I’ll just say it: I suck at making mom friends.
I thought things would improve once my son started preschool, but most of the moms and I barely make casual conversation. I tried smiling at a few women who ended up being non-smilers.
Meanwhile, other moms have bonded.
This morning, two moms hugged, and another mom group went to the gym together. While they walked off like best buddies, I drove off to find a gas station, so I wouldn’t run out of gas. Part of it is that I work and am usually rushing to take my youngest child home, so he can nap while I work.
I used to think that being good at making “real” friends would translate into “mom” friends, but it hasn’t. If I think about my non-mom friends, we typically found common ground through books, politics, passions, or philosophies.
But, mom friends? It’s much more complicated and I think this is why:
1. Your kids need to get along:
Your children don’t have to be best buddies that keep in touch until they’re 80, though that is a great fantasy. However, a budding mom friendship can quickly fizzle if your children don’t get along.
I have had this happen a few times. It goes like this: you meet a great mom and hit it off, only to find out their child is a (insert one) hair puller, habitual toy thrower, or non-sharer. Or, maybe their child brings out your child’s wild side. Sometimes things can improve with patience and adult direction. If they don’t, playdates might be infrequent or even impossible.
2. Your discipline styles differ:
When my older children were small, I had a great group of mom friends and our kids played at the park every day after school. Then, a new mom moved into town and things began to get rocky.
Try as I might, I just didn’t care for her. I would have naturally kept my distance, but my best girlfriend really liked her. Part of what I struggled with was that this woman liked to shout—I mean really shout, about everything. Soon, the pleasant breezy park days I’d grown to love were overrun by her chastising her kids from yards away. It got on my nerves and I didn’t like witnessing the way her children reacted to the constant reprimands.
You don’t have to be identical in your parenting, but mom friendships often rely on similar discipline styles when things with the kids go awry (as they will).
3. Mean girl alert:
Women don’t stop gossiping about one another just because they have kids. I wish that were the case, but see how I’ve just shared a story about the mom who shouted?
I try and separate “nice” gossip from the “not so nice” kind. For instance, if my friend shares that “Sonia” is going on vacay with her husband, that’s fine. However, if she talks about how she can’t afford it and is so selfish…then I see a red flag and begin to wonder what that same friend might be saying about me.
By no means is gossip exclusive to moms or women—it can happen in any group or demographic. However, rampant gossip between moms can feel especially toxic and like a high school movie gone wrong. It’s one thing to hear a friend gossip, but it is worse when children might be thrown into the comments. If people are mean to other moms or me, I back off or even end the mom friendship entirely.
4. Everything and nothing in common:
There is pressure for moms to be friends, even if they have nothing in common. This works…some of the time.
There are many successful mom friendships that are fueled by kids who hit it off. When your children play together and have fun exploring together, it’s surely worth taking time for.
The problem? A lot of times, it’s easier said than done. On the one hand, I’d love to be friends with any and all moms, but it’s hard to get motivated when we don’t have much in common. If we made the effort to talk, over time, we would probably discover common ground, which bonds us—I’ve had that experience before. But without an initial spark, it can be hard to get a mom friendship off the ground. For instance, if one of you likes to eat healthy and make DIY picnics, while another is all about ease and fast food luncheons…neither of you may feel an immediate draw.
5. Busy, so busy:
I’m busy. So, so busy. The real reason I don’t make more mom friends may be my own unavailability. I’m loving and giving, but most of the time, I can barely make time for myself, let alone figure out someone else’s schedule enough to establish or maintain a mom friendship.
When I have quiet time, I don’t necessarily want to add another person in my text rotation. My partner and I barely have time for date night, and I’d find it hard to fit in a bunch of “mom’s night out” activities. Selfishly, it’s easier to meet up with my friends who don’t have young kids, so that only one of us is juggling a kid bedtime schedule and making everyone dinner.
The only problem with all of this is that I am deeply rooted in the experience of being a mom and having a great group of mom friends can be really nice. It is wonderful to have a community of people who understand what you’re going through. It can provide stress relief to have moms to confide in, as your children learn and grow.
So, while I want to give up on making mom friends, I won’t and you shouldn’t either.
Even if making mom friends is sometimes a slow process, it’s good to stay open. Try starting a playgroup or just attend one. Connect with neighborhood mom groups on Facebook or Meetup.com, or share posts about family-friendly activities and see who responds. We don’t have to be “friend soulmates” with everyone we meet. Some friendships might be deep and others casual, but each time we connect with another human, it has the power to help us grow and learn. Sometimes, all it takes is a smile to impact someone’s day for the better.
So, for now, I’ll keep smiling and making polite conversation. I’ll arrive at school just before the bell rings, craving coffee, my hair in a bun, and about to go and buy gas before my car runs out. And, maybe, just maybe, I’ll find some moms who see the humor in that. At the end of the day, each mother is trying to be the best parent they can, while navigating the glorious, crazy, busy, wild, beautiful aspects of life!