to keep it (obviously, we moms have to be very flexible). Or, if you start suggesting dates, and the other person doesn’t respond or brushes you off, take it as a possible sign that they don’t want to get closer. Try again maybe one more time and then move on. Maybe you do make a date and get together, but it’s awkward. You’re too different; conversation doesn’t flow. Whatever. Let it go and try again.
You can find fabulous friends, but you have to do the work. And I know that sucks; it can suck even more than dating. Please don’t sit at home alone, going crazy with your child(ren) and thinking that maybe you don’t even deserve friends. Someone else out there is just as lonely as you. I guarantee it.
It’s easy to make friends at work and school. You’re stuck together all the time. Outside of those arenas, you gotta work at it. It doesn’t just happen. Even introverts need these connections. So, for your health, try and pretend you’re an extravert, even for a little while. At least until you can make a tribe that respects your introverted ways. This is a literal “fake it ‘til you make it” situation. Fake being more social and outgoing than you are in order to build your friend circle. After that, you can relax more and more with the friends you are meant to keep. Because if you can’t be yourself around your friends, you need new friends. The ones you feel relaxed around, that you can share secrets with and vent with, keep them in your close circle. Let the others fall away a bit. Introduce your friends to each other to let the connections grow stronger (hopefully!).
You deserve friends. You deserve GOOD friends who respect you, support you, and accept you for who you are.
We all need support. So, support yourself by making these connections and making dates. You can do it!