As an expectant mom, I was new to Los Angeles and I didn’t know many people. The few friends I had were nowhere near having kids, and my old friends, scattered around the country, weren’t either. At 30, I was basically a teen mom in my circle.
In the four years since then, I’ve built up a great group of friends with kids the same age as mine. As a stay-at-home mom, I really consider other parents my co-workers. We meet up during the week, commiserate, share advice and generally have fun together. My friends are fun, smart, helpful and most important, offer the kind of support you can only get from other mothers. Where can you find these unicorn moms, you ask? Allow me to lay it out for you.
When I was a friendless preggo with zero mom experience, a friend from NYC introduced me to her friend Lisa, who lives in my neighborhood. Lisa suggested joining the local branch of MOMS Club, a national organization created to provide support for mothers. I was hesitant. Would it be Stepford-wifey? Would it be sorority-ish? I didn’t know if I’d find my crowd within a pre-planned group; I’ve never been one for organized friendships.
I joined anyway. I was going to stay home with my baby girl, so I’d at least need the playgroup. As it turned out, joining was a great move. I met some cool women who became very good friends: Maritza, for example, who stayed with my daughter when I was in labor with my son. Or Poukhan, who co-writes a blog with me.
Danielle Murphy, who is in an online moms group with me, joined a MOPS group, which led her to an awesome Meetup group for moms of preschoolers. “I’ve met some awesome mamas I totally clicked with,” she says. Look up local groups in your area or ask parents for suggestions! Generally, the fees are minimal ($20/year for MOMS Club) so there’s little risk.
When I was just a wee new mama, I lived a few blocks from a place called Café de Leche — which, it turned out, was somewhat of a mom meat market. I met my friend Liz there when our toddlers were enjoying the play area together. Alana Vormehr and Kate Trumbull also met there, and now we all go camping with our families. Thanks, Café de Leche!
Alana says they started chatting at Café de Leche while their sons played. “Kate and I bonded over the fact that we wanted to teach our toddlers sign language and take swim lessons, but were too lazy,” she recalls. “We decided we should be proactive and do swim lessons together, so I got her number and the rest is history.”
Inspired? Figure out which coffee shop in your neighborhood attracts parents. If they have a play space and caffeine, you’re in the right spot.
Meeting moms at the gym child care center is a solid bet, although since I rarely go to the gym, this hasn’t been my venue of choice. Kallie Rogers, who is in an online mom group with me, says this method worked for her. “I take a lot of the classes at the gym and tons of moms are dropping off their kids in the gym day care and then taking classes,” she explains. “You just kinda start talking to people. I met one of my best friends like this.” If being healthy isn’t a motivation, maybe your lack of social life will get you into the gym. Two birds, one stone, ladies!
Baby classes are probably the easiest place to meet other moms. My daughter and I attended a music class, where I made lasting friends like Ann and Ted, whose twins now go to school with my daughter. Ice breaks quickly when you’re singing ridiculous songs in unison to infants. My former neighbor Lindsey met Alex, Katie, Robynn and Ansook at a My Gym class with their baby sons, and we all now enjoy an annual holiday party at Katie’s and go out for drinks whenever we get the chance.
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Even before the baby is born, a class can be a great way to find kindred spirits. “I ran into a friend’s girlfriend in a prenatal yoga class,” says Eva Ingvarson Cerise, who is in a Facebook group with me. “We didn’t know each other well before we got pregnant, but became closer from the shared experience.”
Hanging out at pickup, you might naturally chat with other parents. If you’re as talkative as I am, other moms will be forced to interact with you! Eventually, you’ll figure out whom you click with.
Rachel, Kristen and I had our little ones in school for the first time together, so between spying on the kiddos through the classroom window and sharing schedule information, we got to know each other. I admired Rachel’s vintage outfits, and we started chatting about how much we love flea markets. We ended up going shopping together. Kristen and I both had baby boys in Ergos when we arrived to pick up our girls: a natural starting point for conversation.
Facebook groups have been such a huge support for me as a mother. It’s weird (for me) to have virtual mom friends, but also amazing. I highly recommend finding at least one of these by searching on Facebook for a local mom’s group.
Anne Walls Gordon, who’s in my online group, says she’s part of a Facebook group that started up in her neighborhood. “It was magic and I have a ton of good friends from it now. Yay technology!” Virtual mom friend Sam Bangs also attests to the power of social media. “There’s a couple local moms Facebook groups that I joined for the sole purpose of seeking mom dates,” she says. “I also made a really great friend using the Bumble BFF app!” Yes, there’s an app for that.
A classic (platonic) pickup spot for parents, the park won’t let you down. Before I had kids, I used to make friends at the dog park and that was probably weirder than picking up friends at the kid park.
If chatting up strangers isn’t your thing, just wait for your child to interact. Maybe there’s a kid close to your kid’s age. You can throw out the benign “how old is she/he?” to get the ball rolling. You can also ask about specific gear or clothing. “How do you like that stroller?” Or maybe, “Where did you get her dress?” I find that most parents are more than happy to talk. It’s like a weird unspoken agreement that moms are open to other moms. And if the other mom isn’t open, well then — she’s not your person. Move along.
Now that you’ve zeroed in on your target — I mean, cool-seeming mom — what do you do? “Honestly,” says my friend Janelle Randazza, “if I see a mom who seems cool or someone who looks nice and has a kid that my son gets along with, I just flat out ask them for their number. I was the same way when I dated.” The direct approach works, folks. “I feel like moms are almost always looking for an opening to connect — particularly if you have some idea of fun things to do with kids.”
Another pal, Jennifer Lacques, agrees: “I just barged right into a conversation at the park this morning.”
But if the idea of jumping into a conversation with unfamiliar people makes you break into a cold sweat, just remember, the other mom probably wants friendship — or at least adult interaction — as much as you do. We’re all going through this crazy experience called motherhood, and we could all use support. Fight through the initial awkwardness and it’ll get easier over time to approach people and initiate friendships. Ultimately, the support of other mothers is so worth it. Hopefully, you’ll wind up with great friends who don’t mind if your house is a mess or you forgot to bring a diaper (again). Friends you can vent to about your defiant preschooler or ask for tips on clearing up diaper rash. Your own tribe of like-minded mamas.
Next thing you know, you’ll be posting #SquadGoals on Instagram. And isn’t that what parenting is all about?