It takes a village to raise a child, the old adage says. I think though, us moms need our own proverb. How about, a mom without friends will never get out of her pajamas? Or maybe, to find the humor, tell a friend. Or my personal proverb, without a diet coke and a good friend I have nothing.
As mothers, we don’t need just any friends – we need mom friends. We need someone who understands the monotony of making all of the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. We need someone to hang out with who doesn’t need help wiping their bum but doesn’t mind if mid sentence you take a moment to wipe someone else’s bum. We need moms who can watch our children last minute or give us advice when we need a new pediatrician.
When I first moved to North Dakota over three years ago, I did not know a soul. My only child at the time and I are both extroverts, we need people around us. We thrive on getting up in the morning and leaving the house. The problem, though, was that we had nowhere to go and no one to go visit. Being completely friendless was scary.
Not knowing what else to do, I made a game plan. I strategized and then started following the steps necessary to find a friend.
Step one – Get out of the house.
After our apartment was unpacked and we had spent a few days settling in, I put my little guy in the car and set off. I needed friends and I was going to find them.
My first stop was the city’s visitor center and then we continued on to the local daycare. I asked about activities, I arranged to volunteer, I found out when different groups met and then I attended all of those groups. I was on the prowl, in search of my people.
This is where I advise people to start. Go to the rec center, go to the school, go to churches. Find out what activities are going on in your city and go to them.
Step number two – Talk.
I went to every activity and group I could find. I went to a church group, I drove an hour to the closest indoor playground, I taught a sign language class at the daycare. And at each activity, I talked. This part is tricky because it is so very awkward to be the new person. Self consciousness can almost consume you if you think too long before striking up a conversation with a stranger but you just have to go for it.
Step three – Close the deal and arrange a follow-up hang out.
As I met people who seemed like they could be my friend, I had flashbacks to my single days. I asked for phone numbers and sent invitations for future playdates out via text message. You’ve got to be brave enough to put yourself out there and take the next step.
Perhaps explaining how to make a friend seems elementary but for someone who is feeling lonely or is in desperate need of a friend, the task of finding one can feel daunting.
The other day my phone rang and an out-of-state cousin was on the other end. After a rough day she was teary and needed to vent about her frustrations in trying to find friends. She had acquaintances, she had women that she made play dates with, she was trying to be friendly, but after living in her new neighborhood for a year there was still no one that she felt truly connected to.
This is where the hard truth comes in.
In the finding friends adventure, there is no substitute for time. For another person to go from being a stranger to an acquaintance to a friend to a call-her-in-the-middle-of-the-day-demanding-she-bring-you-diet-coke-because-your-baby-is-sleeping-and-you-are-all-out friend takes time. It requires both give and take and shared experience. It requires patience.
Not too long ago I spotted another mom at preschool drop-off who seemed really cool. She had sort of a swagger and her little boy was adorable. Right off the bat I had a good feeling about her. So, I started the friend courtship off with some friendly smiles and hellos during drop off.
Step four – Embark on some give and take.
After some time of waves and smiles, I complimented preschool drop off lady’s amazing hair and we exchanged names. Soon I started running into her in town and we would stop and chat for a minute or we would laugh about something quickly at drop off. It went on like this for a while and then one day, out of the blue when I was 37 weeks pregnant, she brought me a baby gift.
I was stunned. The gesture was so kind and thoughtful. I knew then that it was my turn to give back. So, I messaged her over the holidays when temperatures got very low to check on her and her family and we chatted online for a bit. This Saturday we have our first official hang out planned.
So far, the process of becoming maybe friends with this woman has already taken six months. Connection cannot really be hurried.
From there, you just have to go with the flow. You have to see if your lives mesh, give the benefit of the doubt if things are hard for a minute and give the relationship a chance to grow.
The process of making friends and turning those friends into pillars of strength and support in your life can take a while. The process can be awkward and force you outside of your comfort zone.
We as humans and as mothers need each other. We need the care that only other women can provide. If you are lonely, step up and be proactive about finding friends. If you are established and have a good friend base, don’t close yourself off to new mothers who may be reaching out to you.
Now that I think of it, there might already exist a fitting proverb that my grandmother used to say to me – you’ve got to be a friend to make a friend. We need to reach out our arms and scoop each other up in motherhood solidarity and love.