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April 22, 2024

April 17, 2024

How to Maintain Friendships (and Make Friends) as a Mom

E:
221
with
Danielle Bayard Jackson
Author

WHAT YOU’LL LEARN

  • Why It’s Important to Prioritize Our Friendships in Motherhood
  • How to Start Reintegrating Friendships
  • How to Make New Friends as a Mom
  • How Moms Can Overcome Social Anxiety When Making New Friends
  • The Role of Technology in Maintaining Mom Friendships
  • How to Evaluate the Quality of Your Friendships as a Mom
  • Creative Ways to Commit to Friendship as a Mom

One of the most common questions I hear when talking with the community about the struggles of motherhood is, “How do I make friends as a mom?”

Motherhood can feel lonely and isolating. When we become moms, we inevitably need friendship, support, and community. But our “village” often changes when we enter motherhood. We might find ourselves struggling to maintain existing friendships or making new mom friends. Or we might feel unsure where we fit in with mom groups or parenting styles. 

Research shows that up to 90% of moms feel lonely after giving birth, and more than half say they feel like they have no friends. This can be a difficult road to navigate—and yet it’s something that we aren’t taught about or prepared for. 

We tend to dismiss our own struggles with this. It can feel like we should inevitably know how to make friends, or that we are “too old” or “too mature” to find it hard. 

The truth is that maintaining friendships, or making new friends as a mom, takes skills, intention, and deliberation. The adjustment to motherhood changes us—and it makes sense that our friendships, along with our values, priorities, and other relationships, might change too. That doesn’t mean we have to leave our old friendships behind, and it doesn’t mean we can’t find ways to make new ones. 

Today, I’m joined by Danielle Bayard Jackson, founder of Friend Forward and author of Fighting for our Friendships to discuss why friendship is vital for moms and what we can do to maintain friendships and form new connections.  

Why It’s Important to Prioritize Our Friendships in Motherhood

Danielle never set out to become a “friendship coach.” But even when she was a teacher, she found herself thinking a lot about the friendships of her students and how to help them cultivate and support those relationships. 

She became fascinated with the research and science connected to friendships, and realized this was an area where many women needed support—and it was an area that truly mattered. 

Maintaining friendships in motherhood has been a challenge for a long time—and it’s easy to understand why. We’re conditioned to believe that “good moms” sacrifice their own needs and find fulfillment solely in their motherhood role. It can feel selfish to take time to meet our own physical needs, let alone our social ones. 

We’re also juggling motherhood and the invisible load, often while working full-time jobs. Taking time for friendships can feel like another to-do that we simply don’t have time for—especially post-pandemic when we’re carrying more labor than ever and have fallen into patterns of “learned loneliness,” where we feel used to being isolated from friends or spending time alone. 

But Danielle said that prioritizing our friendships is a key part of happiness—and that doesn’t change just because we become moms. In fact, the longest-running study on happiness showed that the number one thing that improves our happiness and physical well-being is the quality of our relationships. 

Danielle also pointed out that people who have relational diversity are happier than people who don’t—meaning that it’s important to have more than just our partner or one person we connect with. 

Spending time with friends is linked to lower cortisol, higher satisfaction of life, and better mental health outcomes. 

That’s why maintaining friendships is worth putting some effort and time into, even when we feel overwhelmed and burned out

How to Start Reintegrating Friendships

It can be hard to know where to start with friendships as a mom, even if you want to prioritize them. 

Danielle pointed out that many friendships are sustained by spending time together and sharing experiences. But in motherhood, especially early on, there are fewer hours to give. We might be unable to spend time away from our baby due to breastfeeding or other needs. And we are often sleep deprived and overwhelmed by the experience. 

If you find yourself feeling like you don’t have time for your friendships, Danielle encourages you to reframe the way friendship looks in your mind. It doesn’t have to be time-intensive happy hours, girl’s night out, or anything that requires adding undue burden to your plate. 

If we continue to think that friendship requires grand occasions, we’ll never have time for it. 

Danielle said that if we continue to think that friendship requires grand occasions, we’ll always feel that we don’t have time for it. But friendship doesn’t always have to be a heavy lift. 

