When you become a mom, you're thrust into this whole new world with other moms, and it can feel a lot like dating. These aren't just relationships; they're momlationships, and they come with kids and playdates and parenting styles and whether or not to breastfeed in front of each other. You spend hours sitting next to strangers at swimming lessons and soccer practices, but how do you make it from strangers to friends?
To help us nail these momlationships, here are five ways to make (and keep) mom friends:
1. Say something encouraging.
One of the hardest things about meeting a new mom friend is the awkward small talk at the beginning. Your kids are playing together, rubbing sand in each other's hair and exchanging boogers, but those tactics really won't help you make a new friend. If you don't know what to say, say something encouraging. We have positive thoughts about each other all the time, and we need to get in the habit of expressing them, because as moms, we need encouragement. So tell her she's doing a great job. We all need to hear that a lot.
2. Initiate without expectations.
Expectations can be the death of a budding friendship. If you're good at initiating, you have a superpower that not everyone has, and sometimes you might feel frustrated when others don't reciprocate. A friend may really want to get together with you and just isn't as good at texting, or maybe she has some huge life thing going on, like a colicky baby, sick mom or new work schedule. If you feel kerfoofly because she's not calling back, you can back off or you can gently ask if everything's okay. Above all, live fester-free. Don't take it personally, and keep inviting people to do things. We need you.
3. Be yourself.
Wield your weirdness like a boss. Young kids are always 100 percent themselves. They sing loudly, spin around when they want to and make armpit noises for fun. I'm not saying we need to make armpit noises, but we need to do what we love with abandon. Show your friends who you really are and have fun together. There will be a natural weeding out process when you do this, but you'll attract two kinds of people—people who are like you and people who like you.
4. Fit it into your schedule.
Often we prioritize our kids' friendships and activities over our own, but I think we can have both. Fit momlationships into your schedule. Run errands together and catch up while you buy toilet paper and chicken stock. Grab a cup of coffee and meet in the parking lot before preschool pickup. Take turns hosting a movie night after the kids are in bed or meet at a theater. Throw something in the crock pot in the morning and have dinner together after work. Crank it out on your own terms. Do the things you have to do anyway, like eating and errands, but do your messy life together.
5. Learn how to be wrong.
We all screw up, and if a mom date goes screwy and you say something the wrong way or you think maybe you misunderstood something, just call her up and apologize. We tell our kids to say they're sorry, and we need to do the same thing. It's like exercise. The more you learn how to be wrong and say you're sorry and humble yourself, the more natural it feels and the more approachable and trustworthy a friend you become.
For more on how to make and keep mom friends, check out Melanie Dale's new book, "Women Are Scary: The Totally Awkward Adventure of Finding Mom Friends," or check her out at Unexpected.org.