While I watched my son try to swing himself to a galaxy far, far away, I gave myself a pep talk. When we arrived at the playground, I spotted a few moms talking by the benches. I didn’t know them but they seemed friendly enough, and since our kids were now BFFs on the swing set, maybe I could find a new BFF, too? I took a breath and prepared to introduce myself.
I grew up believing all the moms of the world were friends. When I was that little kid on the swing, it seemed that all mothers had a universal homing beacon for finding each other. I noticed them striking up easy conversations and thought it must be great to have insta-friends. Then, of course, there was my mom who had a whole group of mom BFFs. They took vacations together, went to movies, and spent what seemed like days talking on the phone. So when I had my son, I figured momships would be a cinch. I was proven wrong. Why is making mom friends so hard?
When it comes to creating lasting mom friendships, there are many reasons why it doesn’t always get checked off your to-do list. In some cases, it simply comes down to adulting.
“Once we become adults, making new friends becomes more difficult,” says Supatra Tovar, PSY.D, RD. If you thought it was easier making friends as a kid, you’re not alone. A recent survey revealed that 70% of adults find it hard to make new friends. Part of this is simply that our younger selves had more time and ready-made opportunities to find those connections, Dr. Tovar says.
Whether it was through school activities, playing tag in your neighborhood, or your parents dragging you to that monthly pot-luck dinner, these built-in social circles made developing friendships easier. “These circles linked us to others that shared our interests, and, for many, those became the start for strong, close friendships,” Dr. Tovar says. As adults, we no longer have built-in friend-making outlets — and as we grow up, marriage, work, and child-rearing can keep us locked in the same routine, causing us to feel isolated.
Tamara Dearing, the mother of a 5-year-old, didn’t realize she might need to make new mom friends once she became a mama. While she’s still friendly with the friends she had pre-motherhood, those relationships have been tough to maintain. “Everyone either had children and it became hard to match schedules, or didn’t have children and assumed I was too busy,” Dearing says. She goes on to say that her experience of being a mom, an entrepreneur, and neurodivergent has made it nearly impossible to connect regularly enough for any new friend group to stick.
Feeling on your own while momming isn’t uncommon. According to a recent survey, 60% of moms with kids under the age of 5 admit to feeling lonely. In some cases, the societal or even the self-imposed expectation that a mother must be available for her children at all times can keep a mama feeling separate from the grown-ups. This belief can lead to a lack of self-care, and Dr. Tovar says, “This includes setting time aside to go out, socialize, and make new friends.” Add to this a mama’s busy schedule of doing all the things, and her time is super limited when it comes to developing new bonds with adults.
Paige Schueler is the mother of three young children and says her momship experience has played out as she expected. She explains she had one good friend who became pregnant at the same time and another who already had a child — which kept their connection forward-moving. “I’m very blessed to have a very strong friend group,” Schueler begins. “Some of the relationships have changed and shifted but they are still my close friends.” Having a trustworthy circle reduces stress and offers emotional support, and Schueler says her group “lifts her up” when needed — most of whom she met during high school or through her job. “We’re more like a family dynamic than just friends! My kids call my friends their ‘aunts,’” she says.
After I gave birth, I thought just being a mother would be enough to make lifelong mom friendships. But as I talked in short bursts with mamas on the playground, I discovered we didn’t always share interests beyond parenting, so no deeper connections were made. Plus, my shy personality can make it tough to strike up an easy conversation with people I’ve just met. Dearing says when she was younger friendships happened easily in school and at work, so the concept that she needs to put herself out there to meet friends feels new and uncomfortable. So, how can making new momships feel less daunting and awkward?
A good baby step to take when wanting to make new mom friendships is to start with an online group. “Facebook and the app ‘MeetUp’ have some wonderful local, citywide, and national mommy groups that are easy and free to join,” she recommends. And Dearing says she’s been able to successfully connect and stay connected with others online. “Don’t underestimate the value of an online friendship or an online group if you don’t have in-person friendships in your life,” she encourages.
Dr. Tovar adds that going to your local recreation centers, YMCA, or church/spiritual center to find classes and/or groups for mothers and children is another good way to meet new friends. Groups such as these give you time to talk and connect and Dr. Tovar explains it like this: Many of these groups can be inexpensive or even free if you don’t have the means to pay. There you will most likely find several people you can connect and bond with and expand your village.
After my son and I left the playground that day, he asked why I was talking to parents I didn’t know. When I explained that I was always open to making new friends, he gave my hand an approving squeeze. Even though I didn’t leave the playground with a new bestie, I did leave with a new confidence to keep searching for my group. “Find people who you make you feel supported and loved,” Schueler says. Those are the momships I’m looking to create and keep because, as Dr. Tovar points out, “While having a ‘mom BFF’ may not be a lifesaving necessity, it may be a sanity-saving one.”