When you're a new mom, you want to be prepared. We read the books, we buy the bouncer, Boppy, Bumbo, and all the other gear that baby will need to live in comfort the first year of his life. But the greatest asset to any new mom is the only one you can't register for: mom friends. You might think you don't need them, or that your husband can play the role, or that you can take your existing kidfree friends with you into the realm of mommyhood with no speed bumps. Or that your friends with kids who live far away will do the job.
I'm here to tell you there is no substitute for the good-old-fashioned local mommy in a minivan with kids the same age as yours who has the same schedule you do. It's a lifesaver on the days when you just. Can't. Get. Off. The. Couch. One. More. Time. Or when you need moral support to drive to that mega-fun playground that's an extra twenty minutes away. And not to mention the occasional road trip to Sesame Place in a Toyota Sienna with three car seats and three mommies. (#legend.)
But how are you supposed to drum up these fabulous allies? If it seems like every mom in a 10-mile radius is getting together for morning mimosas without you, what's a nice mom to do?
Read on for advice on how to create your own mom tribe. It's not as hard as it seems, but you will have to do a little werk. Making mom friends can seem daunting, but if you keep the tips below in mind, you'll be on your way to play dates, drink nights, and group texts.
THE RULES FOR MAKING MOM FRIENDS
You've done this before
Obviously, no one needs to be told how to make friends. We do it all the time! It may seem like you're diving in blind, but remember you've had to start with a clean slate in the past, whether it be in college, moving out of the house, or starting a new job. Having a baby is just another new social situation. And that little baby is a great talking point. I've found it was harder to make friends in Westchester before I had kids to parade around. Having a baby invites conversation. You're kind of like those people who walk around with cute dogs to get dates. It's shameless, but it works.
Get out there
Remember when you were single and everyone said you're not going to meet someone at home on the couch? The same principle goes for motherhood. Sure, it's a pain to pack the diaper bag and find their shoes, but you have to focus on the prize: if you make a mom friend, you can have play dates at home and not have to leave the house as much. And unlike when you were dating and wondering where all the good guys hang out, you don't have to do much guessing when it comes to babies--they're exactly where you think they are. You can find them at the library, the baby gym, music class, the park, walking around town in strollers, the play area at the mall. They're everywhere! And they're all cute and ready to mingle.
But don't go toooo crazy. Babies everywhere means there are going to be babies at the grocery store, Target, CVS, when you're picking up dry cleaning. Anyone who's ever brought their kid to do errands knows that you have to keep your focus on the shopping cart--no socializing!--unless you want to leave the store missing half your list, a shoe, and a pacifier. When you spy other moms out getting stuff done, give them the Katniss three-finger solidarity sign and keep on cruising.
Have an end goal
Since there are babies everywhere, there are moms everywhere. But you can't meet them all. So how do you know which ones to go for? First, ask yourself what are you looking for in a mom friend? The answer where dictate how and where you should go about meeting moms.
If you want someone to come over for play dates, stick to places close to home. Odds are moms aren't traveling 20 miles to go to a baby gym. If you want a friend for the playground, hang out at that playground. If you want people to get a drink with at night, ask the moms you meet where they like to go out and see if they respond with a laundry list of bars, or if they've vowed not to leave their baby's side until she's 10. If you want friends to go to music class with, shop around all the music classes to find the one with the perfect mix of moms you're looking for, then sign up for that time slot.
Don't be a perfectionist
Wouldn't it be great to find a mom friend who lived 5 minutes away, who was home the same times you were, with a kid who got along with your kid like Oprah and Gayle? Sure! ... but that unicorn might not exist. (Or worse, she might exist but then she moves away to Houston and you have to start all over! Sigh... But enough about me.)
The point is to keep your mind open when you're out meeting moms. If you talk to a mom and feel that things are clicking, but she's a working mom out on the rare personal day, don't write her off solely because she can't hang on a weekday afternoon. I have great working mom friends. We may have to try a little harder at planning play dates, but working moms know time is precious and aren't afraid to plan ahead to lock down a play date on the weekend or a drink night after work. Stay-at-home moms are great for during-the-week-fun, but some tend to reserve nights and weekends for family time only, which can leave you feeling like you only have friends from 9 to 5. Keep your eyes out for a mix of both, and you'll cover all your bases. Yes, you have an end goal as we outlined above, but don't write off someone who seems great because they don't fit every criteria in that end goal.
Conversely, if you meet a mom and don't get that special "You're my people!" vibe right away but she meets everything else on your wish list, don't write her off either. You may be catching her on an off day, or she's distracted with kid-wrangling or nervous about making new friends too. I love meeting new moms, but sometimes when I'm out at the baby gym or playground I just want 5 minutes of head-in-phone time to unwind, so I might come off as uninterested to someone trying to reach out. Wait it out; the next time you see that mom she might be feeling more social.
Let your kid be the judge
How do you know if the friendship is truly compatible? Like everything else in the life of a mom, your kids will dictate that. Do they play well together? If they do, this would be a great mom friend to have. Kids who are happy together make the job of parenting ten times easier than kids who argue. You could have a fabulous time with another mom, but if your kids don't play well together, the friendship possibilities are going be limited.