Instead, we can think about how to incorporate quality time with friends into the season of life we are in. That might mean inviting a friend to join you while you grocery shop or take your baby for a walk, catching up while doing something you were already planning to do. 

If we can rethink what it looks like to spend time with other people, we can prioritize our friendships even when struggling through motherhood. In fact, it’s even more important to connect with people when we’re feeling despair or going through difficult periods of life. 

And if we feel like we have no friends, it’s helpful to start with who we already know. We tend to think that we need to make new friends as a mom—and there is value in that. But we likely already have people in our lives who we can connect with. 

Danielle pointed out that we often shy away from reaching out to people because we have a fear of rejection or we feel guilty for letting friendships fall by the wayside. But many people would be thrilled for us to reach out and say, “I know we haven’t talked in a while, but I’ve been thinking about you and would love to get together.” 

How to Make New Friends as a Mom

Another way to start forming connections and make friends as a mom is to implement some routine into your life. 

This can be tricky with small children, but there are often little ways to do so, like going to a park at the same time every day, attending weekly story time, or visiting a coffeeshop at a designated time. 

Danielle said that people are creatures of habit—and that we will likely start to see the same people out and about when we implement a routine. These people start to become familiar strangers—and it becomes easier to start to chat with them and open up conversations. 

We can also turn to apps, like Bumble for Friends or Peanut, or in local social media groups, to begin connecting with new people and make mom friends. 

Danielle also said not to overlook the power of “super connectors,” people in our lives who love making friends and connecting others. They are usually more than happy to bring people together and would be thrilled to help. 

Sometimes we need help—even when making friends—and there’s no shame in that. 

We are often hesitant to ask for what we need—but Danielle said that if we don’t, we’re never going to get our needs met. Sometimes we need help—even when making friends—and there’s no shame in that. 

How Moms Can Overcome Social Anxiety When Making New Friends

There is often a component of social anxiety involved in our struggle to maintain friendships or make new friends. We’re experiencing record-high levels of anxiety on a societal scale. The pandemic left many people in habits of isolation. And when you factor motherhood in, we might have let our friendships go by the wayside for years. 

Danielle said that maintaining friendship is like a muscle, and our social skills have likely atrophied during this time. But getting back out there is the key to overcoming this anxiety—it proves to our brain that we can do it and eases the discomfort involved.

The more time we spend at home thinking that we can’t make mom friends or focusing on how awkward it is, the more difficult it inevitably becomes. 

We might find it hard to start conversations with people or to engage in small talk. But Danielle pointed out that small talk doesn’t have to be an ongoing, tedious experience—it’s a doorway for conversations that are a little bit deeper. 

Small talk doesn’t have to be tedious—it can be a doorway for deeper conversations. 

Engaging in small talk with those familiar strangers in our lives, other moms of kids in class with yours, or people in your general circle can help us get into a pace that feels rhythmic and easy. 

For example, we might mention the weather on a beautiful day at the park, but go on to talk about how we’ve been cooped up in the house because of the rain. This is a place to connect with others on shared experiences and can pave the way for other conversations. 

Danielle also pointed out that prioritizing curiosity over performance can help us overcome nervousness about social situations. Don’t think about how to impress others or act the way you think they want you to. Instead, turn your curiosity on and start to wonder about the other people—who they are, where they are from, how old their children are. Then you can ask questions and ease your anxiety in the process, without trying to be performative. 

The Role of Technology in Maintaining Mom Friendships

We’re in an interesting time of technology—many of us work from home and never interact physically with co-workers, we have access to Facetime and Zoom, and social media can serve as both a blessing and a curse. 

Danielle said that there is research that shows both benefits and drawbacks of technology when it comes to friendship. For instance, studies show that if you are already someone with strong social support and strong connections, social media is a positive addition. But for people who don’t have social support or social skills, it can be detrimental. 

When it comes to friendship, it’s helpful to view social media as supplemental. 

She pointed out that it’s helpful to view social media as supplemental. It might be helpful to check in and see what others are up to—especially in the postpartum period where we feel isolated or for connecting with long-distance friends. But it can’t replace what we need in real life. 

