The importance of creating strong friendships in pregnancy, postpartum and beyond
We live in a world where we’re increasingly having babies away from our hometowns, which means often without the support of long-term friends and family. This is exciting because we have a chance to create new friendships, but it can also be daunting during a time when there are so many new changes happening in our lives. The early months of motherhood can be especially isolating marking the importance of building a strong support network.
I had both my children away from home and didn’t give any thought to creating mommy friends until about six months after my first daughter was born. I remember feeling this incredible urge to be surrounded by other moms and I couldn’t help but recall a TV show (Pramface) where the new mom had a similar longing and started stalking moms at the park and in coffee shops. Luckily, I didn’t have to go to those lengths.
Here’s what worked for me.
- Start where you are. At the time, I was taking a mom and baby yoga class and decided to strike up the nerve to ask the other moms if they wanted to go for coffee sometime. As an introvert with a tendency towards shyness I was nervous but plunged ahead anyway. Remarkably, every mom said yes. They also lived in the neighbourhood so through text I organized walks, coffee shop meet ups and lunch dates. One mom never made it out, another I chatted with occasionally and yet another I am happy to say is a good friend now.
- Cherish casual interactions. I often found myself chatting with other moms at grocery stores, playgrounds and coffee shops and we exchanged ideas over the best baby products or good daycares. This was often a valuable and satisfying experience. Don’t t be afraid to strike up a conversation about the best sippy cup or where to find a good babysitter. In my experience, moms are open to sharing their knowledge.
- Sometimes you’ll make a friend and things won’t work out. Don’t take it personally and don’t feel guilty about letting go of a relationship that isn’t working. Becoming a new mom is already a highly sensitive time and it’s not worth your energy to put up with a draining or toxic relationship. I had a friend who I enjoyed hanging out with but often canceled last minute or was usually very late. I found it hard to plan a playdate around her erratic schedule and started to limit our time together. We eventually stopped hanging out as I needed a friend that valued my time as much as her own.
- Go online. I found Facebook groups for moms that lived in the same neighbourhood as me and others that had a baby the same year I did. I didn’t make it out to a gathering, but it was a good way to connect with others, ask questions, and find out what was going on in the community.
- Take advantage of free activities. It’s often hard to commit time and money to classes you may not be able to go to with an unpredictable baby or toddler. Lucky finding a free playgroup is usually as easy as looking up your neighbourhood community centre or local library. Both offer free, drop-in playdates or classes. It’s a great way to bond with other mothers in the same stage without the added pressure of a financial investment. Believe it or not, in between singing songs and storytime at the library, I created some of my closest friendships.
Usually, other moms are just as open to creating a new connection as you are. Take a chance and reach out. You can start with me. Share what worked for you or the challenges you’re having in the comments below.