An extended version of this post was first published in Tampa Bay Parenting magazine, and parts of this article were also included in an interview on Maternally Yours, a public radio show which airs in select cities across the country.
I know it takes a village to raise a child. But I don’t live near grandparents, aunts and uncles. And, I have a husband who travels frequently. (Maybe yours works late, or on weekends.)
So, I’ve turned to my Mamas. And together, we’ve built a Mama Village. And it’s an amazing place.
It’s a place where you can come, no matter how rundown you are. No matter how much baby fat is still on your thighs (even though your kid is 3). No matter how much negativity you’re feeling about your life today.
And your Mama Village huddles around you, encourages you, builds you up (oh, and takes care of your kids) until you’re ready to go back into that big, stressful, frustrating world.
Building a Mama Village is awesome.
But it’s not easy.
1. Get out there. Sorry, Mama. When it comes to how to make mom friends, there’s no way around this one. If you sit around and wait for mom friends to find you, at the library, the park, church and the school carpool line, you’ll be waiting forever. Make yourself get out there. Just do it.
I’ll be honest, after the birth of our first son, I had a tough time with this one. Even though I’m a social person, I was just plain sick of branching out. And putting myself out there. And being vulnerable. And looking for friends. After 8 years in TV news, I’d made new friends over and over again (after old friends would move to new jobs in different TV markets). And I was sick of it. Making matters worse, the summer our first son was born, our 2 closest “couple friends” moved out-of-state. So there I was, done with my TV news career, no longer surrounded by what working friends I did have and caring for a newborn, all with no family in town. And no friends to lean on.
I was lost.
I remember feeling so discouraged and exasperated. One day, I was crying, and I uttered a defiant little prayer: I’m tired of making new friends. I don’t want to do it anymore. I’m done.
And what I heard back changed my life.
“Stop thinking about what friends can do for you. Think about what you can do for them.”
And with that, I stopped feeling sorry for myself.
I saw that mom at the playground, and even know I didn’t want to (I shouldn’t have to, I’d tell myself), I’d start a conversation with her. Or invite her to lunch. Or just compliment her Tula.
I signed up for Stroller Strides. I went to our area’s local hospital breastfeeding support group, which ended up being a great way to meet other moms. I joined a MOPS group. I started going to a women’s Bible study.
It wasn’t easy, and it took time. (Which was kind of a shock in itself, because I had figured that as soon as I was a stay-at-home mom, I’d been automatically immersed into a huge pool of other women, just like me, who were looking for friends. But it didn’t really work that way. I had to seek it out.)
And, I’m so glad I did.
2. Use social media. We are soooo lucky these days, in that there are Facebook groups and apps like Mom Co, specifically designed to help moms connect with other moms. Use them! With Mom Co, you can download the app and instantly communicate with other moms in your area, plan playdates, ask kid-related questions or just connect in the local forums.
If you don’t know of any local Facebook groups off-hand, ask around. When you run into other moms at the park or library storytime, see if they know of local Facebook mama support groups.
And, don’t forget about MOPS! I’ve been a member of my local group for 3 years, and some of my closest friendships have bloomed out of connections born there. MOPS, which stands for Mothers of Preschoolers, is a nationwide association of moms groups. They usually meet at churches and there is a Biblically-based curriculum that’s loosely followed, but it’s not hard-core religious at all. It’s really about empowering mamas to support each other, through friendship and encouragement.
3. Plan stuff. Invite people over to your house, or text to see if they want to meet at the park. Again, I know this is hard, especially if you’re not an outgoing person by nature. But if you wait for new friends to come to you, I promise you will be lonely for a long time. You can start off with a simple text to the new mom you met at the park the other day: Hope your little one slept better last night. It was great to meet you yesterday! -Janie
Seriously, that’s all it takes.
Check in and stay connected, even if it’s through text. Show that you’re thinking of them, and I’ll be surprised if it doesn’t bloom into a beautiful friendship.
4. Be the friend you want to be friends with. Offer to help. Out of the blue. Just because. I have a good friend, and we trade babysitting each others’ kids every Thursday morning. (Which, by the way is amazing, and I highly recommend finding a friend you can do this with!)
But really, beyond offering to help, my biggest piece of advice for finding mom friends is this:
Be a good friend.
Just like my little revelation after the birth of my first son, it helps to remember that it’s not always about you and how badly you need the friendship.
Be the friend that you want to be.
We all need a Mama Village. And not just on the barfy days. We need our friends on the I’m-so-sick-of-never-having-hot-coffee days. And the I’m-not-a-robot-but-my-family-doesn’t-know-it days. And the I-feel-so-alone-and-just-need-to-talk days.
Get out there.
I promise, it’s sooooo worth it.
(And really, don’t you want someone to bring you Gatorade and saltines next time you’re home sick?)
Have you built a Mama Village? How’d you do it? Share in the comments section below.