Social media can also trick us into thinking we are maintaining friendships—but if we can only report what we see on social media, there isn’t much depth of relationship there. On the other hand, when used as a supplement, social media can keep us “caught up” so that when we do connect with others in real life we can skip all of the updates and start chatting about deeper things. 

It’s all in how you use social media and what you are doing to maintain friendships or make friends face-to-face. 

Other technology, such as video calls, can be helpful. Danielle pointed out that we want to get as close to real life as possible, seeing the human element, and these tools give us a way to do that even if we can’t leave the house. For example, we might video chat while folding laundry together, maintaining a connection even when we can’t be together. 

How to Evaluate the Quality of Your Friendships as a Mom

Another important aspect to consider is the quality of our friendships. If we feel that our friendships are one-sided or no longer serving us, it might be time to look elsewhere and make new friends. 

Danielle pointed out that in many friendships, it can feel that one person is always “making the effort” or initiating contact. But she also said it’s valuable to think about what the person who is not initiating is bringing to the table. They might be contributing in other ways—and that might be something that works within that friendship. (She also said that if you are the one who struggles to initiate, it’s helpful to acknowledge it.) 

Either way, communicating about our needs and our feelings matters. Together, you might be able to establish a pattern that works for each of you. And if not, it’s okay to pull back if you want to put that effort into other friendships. 

It’s also important to remember that the concept of “one best friend” is often shortsighted. It’s great to have people who are closest to you. But it’s often unrealistic to think that one person should fulfill all of your emotional needs. 

You might have a friend who you connect with on certain values or parts of your identity, and another for a different part. You might have one friend to talk about mom life and another to chat about work with. It doesn’t all have to come from one person—diversity in relationships is a great thing. 

Danielle also pointed out that our friends don’t have to have everything in common with us. While research shows that people, especially women, do look for certain commonalities in their friendships, there is also room for differences. 

For example, even after we become moms, we might have childfree friends who still offer valued friendships. If they are supportive and not dismissive, they might be able to fulfill our friendship needs even if they aren’t going through the same things we are—and vice versa.  

Creative Ways to Commit to Friendship as a Mom

It’s important to both get creative with our friendships as a mom and to create routines in how we maintain them. 

Danielle pointed out that consistency and routine with our friends can alleviate the mental load of planning, working out schedules, or initiating contact. 

No matter what phase of life we are in or where our friendships come from, we can come up with even little ways to stay connected and maintain them. 

Some ideas include:

  • Live texting during shows and chatting about them
  • Having a group text where each person sends one picture every single day
  • Weekly zoom coffee chats
  • Virtual co-working or idea generation sessions
  • Monthly outings or scheduled get-togethers

There’s no right or wrong way to make friends as a mom. It’s about finding what works for you and your friends. 

We owe it to ourselves to preserve, prioritize, and maintain friendships! 

But friendship matters—and we owe it to ourselves to preserve, prioritize, and maintain friendships! 

Struggling with social anxiety or prioritizing your own needs? Working with a mom therapist can help! Book a FREE 15 minute virtual consult today! 

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Tags:

Friendships, Support System, Emotional Needs

Stage:

Postpartum, Motherhood

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OUR GUEST

Danielle Bayard Jackson
Author

Danielle Bayard Jackson is a female friendship coach and educator who speaks nationally about the science of women’s platonic connections. She is also the author of Fighting for Our Friendships (May 2024).

Danielle’s coaching business, Friend Forward, is dedicated to teaching women how to create and maintain better female friendships, and her expertise has been featured in The New York Times, NBC News, Psychology Today, Wall Street Journal, Oprah Magazine, Good Morning America, and a host of other media outlets.

Erica Djossa
Erica Djossa
PMH-C | Founder of Momwell
Erica is the founder of Momwell, providing educational resources and virtual therapy for moms. She is a mom of three boys and a registered psychotherapist. Erica’s work has been featured in the Toronto Star, Breakfast Television, Scary Mommy, Medium, Pop Sugar, and Romper. how they want it.
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