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How to Build New Friendships if You're a New Mom or Dad

The best stress buster for parents is having a strong support network.

It’s normal to feel a bit isolated when you’re caring for a new baby and feel like you’ve lost some of your freedom. However, this is the time it can be most important to push yourself into reaching out to others. If none of your friends or family seem to understand your feelings or if you’re geographically isolated from your core support system, you may have to get creative in finding new friends. Possibilities include other new moms at your pediatrician’s office; other new moms at the church nursery; other harried moms pushing shopping carts through Target with babies in tow. If your new baby is too young for a library/book store story hour, show up around story time anyway and scout out other new moms who might be a likely new friend candidate. If there’s a group or club that interests you – even if it’s just a mild interest – and they offer childcare or state that “children welcome,” then bundle up the baby and head on over. If you don’t put yourself in places where other mothers are at, it’s going to be extremely difficult to establish connections with other moms.

Babies are as Good as Dogs for Making Introductions

And one good thing about having a new baby is that it’s a lot like getting a new dog – though they both require a lot of care and training, they both serve as great introductions to the neighbors when you take them out on walks!

Old Friendships May Falter

Sometimes, a "lifelong friend" we thought we knew turns into "someone that we used to know." This is really a normal thing to happen – when priorities shift as dramatically as they do when we have a child, it’s only normal to feel that your “old friends” don’t really seem to understand the “new you” that you and baby have become. Some friendships really are “stage-related” and aren’t the type that is going to endure through the years. Other friendships, though, will last but may need to flex a little bit as you and your friends’ paths diverge a bit right now. Human beings are dynamic creatures and if a friendship isn’t able to flex and shift as our lives do, then we need to let it go and make space for new relationships to enter into our friendscape. In some cases, if you keep the relationship open and easy, once an old friend becomes a new parent, the two of you might just be ready to amp up the friendship again.

She Lets Her Kids Do WHAT?

Not every parent is going to parent the same way you do. Once you're able to meet up with and get to know other moms, you might be surprised at how different other moms parent. This can be a frustrating situation and isn’t that unusual, at all. In fact, recognizing the variety of parenting styles when you’re a brand new parent is probably good training for the reactions you might have a decade in the future when diversity in parenting styles can really make an impact and make you want to keep your pre-teens in a plastic bubble.

Every new parent realizes early on that just about everyone else has parenting advice they want to share. Just because you listen to others’ ideas doesn’t mean you have to follow them. You can make the rules for your own family and if other new parents’ parenting practices are just too different and you feel uncomfortable hanging out with them, then just choose to avoid contact. Remember, other parents, are about as likely to follow your own well-meaning advice as you are to follow theirs.

You May End Up with Two Sets of Friends: Parents and Non-Parents

We have to realize that not everyone we like is going to like each other back. Actually, it’s probably a good thing that you have a variety of friends and not just one big group. All of the friendships we make along the way help us meet different needs. That’s why we often have a diverse set of friends. It’s okay that you have one set of friends that you meet up with at the park with the kids for a picnic and another set that you meet up with monthly for Bunco. There are times you want to be in the company of friends who totally get the “mommy” side of your personality and other times, you want to be valued for other parts of your identity, as well.

If you want to throw a huge barbecue or christening party or first birthday party and invite your whole crew of diverse friends, go ahead and do it! When the pressure is off to “get along” and the event is more relaxed, there actually might be more “cross-pollination” of your friends that you had thought there might be.

Two Easy Conversation Starters that will Break the Ice with another Mom

  1. Every mother absolutely loves to hear someone say something nice about their child.
  2. Every mother absolutely loves it when another mom asks her for some advice.

Those are two very easy ways to break the ice at the park, the neighborhood pool or playground, or when you pass another mom pushing a pram or in her yard with her kids.

Most moms remember how drastically life changed when a baby entered their lives and are usually happy to share their own tales and usually glad to have their own experiences normalized by another new mom.

Not every attempt to join a group will be easy, but that’s always the nature of social relationships and friendships. Remember, though, that as kids get older and carpools and children’s friendships become important, that your kindness and friendliness to other moms will also offer opportunities for friendships to grow.

More from Suzanne Degges-White Ph.D.
More from Psychology Today
More from Suzanne Degges-White Ph.D.
More from Psychology Today