A strange thing happens once you become a mom, constantly surrounded by small human beings who never, ever leave your side: you feel more alone than ever. The desire for that proverbial village that’s supposed to help you raise your kids doesn’t always match the availability of one. I found myself reeling from this sudden loneliness, and became desperate for mom friends. People who could understand me in a way my husband and childless friends couldn’t.
The problem? Going out to make new friends was not my jam. I was someone who was used to keeping walls up, requiring parties genuinely interested in my friendship to invest time and effort before I’d let them in. Small talk was my worst nightmare. I’ve been repeatedly told that my mix of sarcasm and frankness tended to scare people off.
How the heck was I supposed to build my village this far out of my comfort zone—especially now that I no longer slept, taking away even more of my mouth’s ability to filter the nonsense and brutal honesty that charges in its general direction on a regular basis?
I had to get creative.
Having a background in sales, I tackled finding friends like I would finding just the right person to buy a product. I made some marketing materials, did lots of research in order to find my target, got to know the lay of their land, and kept in mind that while remaining true to the brand might turn some people away, the ones who liked it enough to buy it it would remain customers for life.
Yes, I decided to sell myself. My awkward, sweary, verbal diarrhea-having self was about to go to market in the land of moms.
First things first: I had to ensure that once I found one of my people, follow-up contact would be easy. It had to give the clear message that I was not messing around. I whipped up colorful business cards with my name, contact info, and kids’ names on them, then ordered about three hundred (this is where I mention how ridiculously optimistic I can be). Packed and ready, I started my research.
Our condo was up for sale, and we had already decided which town we would be moving to. I mentally drew a circle that encompassed an approximately fifteen-minute drive in any direction from the center of that town. Once I wrote a list of every town within the circle, I started making sub-lists of businesses with mommy-and-me activities, malls (bonus points if they had baby play areas), and libraries or book stores with story hours. Brick-and-mortar destinations complete, I then joined MeetUp.com and signed up for every single event for moms with kids the same age as mine in every one of those towns for months on end.
Now that my calendar was busting at the seams, it was time for the real work to begin. Here’s how it broke down:
Joining Classes I Had No Interest In
Don’t get me wrong: I love yoga. I have been doing it daily for over two decades now. But there is no reason why Baby and Me Yoga exists other than an excuse to meet other new moms. The fleshy blob who only recently exited my womb was in no place to find his zen. Yet there I was, all geared up and singing along with a circle of other bedraggled new mothers as we stretched and bent our wee ones into submission.
Each time I went, I tried to make eye contact with other women in the room. If ever I caught one with a WTF am I doing here? expression mid-paschimottanasana, I’d slip one of my business cards out of my bra and discreetly tuck it into her palm, offering up lattes on me if we could hang out next time anywhere but there. Sometimes the crunchier moms would be appalled at my offer, but more than once it received a laugh and immediate request to go out for some carbo-loading.
MAN do I love carbo-loading.
Chatting Up Strangers with One Boob Out
Malls are great. They are climate-controlled, have plentiful parking, and more restrooms with changing tables than you can shake a stick at. Many of those restrooms also have large lounges with couches, perfect for nursing mothers to feed their young.
Unless, of course, that mom was looking for like-minded people out in the wild.
This is why I’d take to a seating area in the epicenter of the mall before whipping out a boob to soothe my ravenous rugrat. Like moths to a flame, other new moms would come my way, either inspired to feed their babies by my side like a lactating feminist sit-in, or to ensure no one around me was giving me lip for not hiding my milk-heavy teats by the toilet.
I kept a stash of my cards in the outermost pocket of my baby bag for either occasion, and a cache of girl-power comebacks for anyone who did dare to scold me for breastfeeding in public.
Trolling Story Hours for Chicks
Truth be told, books are a favorite of mine. So it wasn’t exactly a stretch for me to hit up local libraries and bookstores with my littles during storytimes. Those places are teeming with tots, but also filled with merch that sticky hands like to grab to place in moist, teething mouths. Most of my attempts at surveillance to spot a potential new candidate for my village were interrupted by pint-sized shoplifter interventions.
Thankfully, there were few friendly faces who understood that no true criminal activity was occurring, and happily accepted my suggesting we meet somewhere without a “you bite it, you buy it” policy.
Trying Not to End Up in a Netflix Documentary While Attending Playdates
“Have fun and please don’t get murdered” was the adorable way my husband would wish me well before countless trips to strangers’ homes as I desperately hunted public mommy group playdates for soulmates. Bag of pretzels under one arm and my offspring under the other, I’d push my trust issues aside and let them see the real, messy me as I navigated the utter pandemonium of personalities.
For every handful of awkward conversations that made me want to give it all up and live the hermit life (yes, some moms would actually turn and walk away from me mid-conversation I mean seriously now WTF is wrong with people???), there’d be a card-worthy mom whose cackling at my inappropriate joke would break through the crowd and make me breathe a sigh of relief.
Over time, I stayed true to my authentic weirdo self and still managed to curate the village of mothers I longed for who like me exactly as I am (so there’s hope for you, too!). They have come through for me in bad times and celebrated the good, helping me become the mom I had always hoped to be.
That, in itself, made all of my efforts and horribly (HORRIBLY) uncomfortable moments absolutely worth it.
Great news! Once your kids are in school, it’s SO MUCH EASIER to make mom friends. Thank your kids, thank their teachers. These are the mom friends who will make your life exponentially better for many, many years (and they are totally worth the wait).
Kim Bongiorno is an author, full time freelance writer, and the blogger behind Let Me Start By Saying. Connect with her on Facebook · Twitter · Instagram · Goodreads · Amazon.com · BookBub · Newsletter