Seriously?! I was totally kidding. Although I do really envy you and your built-in support network. Of course, even if you and your friends didn’t all give birth together, you don’t have to give up all of your non-parent friends once you have a baby. It can be hard to maintain those friendships, though. Just as in any other major life event, if a friend hasn’t gone through a similar experience, it can be difficult for your relationship to weather the transition as you adjust to your new reality. And particularly as a first-time parent, it’s helpful to have a support network of people who have gone through it all before, or who are going through it at the same time you are. That network is an excellent resource when you want to know if poking your new baby to make sure they’re still breathing is normal, or if the fact that your toddler just walked up and sucker-punched you means they’re a psychopath in the making, or whether the fact that your friend’s preschooler can read the beer list at dinner means yours is lagging behind. It’s nice to have a group of people who understand.
So, if you’re not one of those lucky ones, what do you do? You try out some of these ideas for making mom friends!
MOMS Club: When my daughter was about eight months old, my family was forced to make the transition to having me as a stay-at-home parent. All my existing friends worked all day and those who had kids had kids in daycare, so there was no one for us to hang out with. I searched for mom meet-ups and came across my local chapter of the International MOMS Club. This club was one of the best things I ever stumbled into. Offering everything from educational (and fun!) monthly meetings with childcare, to meet-up activities for various ages, to birthdate-based playgroups, to moms-only nights out, to an active listserv and Facebook group, it had everything I needed. Even after moving halfway across the country, the friends I made through my local chapter are still some of favorite go-to people!
Local Mom/Parent Groups: MOMS Club is geared toward at-home moms. If you’re a dad or you’re a working parent, I encourage you to look for other groups in your area. Meetup can be a useful jumping off point, especially if you’re looking for something specific like a bilingual group or one that gathers on evenings or weekends. Your local faith community may have offerings, too. Many of the programs offered at faith-based locations are secular programs that rent space in the building; they’re worth checking out regardless of your religious affiliation. MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) is a popular option for those who practice Christianity and are looking for a structured group or club. Your local chapter of Babywearing International is a great place to meet people, too. You can simply stop into a meeting to get some face time with other adults and help with carriers, slings, and wraps or you can join a chapter and keep up with opportunities for meet-ups and play dates, as well as monthly meetings.
Get Out of the House: Okay, so maybe you’re feeling intimidated by a structured group, or you’re worried your schedule won’t allow for the commitment. Start with the basics: LEAVE THE HOUSE. Go places that children the same age as your child will be.
- Story Times: I love story times. Partially because I am cheap and they are free, yes, but also because going to an activity automatically gives you something to talk to the other parents about. Story times at bookstores and libraries frequently include craft or play time after the stories have been read. It’s awesome entertainment for your child and chance for you both to meet new people.
- Library Events: If you haven’t been to your local library in a while, you are in for a pleasant surprise. There is so much stuff going on at public libraries now—much of it free. Everything from the above-mentioned story times to LEGO/Duplo story and play times, to family movies (not the best way to make new friends, but still fun), to music classes and performances, as well as educational opportunities. And I can’t forget to mention magic shows, puppet shows, and science shows. Check out your public library’s webpage to see what’s going on!
- Parks: I can’t lie: going to the park to make friends has never worked for me. I’m shy and it’s hard for me to strike up a conversation with strangers. That’s why I like attending events: I feel like it’s less awkward to talk to someone about a very specific thing that we’re both experiencing. However, just because something didn’t work for me doesn’t mean it won’t work for you—and I have read over and over again that parks are great for meeting mom friends.
- Stuff You Did Before Kids: While not everything you used to do before having a kid is something you can drag the kid to while you continue to do it, some things are. Infants are super-portable (I miss that stage so much sometimes) and as children get older, you can even involve them. My toddler and I loved going to Barnes and Noble to get a book and heading to their Starbucks for a “coffee” and snack to enjoy while we read our new find. Oh, and remember going to the gym? Do that again. Many gyms have free or inexpensive child care options you can take advantage of. You can meet other parents at drop-off or pick-up, or even in classes while your kids play together. If you want to involve your child, check for mommy-and-me classes at your local yoga or Pilates place. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: teaching children yoga is something you will be both be very grateful for when you’re working on regulating emotions.
Daycare/School: We had the opportunity to enroll my daughter in a co-operative preschool program. I was totally against co-oping, but my husband said he’d take on the classroom role that I wasn’t into if I would take care of the other family responsibilities, so I said yes. Turns out it was an amazing way to meet families, allowing my husband, my daughter, and me to make new friends. I realize that being so involved in your child’s school isn’t an option for everyone so look for chances to make friends before or after the school day. Depending on your school or center’s drop-off and pick-up routine, that can be a good time to chat with fellow parents. You know what else you can do? Cold-call other families. We’re new in town, but my daughter’s public school won’t release any directory information about other families. Consequently, we’ve been having a hard time meeting people through school. A few weeks ago, I sent the teacher an email with my contact information and a play date invitation, and asked her to pass it on to the family of a girl my daughter talks about a lot. It resulted in a play date for my daughter and a chance for my husband and I to make our introductions and chat with the other girl’s parents. Yay!
One final tip: Make or order networking cards. Some places offer “mommy cards,” but I just picked out a business card I liked and put my contact information on it. That way, I have a quick way to give my info to someone I just met, and the back of the card lets me hand write information like my daughter’s name (because let’s face it, even with the card, I’m still going to end up being Christina ElliesMom.), information for a meet-up I’d like to invite someone to, or even a link to Baby Gizmo. And yes, I did totally give out a card with a link to this site when I was getting my flu shot the other day. Anyway, the cards really are helpful to have.
Good luck finding your people out there! If you have an awesome group around you, share your “how we met” stories with us in the comments so we can all get more ideas for making friends.