I think we all know the torture of a play date where one kid beats up on the other the entire time, and the parents have to stay on both of them to make sure there aren't constant tears. My ideal play date involves me and the other mom on the couch relaxing while the kids play quietly. If you see your child playing perfectly with another kid when you're out somewhere, jump on it! That's the parent you want to befriend.
What if they don't play together at all? Don't be afraid of a little age gap. It may seem like there's a world of difference between a 7-month-old and an 16-month-old, but a 17-month-old and a 2(ish)-year-old? Not that big of a deal. If they spend a lot of time together at an early age it will be easier for them to play well once they are old enough to engage.
I met a mom...now what?
You're in the same town, your kids are almost the same age, and they both nap from 12 to 2. Match made in heaven! Now what?
This is the hardest part. Sure, it's fun to chat with someone while the kids are on the slide, but making the conversion from acquaintance to friend takes a bit of bravery. I've met so many moms with potential but at the last minute I felt too shy to ask for their info. I'd tell myself "I'll see them again." But I never did. (Cue eerie music...)
Okay, so I probably didn't meet ghost moms, just busy moms who seemed cool but whom I never ran into again. In order to make sure you do see each other, think about your favorite way to communicate. If you love Facebook, send them a friend request. I like adding friends on Facebook because viewing their profile allows me to get a glimpse into their personality and gives me things to talk about when I do see them. And it lets them see what you're like, too. Plus it helps me put a face to their name.
If you're more of a texter, get their number and GIF away! If you go the text route, you don't have to act like you're communicating with the Uber driver. Just because they're not part of your inner circle yet doesn't mean you can't send them a emoji-filled wassup or ask them if they watch This Is Us. But, like when you were dating, don't send them five texts in a row if they haven't answered one. Although unlike dating, don't read too much into silence. I sometimes can't answer texts right away and it's not because I'm Just Not That Into You. Moms get busy and forget. Don't sweat it.
Facebook or text, the easiest way to move from acquaintances to friends is to actually hang out. So when you text or FB message, try to set up a time for a play date. Don't worry about your messy house or the fact that it's too gross to go outside. You're just trying to get an hour in somewhere. Here are just a few ideas:
- Lil Chameleon in Tuckahoe: Free!
- The Play Place in Elmsford: $5 before 9:30!
- The Westchester Mall's play area: Free!
- World Cup in Chappaqua most Wednesdays at 10:05am: Free!
- Or head to one of the zillion free weekly library programs around Westchester (check out our easy-to-navigate master list at BabyGotChat.com) and hang in the children's area afterward.
Too shy, can't speak?
Hopefully this is the only thing you have in common with Whitney Houston. If you truly can't bring yourself to talk to living, breathing moms when you go out, but you're a hoot behind the keyboard, join some local mom groups on Facebook and get active. It's a great place to ask questions, give advice, vent about the hardships of parenting, or find out what the cool moms are up to. You'll find likeminded women to bond with.
Be yourself, but try not to be too controversial. These are strangers, after all, and whatever you say will reach hundreds of them at a time. Controversial mom topics include vaccines, epidurals, breast feeding, formula feeding, starting solid foods, not starting solid foods, sleep training, and whatever you're selling on the side. Proceed at your own risk.
One more warning: I love mom groups and I'm in a lot of them, but it's easy to remain online only and never move from digital to in person. If you go this route, challenge yourself to meet someone new from the group once a month.
Meetup.com groups are also great for those that are too shy to court other moms in person. You can't get stuck in going-nowhere conversations because Meetup's sole purpose is to find ways to get together. There are a lot of great local mom Meetups or you could even start your own. Browse the app, find an activity you like, and show up. Insta play date!
There's also an app called Peanut which is sort of like Tinder for moms. I've perused it but I haven't made contact with anyone I've seen on it. I think it's a great resource for moms in more remote areas, but Westchester is so kid-dense that I haven't had to resort to one-on-one mom blind dates. If that's up your alley, try it out.
The fastest way to keep the friends you make is to say yes when people invite you to things. Sure, you may be cutting it close with the nap, or it's cold, or raining (or both!), or your little one seemed grumpy at breakfast, but remember there's never a great time for a toddler to be on good behavior, so just go with it. Bring them out and hope for the best. 95% of the time it will go your way. And that 5% where you drag them out of the library kicking and screaming, well... my bad. When you get that text from a mom you just met asking if you can be at the park in 30 minutes, don't think, gee this couch is pretty amazing right now. Even if it is.
And the most important thing...
Most of all, just be yourself. It may be tempting to tone down your crazy for the sake of making friends, but letting it all hang out means you'll weed out the bad matches sooner. And remember there are a lot of moms all around the county. If you're in a friend group but don't really connect, you don't have to torture yourself for the sake of a play date. After all, we've already lived through high school, no need to revisit with a new round of mama drama.
Obtaining your new tribe can take a while, so don't get discouraged. Having young children is an exciting time to make new friends because as your kids age and your family grows, your circle of friends will continue to grow. There's a whole new crop of moms moving to Westchester, or sending their kids to the same school as yours, or about to have their first baby and join this crazy parenting world, and they can't wait to meet you! You just have to get out there and say hi.
Andrea Worthington is the owner of BabyGotChat.com, a Westchester-based resource for parents with local kid-friendly events, activities, and a weekly blog. For suggestions on where to go and what to do with little ones, follow @BabyGotChat on Facebook and Instagram, and sign up for the weekly newsletter at babygotchat.com.