Being a mom can feel isolating this is why having “mom friends” is so important. Caitlin Riojas, LCSW-S, a clinical social worker, says you can find mom friends almost anywhere you spend time with your kids from school to the park. If you feel awkward introducing yourself to new moms, she says the best thing to do is to admit “you’re nervous because you don’t know other moms in the group.” Read on for expert tips to make mom friends.
Making mom friends is no easy task, but I believe it is so important for our mental health so that we don’t feel isolated in the daily challenges that confront us. Compounding that isolation is looking social media and seeing everyone with their seemingly perfect families.
Smiling faces at football games. Boasts of how they went screen-free. Photos of beautifully crafted lunches. Lists of their children’s academic and athletic accolades. It’s a highlight reel and whether intended to make you feel inferior or not, it can…and does.
Related: How to Get Rid of Mom Guilt for Good
Why is it easy for everyone else?
The other week we went to a pro soccer game in Nashville. Sounds fun, right? Well, my son had a full-blown meltdown triggered by the loud noises and crowds. I ended up sitting with him in the car. I opened my Instagram and was taunted by pictures of other families at a University of Tennessee foot game (we live in Knoxville), looking like they were having the time of their lives.
Why does it all seem so easy for everyone else—and so hard for us, for me? I thought.
But that’s not the reality. And if you can get outside your house, your phone, and talk to REAL mom friends, I think you’ll recognize that. And you’ll feel less alone. You’ll feel connected. And you’ll feel like—hey, I’m enough. I’m doing enough because I’m doing the best I can.
Related: Self-care tips for busy moms
I’ve slacked on making mom friends because I’ve been so tied and dedicated to my family, but I’ve come to realize that having a mom tribe is key to my mental health. They can help fill my cup—just as much as running can. And it’s a double whammy if you can run with mom friends (which I haven’t been able to do since being injured—another double whammy).
Have you slacked too? Have you had a hard time forging real connections with other moms? I hope this article helps you.
I got with Caitlin Riojas, LCSW-S, a clinical social worker, and Dr. Doug Newton, chief medical officer at SonderMind, a mental health group, to discuss how to make mom friends. I also connected with fellow mother runners on how they’ve made friends.
Table of contents
- Why is it hard to make mom friends?
- What should I look for in a mom friend?
- What do I do if I don’t agree with their parenting style?
- How to handle breaking into a new mom group?
- 10 Places to Find Mom Friends
- 6 Ways to Make Mom Friends
Related: How Running Makes You Happy
Why is it hard to make mom friends?
The biggest challenge with making mom friends is that you don’t have the time to get away to talk. And if you try to talk while your kids play, chances are you will be interrupted a thousand times—OR you will have little ears around you, so every topic must be sanitized.
What should I look for in a mom friend?
You should look for in a new mom friend someone who has things in common with you. This person should also be open to discussing what’s REALLY on in their minds—not just small talk about the weather or your kids’ homework.
Your kids may be of similar ages and you may be in a similar stage of life, or you may have common interests like running!
A bonus is if this mom lives close to you, making it easy to meet up. In a perfect world, your kids are friends so your kids can play while you talk.
What you look for in a new friend is very individual, of course. But what is important to me is someone who asks questions and listens—isn’t one-sided making it all about them. I want to know what’s going on in their lives but I also want them to care about me and what’s going on in our lives. One of my biggest pet peeves is people who don’t ask questions.
What do I do if I don’t agree with their parenting style?
“Parenting and parenting styles are personal and often come with big feelings,” says Riojas. “It can feel like being friends with someone who parents differently from you can be a deal breaker, but I believe that through mutual respect and understanding it can be managed.”
Yes, it is important to have your core values and no child should be harmed or put in danger, but everyone has different family dynamics and needs, and keeping that in mind helps minimize those differences, she explains.
“It can also be a good way to talk to your kids as they will go out into the world and see all kind of family differences. Having an open dialogue and explaining to your children your family’s values is a great way to build communication.”
How to handle breaking into a new mom group?
Breaking into a new mom group might be the hardest part about trying to find new mom friends!
