Most of my friends have known me since I was an awkward 10-year-old with a penchant for overalls. (It was the ‘90s, OK?) I cherish these longtime friendships, and my heart swells each time I see our kids together, even if it’s only for a short visit. But new mom friends? That’s another story.
I live in a community full of young families and stay-at-home moms. But I’ve struggled to find a group of mom friends that make up the eponymous “village.” Whether it’s because our kids didn’t get along, our nap schedules didn’t line up (the kryptonite of any mom friendship), or our children were too far apart, I’ve made and lost more mom friends than I can count on one hand.
It’s rough out there, and I would be lying if I said I hadn’t spent many nights contemplating if I was actually the problem. I’m almost five years into the stay-at-home mom life and I’ve learned a thing or two about mom friendships—what makes them so hard, why it’s OK to let some go, and how quality always, always trumps quantity. Here are some of the biggest lessons I’ve learned.
This stage is hard on relationships
It’s no secret that having babies can take a toll on your marriage. But it can also really affect your friendships. For me, the first to go was my child-free friends. Once I had my first son and transitioned from full-time writer to part-time writer and full-time mom, I had a harder and harder time connecting with my friends who didn’t have kids. Our lives seemed worlds apart, and my schedule with a newborn who was up at 6 a.m. every day was prohibitable to the long dinners and deep conversations that have sustained our relationship thus far.
I’ll also be honest. During the first few years of motherhood, I was not my best self. Between struggling to feed and take care of a new baby to learning how to navigate toddler tantrums, my new role tested me daily—so much so that I didn’t have much left for anyone else at the end of those long days.
During the first few years of motherhood… I didn’t have much left for anyone else at the end of those long days.
But something really beautiful happened, too. Once I had babies of my own, I was able to connect with my friends who had become mothers earlier. Suddenly, so much of our relationship “pause” made sense, because suddenly, we were in the same boat. Once you have a baby or needy toddler of your own, you realize just how easily a call can take weeks to return, if ever. You realize why new moms talk only about their babies, and how easily sleep schedules and feeding woes can dominate a conversation. I’ve reconnected with one of my oldest friends this way, and now, I couldn’t imagine doing this mom thing without her advice and support.
Your kids don’t always mesh
To be honest, this one shocked me. Before I had kids, I generally thought they got along with each other at least until elementary school. But with a 2-year-old and 4-year-old, I’ve witnessed more toddler dustups, preschool wrestling matches, and ‘You’re not my best friend anymore’s than I ever thought possible at this age.
I’ve realized that, like anything in the realm of parenting, kids are people too, and they come complete with their own likes, dislikes, and idiosyncrasies. And while they may not want to spend time with a child for a legitimate reason, like they were hit at the last playdate or there was a problem sharing, sometimes kids just don’t mesh. And that’s OK.
So many factors have to line up
Most often, mom friends are born out of convenience. Your children might be in the same preschool class, are the same gender or age, and have similar interests. If you have a baby or a napping toddler, they might share the same napping schedule. And as any mom or caregiver knows, if you’re on separate nap schedules than a potential friend, you might as well forget it.
Taking it a step further, you might also gravitate toward moms who parent similarly. After all, it can be difficult for an authoritarian mom to handle the discipline style of a gentle parent and vice versa. “Silky moms” and “crunchy moms” might also not get along, since they likely have ideological differences on everything from diapering to vaccination.
I try to keep a diverse friend group, but I also draw a hard line certain issues. This has narrowed my mom friend pool even more, but since my boundaries deal with the health and safety of my children, they are non-negotiables for me.
Quality over quantity
While I may not have a six-deep mom group that’s always up for a girls’ trip or weekly happy hour, I do have 2-3 friends who I can call in an emergency and will show up within minutes.
Recently, my older son needed stitches first thing in the morning, and my husband was out of town. I called a new mom friend, frantic. She was at my house within 15 minutes, three kids of her own in tow. When I returned from an emotional trip to the emergency room with my 4-year-old, my toddler was fed and happy—and she was there to listen.
I have others who legitimately have never seen me in real clothes but appreciate and love me for my painfully real, two-day-old yoga pants and messy bun. The ones that give you wine when you need it and listen to you cry when you need that, too.
These are the mom friends I’m truly hanging on to.