As a new parent, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by emotions, responsibilities, and expectations. We’ve all been there—the moment when you realize that you are drowning, and the only thing you want to do is eat a bunch of ice cream, collapse into bed, and not be needed for the next eight hours. While rest is always a good idea and a priority for a new parent (or even an experienced one!), we tend to push away something that we all actually, truly need: friends.
When I was a young adult, I had already realized that deep friendships with other women were important. When I had kids, those friendships became even more crucial to my well-being and mental health. Emotionally and intellectually, I needed something to look forward to and break up the days, even if it was just a stopover for a coffee and a hug.
At first it was hard. The thought of bundling baby up (or even just getting dressed myself) and bringing along all the necessities of parenting was daunting. All of my hesitations could often overrule my desire for connection with other moms. But the reality was that if I made myself do it, I never regretted it. There are so many benefits to having close friends who are also parents (for dads, too!). There are the simple things you learn when you talk to other parents, like the fact that babies’ socks never stay on (so don’t worry about them!), children don’t need to be bathed every day (or even every week!), and your house doesn’t need to look perfect (and no apologies are needed when it’s a crazy mess).
For me, one of the best gifts in finding my “mom friends” has been to change how I compare myself to others. My friends and I all have different ways of raising our kids. We all accept and love each other where we are at, and also encourage each other to grow. Most of all, though, they remind me to be honest with myself. I tend to be negative about most things, and parenting is no exception. Having a bad, yelling-at-my-kid moment for me can pretty much ruin my day, and I see myself as a failure as a parent. When I talk about it with my friends, though, they point out all the beautiful things that either came from that struggle (“Were you able to apologize?”) or from the other parenting I’ve done throughout that day (“Wow, she is such a good big sister because of the way you’ve helped her hold the baby!”). They help me see that my parenting is not only my failures, but also—and maybe more so—my successes.
As I’ve shared stories of my struggles and asked for input from my friends, they have been vulnerable enough to share their own parenting journey. This has been an incredible gift: when these patient, kind people tell me that they have also yelled at their kids, I am able to be in their regret with them and simultaneously see that I am not alone. We’ve also been able to encourage each other to seek different kinds of help, such as parenting coaches or therapists or doctors, when needed. We know each other well enough to be able to suggest these options without shaming anyone, because usually, we’ve been there ourselves.
For those longing for deeper friendships with fellow moms, it can be a struggle to find them, especially in the aftermath of a global pandemic and through the more isolating winter season, for example. Consider visiting organized events like library story times, Early Childhood Family Education (ECFE) groups, or local parks programs. If you are a person of faith, see if there is a moms or dads group at your place of worship, and if there isn’t one, start one! If you are feeling really brave, chat it up with the parents at the farmers market, that mom pushing her baby in the park swing, or the new parents out for a cup of coffee at the local coffee shop. I promise, you aren’t the only one craving community.
Some of us will have unique challenges: Lack of childcare. A less-than-forgiving work schedule. Single parenthood. It may be even more difficult to find the time, yet all the more important to have your own village of people you trust. In these instances, you may have to go a bit farther out of your comfort zone or get a bit more creative: invite a friend over after the kids have gone to bed; have someone over for a cup of coffee during nap; coordinate a playdate at the park so that all the kids can play together. Making new friends is hard but (I’ll say it again) it’s worth it!
Here’s one final thought that might be crossing your mind: Isn’t it selfish to want time away from your partner? Or desire time away from your kids? Absolutely not. Time spent in community with good friends only cultivates a deeper appreciation for your family, and you will feel refreshed in a much deeper way than a bucket of ice cream can offer.
So here’s my challenge to you: if you are finding that you need a few more people in your corner to weather the beautiful storm of parenting, make a list of at least five places where you might find a friend or two. Better yet, challenge your partner to do the same. It can be intimidating, but the worst that can happen is they will say no – and you’re not any worse off than you were before. Even if four fail, the one that succeeds might just end up being that sanity-saving cup of coffee once a month, or that last minute text to arrange a park playdate on the first lovely day of summer. You can do this, mama. Get out there and find your village.
Are you a new mom or dad? Find a friend or two by joining Better Beginnings’ in-person support groups here.