“As a working mom, I often feel insecure about not getting to spend enough time at my daughter’s school or events, so I was very nervous the first time I went to a birthday party,” shared Riojas. “I found that for me the best thing to do was name it! I just stated that I was a bit nervous because I didn’t know the other moms as well as some of the others in the group.”
Immediately the other moms went out of their way to make introductions, and from there it was easy to find common ground, said Riojas.
10 Places to Find Mom Friends
I asked my thousands of Instagram followers where they found their new mom friends. I am sharing their responses below, along with where I have found new mom friends.
1. Kids’ sports activities
The most common place to meet new friends is at kids’ sporting activities, according to my Instagram followers. In these situations, you are typically held captive, watching your kids play. And while you’re captive, if you don’t have other kids with you, you can have uninterrupted conversations. I met a mom at Eleanor’s soccer practice who I really clicked with. I look forward to seeing her again and maybe planning a play date.
The best way to make new friendships as a new mom is at local parks and playgrounds. While you are playing with your kids, you’re able to observe how the other mom interacts with her kids and see if your parenting styles are similar. Then you can strike up a conversation with “Do you come here often?” I’m kidding. But something of that ilk will work. One of our closest friends met at a park. I asked if they lived close by and they did! Then I found out she was a runner, too. We had our second kids, boys, at similar times and they became best friends. This family moved away and we miss them every day!
Sometimes all you must do is look in your backyard or front yard, or across the street for new mom friends. If there are families with kids of similar ages, strike up a conversation when you’re outside getting the mail. Or even send them a text asking if they’d like to get together. Depending on your comfort, you can meet on neutral ground at a local park or at one of your houses.
4. Run groups
Some of my closest friends were found on the run. There’s something about running that allows you to strip off the veneer and get real. Vulnerability is where true bonds are formed. Running groups are welcoming by nature. It can be so awkward at first (especially if you have social anxiety) but I feel certain if you show up and say, “I’m new!” someone will take you under their wing and connect you with others of similar paces and interests. Many running groups have social organizers that can be your connection point when you arrive. You don’t know unless you try. Find them through your local track club website.
5. Church or religious group
Many mother runners have met their friends through church. This helps because you’ll most likely see them on a regular basis. And just like with running, consistency is key to forming strong friendships. You also have common interests and ethics, most likely. And the kids may know each other from Sunday School and church events.
I have found it’s easier to meet mom friends when you have young kids in school. As they get older, you don’t meet other moms as often because there aren’t as many opportunities to be in the classroom. But when you are in the classroom or on field trips, get outside your comfort zone and ask a fellow mom a question. School events are a great place to meet mom friends because you already have common ground. Last week I was on a field trip with Eleanor who is in fourth grade. I saw a mom who I knew but not super well. I struck up a conversation and it got deep and awesome. Now we are going to start a book club. I’m glad I didn’t do what I wanted to do, which was just stand off to the side and not talk to anyone! (I am introverted).
Yup, there’s an app for that. There are apps that can help you meet mom friends like the Peanut App and Fit 4 Life! These apps pair you with moms of ages in similar stages or moms with similar interests so you have a good starting point. Several of my mother runner followers said they met friends for life through these apps. You may also find local moms groups with a quick google search, too.
8. Exercise classes
When I was pregnant and postpartum, I did a lot of barre exercise classes since my body wasn’t ready to run yet. I regret not lingering after and chatting with the other moms there. They seemed to have their own circle of friends and I felt like an outsider. But I am sure if I had stayed and talked, I would have been in their circle—and may have met some friends. So, don’t be like me. Linger for five minutes instead of rushing home and see if you might pick up a new friend along the way.
9. Mommy and me classes
When my kids were little, I was all about the story time the music class, and the Little Gym sessions. But again, I didn’t engage with other moms because I was shy. Had I made a little small talk, I could have afforded myself, and maybe even my kids, some close friends.
10. Birthday parties
Riojas shares that it’s important to try to go to birthday parties to meet other moms. You already have something in common–your kids know and like each other. Sometimes it may feel awkward, but it’s worth the risk to approach other moms. Complimenting their child is always a good way to start a conversation on the right foot, advises Riojas. Then ask for her number to set up a play date. She can always say no but, she probably won’t.
