Making new friends can feel like dating. Here’s how to meet your soul mates.
I was always the kind of person who had a lot of friends. Then I had my first baby and suddenly I had no friends. Or at least it felt that way. My high-school friends were mostly in Boston, where I grew up. My college friends had fled the city for the ‘burbs. My work friends were at work. And here I was, alone in New York City on maternity leave, strolling my son past gaggles of moms huddled together in the park. I was jealous. Where was my mom squad?
I’ll never forget the feeling of relief when I met Amy, my first mom friend. After being set up by our husbands, I headed over to her place for a playdate. (Moms-to-be: Even if your babies are newborns and don’t leave your arms, it’s still called a playdate.) We spent two hours bonding over sleep schedules, milk production, and our mixed feelings about going back to work. Soon we were texting each other during late-night feedings (“How long should I burp him?”) and going for walks. If you’re struggling to make mom pals, don’t panic: With some simple strategizing, you can find your Amy and plenty of other friends too.
1. Your world feels so small, like it’s just you and your baby
Maybe you moved to a new town. Or maybe you’ve lived in your town for years but feel like you don’t know anyone because you’ve never been home during the middle of the day. Solution: Hit the new-mom scene in full force. Attend storytime at your local library, breastfeeding support groups at your pediatrician’s office, or infant music classes. Think of them as pickup joints for friends. “I would have scoffed at doing this stuff in my previous life, but quite frankly, I was desperate,” says Meghan Gould, of New Canaan, Connecticut, who went to an event called “You Just Had a Baby, Now What?” where she met a woman who would become a close friend. If you’re religious, attend a baby group at your church or temple. If you’re an exercise junkie, take a stroller class. Courtney Goober, of Sneads Ferry, North Carolina, joined a stroller-based exercise program at her husband’s Marine base. “We all wanted to get in shape, plus we all had partners who did the same thing for a living,” says Goober. “We had a lot to talk about.”
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Try to develop a regular routine (the same baby music class on Tuesdays with a pit stop at the same Starbucks on your way home) so you repeatedly run into people who become recognizable. Familiarity makes it feel easier and more organic to smile and say hello. When that happens, don’t be afraid to make the first move. For example, suggest grabbing lunch with the babies or heading to the park together. “Making mom friends feels like dating!” says Jackie Ryder, of Miami, Florida. “I can be shy about asking other moms for their numbers or initiating plans, but then I think, what’s the worst that can happen? You have to put yourself out there. Every mom gets lonely. Every mom wants to get out of the house.”
“Don’t fall prey to the myth that everyone already has their friends,” adds Irene S. Levine, M.D., professor of psychiatry at New York University School of Medicine and author of Best Friends Forever. “There are other moms who are just as eager as you are to make friends.”
2. Girls’ night out Is a struggle to make as a new mom
When you’re the first in your crew to become a mom, it may feel like you’ll never have anything in common with your besties again. “All of my friends came to my shower and were excited to meet my twin girls, but it seemed like they disappeared after the birth,” says Christine Daigle, a mom in Woburn, Massachusetts. “It was nearly impossible for me to get out of the house for the first few months, so it was hard to stay connected.”
Sometimes friends without kids assume you’re too busy or tired or baby-obsessed to hang with them, so they stop texting you or don’t think to include you on invites. To maintain these relationships, make a conscious effort to include your non-mom friends in activities you’re already doing with your baby. Says Cara Sullivan, a mom in Chicago: “I found that the less I apologized for having kids, the more my friends seemed to enjoy being around them.”
But also make baby-free plans with your friends when you can. A spin class and dinner, for instance. And while you’re hanging, make a point to talk about topics other than just your baby and bring up things you have in common.
3. You and your bestie are both moms, but super-different ones
Becoming a parent can bring to the surface new and unfamiliar personality traits in yourself—and others. “My parenting style is very relaxed and I assumed my close childhood friend would be the same way,” says Sullivan. “But soon after her son’s birth, my friend became very type A, terrified of germs, and anxious about everything.”
As hard as it may be to hold your tongue when a friend behaves in a way you find weird or ineffective, try not to judge. Unsolicited advice, however well-intentioned (“He might stop crying if you gave him a paci”), will likely hit a nerve. Parenting is so personal, and it’s possible for both of you to choose opposing approaches and neither be wrong.
Now if you’re getting the vibe that your friend is judging you (grrrr), have a nonconfrontational convo the next time she grimaces when you whip out your boob to nurse or offer your toddler a nonorganic snack. “Explain your thinking, and point out that while she may disagree, you’re just doing what feels right to you,” suggests Dr. Levine. As for any passive-aggressive comments, try to “be a little deaf,” as Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has famously advised. Most likely, another mom’s comments are more likely about validating her choices rather than criticizing yours.
4. You’ve made friends, but they’re not exactly “your people”
Take the pressure off—you don’t have to become lifelong friends with the first people you meet. They can still help you make the transition to parenthood. “I’ve met a lot of women who are very different from me and my pre-kid friends,” says Shannon Weidinger, a mom in San Francisco. “The common bond of our kids lets us enjoy the time we spend together.”
It wasn’t until my son started preschool that I made a group of tight-knit friends. It happened quite naturally, by chatting together during pickup and drop-off. These are my forever friends, and I have to say, they were worth the wait.