Creating and developing friendships in young motherhood has its unique set of challenges. From scheduling conflicts, to kid-induced interruptions while you’re having a conversation, to just finding the time and energy to invest in relationships...There are certainly hurdles to work around. However, finding true friendships during this stage of life is possible.
In fact, I have been able to regularly observe how the experiences in motherhood can actually assist in the development of deeper, more meaningful friendships. Moms who are in the same phase of life, experiencing similar challenges, and feeling similar emotions can actually create unparalleled empathetic and understanding connections with one another. These types of connections enrich our lives and improve our well-being. For me, friendships with other women have been an invaluable source of support during this phase of life. A phase that is packed full of growth, learning, and development.
In this blog post, we will go over 7 Best Practices on developing meaningful friendships even while in the thick of motherhood. Some of these concepts might seem like common sense. But sometimes, when we are in what I kindly refer to as a “mom haze”, we can lose sight of the essentials. So as you read, think of how you are doing in each of these areas. (Also, please note: this is a two-part blog post, so be sure to stay tuned for the second part.)
1. Get to know yourself. Throughout motherhood, there are periods of time where you are physically isolated from the world. Whether it is due to recovering after childbirth, dealing with health issues, or whatever it may be, there are times where you need to pull back from society and hunker down for a little while. Though it can sometimes feel lonely, these phases can also give you an opportunity to look inward and to reflect about who you truly are, what you value, and what you need. By better understanding those aspects of yourself, you will be able to better show up as the type of friend you want to be, as well identify the type of friendships you want to have.
During these “down times” you can also assess your overall well-being. How are you doing mentally? Physically? Emotionally? Are there parts of your life that need attention and assistance in order for you to feel better? It can certainly take work, but making these types of assessments can benefit us and our relationships.
2. Gather where other moms go. When you are able to go out and about, head to places where other mamas are. Some days it can be a daunting task to get out the door as a mother. If your experiences have been similar to mine, it can sometimes feel like you’re running a half marathon just to get you and your kiddos out the door. The intimidation of it all keeps me home at times. However, I have found that when my kids and I do get out of the house, the day usually goes a bit smoother for all of us.
A few ideas of places you can go to include: parks, the gym, kid-friendly eating establishments, kids sporting events, church, fun-centers, children’s museum, the zoo, and the library. You can also see if your area currently has a Neighborhood Facebook page for Moms in order to find out when events and gatherings occur locally.
There are a few key benefits to meeting fellow moms at these types of outings. For one, you can identify women who are in the same stage as you, AND have a similar schedule (double bonus). Plus, you can be intentional on the places you go in order to find women who have similar interests as you and your kids.
3. Reach out. This idea might take you way out of your comfort zone, but I promise it gets easier the more you do it. You can try starting up a conversation with someone by saying something like, “I am new to the area, do you know what activities are available for children that are nearby?”. Or something as simple as “I love your daughter’s shoes. Where did you find them?”. You can then start building common ground from there. If you “hit it off”, be sure to exchange numbers or plan another time to meet up. (Yes, it can feel a little you’re back in the dating scene all over again...)
If you need a bit more motivation to initiate conversations, keep in mind that other women are lonely too. YOU can be the means of helping someone else to feel a little less alone in their own motherhood.
4. Listen. To be honest, this is one that I find I need to continually work on. Sometimes I feel like my mom-brain has me thinking of five things at once. However, I am working on being more present in the moment by truly listening to understand what the other person is saying. People can usually tell whether or not you are engaged in the conversation. If you would like to create a meaningful friendship, work on showing you care by listening with the intent to understand. It is a key element in building trust, validation, and security in a friendship.
5. Find ways to engage in meaningful conversation. Face-to-face interactions are ideal when circumstances allow it. Being physically present with my friends for a girls’ night fills my cup and rejuvenates me. However, it is not always feasible depending on what is going on with life.
Fortunately, we have various means to stay in contact with someone. From texting, email, phone conversations, Face-Time, Marco Polo etc...you typically can find some form of communication that works for you and your schedule. Marco Polo has been a wonderful tool for me to have conversations with friends both old and new. And best of all is that you can respond around your schedule.
6. Be yourself. For some reason, motherhood can compel most of us into the “perfectionist” trap. But the intense desire to appear to “have it all together” actually hinders us from creating deeper level connections with others. As we hide who we truly are, in order to not expose our imperfections, we are then only capable of surface level interactions.
If you are willing to truly let yourself be seen, by also exposing some of the messiness, you will find that you give others permission to do the same. You will be able to find common ground as you share what feelings and challenges you are going through. A wise woman once pointed out to me that “we bind ourselves to those we tell our story to.” When we share who we are with one another, we increase the potential of creating the meaningful friendships that we are seeking. We can also better identify who we better connect with.
7. Show up and serve. Whether it is someone you are already close with or an acquaintance you wish to get to know better, service is an effective means by which relationships are created and strengthened. Ideas for serving are endless, but here are a few suggestions: Cook (or buy) dinner for someone who just had a baby. Listen when she is grieving the loss of a loved one or a change that has occurred. Offer to watch her kids while she takes a nap. Drop off a treat. Send her a kind text message and ask about how she is doing. These types of kind acts can go along way in the formation of genuine, lasting friendships.
In closing, there is something you should be aware of as you put yourself out there in the quest for friendships---And that is that not everyone is going to like you. I recognize this can be a very painful thought. But once you accept it, it can ironically help to improve your confidence. Not everyone likes Mint Chip ice cream. On the other hand, it is a top favorite among many. Find your people. And try to not get too caught up in worrying about why you are unable to connect with someone else. Remember Charity Barnum’s wise words from The Greatest Showman, “You don’t need everyone to love you, just a few good people.”
Click here to continue on to Part 2 of "How to Create Meaningful Friendships in Motherhood".
About the author:
Michelle White lives in Texas with her husband and three young boys (ages 7, 5, and 2). She is the Owner and Founder of Rest Dress (www.restdress.com), a company that sells lounge dresses designed with mothers in mind.