“This might seem like a lot of work just to make a friend or two, but parenting is hard work and having other people to rely on for emotional support, help with kids, and or just someone to laugh with, makes the hard days easier,” says Riojas.
I couldn’t agree more. (She also notes it’s important to stay connected with those who knew you before you were a mom!).
Related: How to Become a Runner
6 Ways to Make Mom Friends
1. Ask questions.
Making conversations with strange moms is actually pretty easy. The easiest “in” is asking how old their kids are. That is usually followed up by common gripes of sleep schedules, teething, preschool, etc. I find this is a pretty good way to see someone has “mom friend potential.”
Riojas engages in the “four F’s”: asking people about their family, food, friends, or what they like to do for fun! Just asking a few questions can be an easy to get the conversation flowing.
I love that!
2. Start talking.
Just start talking. I mentioned the field trip this week: I saw two moms that I knew had friend potential, so I went up to them and just started talking about what was going on. Not being able to run with friends, I’ve been desperate to talk with other moms. So I sort of unloaded, and they did, too. And it was a therapy session for all involved! And I walked away feeling lighter and more hopeful.
3. Just ask them.
I had several mother runners tell me that they just straight up ask if someone wants to be their friend. It reminds me of our kids who do the same thing. Or me when I was little—I would apparently say, “What’s your name, bozo brain? Wanna be my friend?” That is not a great way to meet new people, but you get the point.
Sometimes we adults over-complicate things. If you’re walking into a situation where you know there will be other moms, like a birthday party or back-to-school night, plan ahead, says Dr. Newton. Think through what you might say. Remember that complimenting someone’s child or asking questions about their child is always a great place to start.
4. Compliment them.
Take a cue from my son, Cal, and give a compliment to a prospective mom friend. Cal started doing this on his own accord and it’s magi-Cal (see what I did there). Tell a mom you like her sweater or their child does a great job on the monkey bars, etc. Saying something positive to someone is a great tactic for starting a conversation off on the right foot.
5. Plan ahead.
And if these situations make you anxious (I am nodding my head), Dr. Newton says to relax beforehand—almost like you would before a race. “Before you go out, use a relaxation technique like meditation, yoga, or deep breathing to calm yourself down and see things more clearly before you leave your house.” Personally, I love Jay Shetty’s Daily Jay in the Calm app for putting me in a positive headspace. Listening to upbeat music can also help!
Riojas also likes to practice deep breathing in awkward situations (like standing alone at back-to-school night) and reminding herself that this moment won’t last forever.
6. Get their phone number.
This one is the clincher. We moms don’t tend to follow up because we are busy or maybe we think it will come on too strong, or maybe we don’t want to be in the awkward situation of our kids or us ending up not being a match. But truly, you don’t know if you don’t try.
So if you chat with a mom that you think has potential, or your kids are friends, ask for her contact information and discuss a future get-together (with or without your kids). Then follow through. This fall I made the goal of setting aside one hour a week to meet at a coffee shop or go for a walk with a new or old mom friend. I found myself looking forward to these days and being in a great mood after every social interaction.
Why we need mom friends
Studies show that close relationships are the key to good health and longevity. Sometimes you will strike out and that’s okay. I had lunch with a mom a few months ago who just wanted to talk about dieting the whole time. I tried steering the conversation elsewhere but that was what she wanted to focus on. Okay, sure. But that’s not my jam. Other times I tried to plan play dates and ended up being ghosted.
I try not to take this personally because I know there are a thousand variables that go into making these plans. I am sure I have hurt people’s feelings by canceling plans because I knew my kids would feel uncomfortable.
Not every mom is going to be your best friend. The good news is, there are plenty of potential mom friends waiting around the bend.
Making new mom friends takes courage. But it’s worth the risk of rejection. The good news is, there are plenty of potential mom friends waiting around the bend. Being a mom is isolating and there is a good chance she feels the same way as you. We all need a group of mom friends or even just one really close mom friend. I hope this article helps you navigate that friend-finding process and find that mom friendship!
If you want to join a community of mother runners to deepen your connection with like-minded moms, check out my run coaching services. Also, be sure to check out my free training plans: