Recently, a thread was posted in an on-line “mommy” group I’m part of about making new friends. The poster, a SAHM, was having difficulty meeting other moms with similar age children in her neighborhood. She received a lot of on-line support and many of the posters cited similar problems forging new relationships as their status changed from foot-loose and fancy free to mom. The problem seems to be wide-spread. There are even apps for it! The Today Show did a story on it, so you know it’s for real! Some likened it to dating, again. In deed, there are blog posts asserting the same metaphor.
All Joking aside, this is a serious matter, especially for the stay at home mom. Leaving a busy work life to stay at home with your children can be a major culture shock as well as highly isolating. Even if you weren’t chummy with your colleagues, you were connected to adults and the world in a broad way. Layer that with the vulnerability, trials, and joys that come with motherhood and support becomes essential. We covered the importance of hygge here. The key is connection to others in a safe and supportive environment.
Social scientist and health researchers are just now beginning to understand how powerful nurturing relationships are in determining our health and happiness. In fact, molecular biologist, Dr. John Medina finds in his book, Brain Rules for Baby, that the single most important factor for life long happiness is teaching our children how to form good relationships. We need to model this for our children and we need to do it for our own well-being.
Meeting new people in your thirties and forties is hard. Akin to dating in that age group! It is also important, I believe, to not just meet “anybody”. Friendships are only healthy if they are based on mutual respect and shared values. The idea is to connect with people who can truly support you. That only happens if you can be vulnerable around them. For that to be safe, your new friend must be empathetic and sincere. Obviously, you’re not going to share your innermost feelings on the first meet up, but eventually you should be able to confide in your new friend. You have to start somewhere. This is what trips people up. I hear from a lot of women that they are introverts, shy, or simply out of practice. They don’t know how to make the initial connection. Sometimes, they make contact but don’t know how to move to the next level.
Below are some tips:
- Become a regular. This may be at your local library’s story hour, a lactation group, a mom’s group. It doesn’t matter, but you need weekly face time.
- After story hour, lactation group, etc…announce that you and baby are going for a walk, coffee, lunch, etc. and welcome others to join. You will probably need to do this for several weeks in a row before you get a few takers.
- Once you have achieved #2, say to a mom you liked: “It seems like we really clicked, do you want to exchange numbers? We could get together for some _______?”
- Once you have her number, call or text within the week to set something up. It could be as little as a 10 minute walk but you need to establish and maintain contact.
- Initiate and come clean! If you see moms with babies in your neighborhood, walk up to them, introduce yourself (i.e. “Hi, I’m Kate and this is baby Frances, we live over on Hastings Ave.” After a little small talk, say: “I’m always looking for other moms to hang out with, would you like to exchange numbers?”)
- Repeat #4.
- Have realistic expectations. Your new mom friend may be perfect for this time in your life but may not be your BFF. Holding a bar to high will keep you in isolationville.
What if she doesn’t respond to your call or text? If there is no response at all, then try again in a week or so. Perhaps she got distracted and thought she replied. If she has actually turned you down with a believable and reasonable excuse, then try again as well. It can be tricky to gauge how many times after that feels right to try. Personally, I don’t always want to have to initiate in relationships. Therefore, I would be receptive if she contacted me but I would pursue another new “mom friend candidate”.
Making new friends requires patience. Not only with actually building the relationship but also finding a good match. Be gentle on yourself. The time and effort you put into it will pay off. In the interim, be sure to invite your established friends over. The more content you are, the more people will want to be around you.
*Originally posted on Psychology Today.com