Making mom friends (moms with kids the same age as yours) that you click with, laugh with, and share your deepest fears with isn't an easy feat, but it's an important one. "The whole process of making new friends can feel a bit like you're an adolescent in high school," says Los Angeles-based child psychologist Joanna Jacobs, a mother of two. "But no matter how awkward you feel, just remember every new mom is in the same situation, and all moms, no matter what stage of motherhood they are in, crave friendship."
So whether you're a new mom or a mom in a new situation (for example, you just moved to a new location), brushing up on those friend-making skills is key. Like any first date, making a first playdate with a new mom friend can be nerve-racking. Here are five tips to help you break the ice, make the first playdate, and survive the initial awkward moments of making mommy friends.
Half the battle is getting out the door. Yes, your baby sleeps -- a lot -- but that doesn't mean you need to be home all the time. Put the little one in the stroller and walk around to explore the neighborhood. "A baby in a stroller is the perfect conversation starter," says Lyss Stern, founder of Divalysscious Moms, a networking event company for New York City moms. "You'll be amazed at how many people will stop to look at and comment on your adorable little baby -- and though it might seem annoying at first, don't be afraid to use it to your advantage. People love to connect people. You never know who will have a daughter or a friend with a baby the same age."
Find your local playground (some are tailored to infants and toddlers), sign up for a music class, look online for local meet-up mom groups, or simply plant yourself at a coffee shop.
"Don't wait around for some amazing mom to come up to you," says Samantha Ettus, mother of three and President of Mama Nation. "If you see someone you could connect with, go up to her. Remember that we're all in the same parenting boat and that other moms, no matter how together they may appear to be, are just as desirous of mom friendship as you are." So how do you break the ice? Compliment her! "Find something you like about her kid and tell her. Just make sure the compliment is sincere or it will come across as a vapid pick-up line," suggests Tara Mandy, publisher of StrollerTraffic.com and co-host of the Cribsie Awards.
Or find ways to engage children first. "Bring extra toys to the park. Kids gravitate toward balls, bubbles, and push toys. The more you have, the more kids (and moms) you attract. Get your kids to play together first and you will have broken the ice without even trying." Once the kids are playing, you can "play," too. Start with small talk -- ask the mom her child's name and age, and which neighborhood they live in. Commonalities help build a potential relationship. If you have a girl and the other mom has a boy, mention that you have a friend with a boy the same age and that everyone should get together. Don't let the moment pass without mentioning a playdate.
Once you've broken the ice and shared a few laughs, be sure to end any impromptu playground or supermarket meet by exchanging contact information with your potential mom friend. In the beginning, keep things simple. Find out how your new friend likes to be reached -- phone calls, texts, emails -- and stick to that. "Exchanging contact information is a must," Stern says. "Otherwise you end up stuck in this limbo of let's do this again sometime, even though it may be months before you run into each other." If she tells you to find her on Facebook, be sure to get her last name. Or offer your information first and give her the option of reaching out to you. Just don't feel disappointed if she doesn't reciprocate or follow up. You can focus on connecting with other moms. No matter how clumsy and awkward it may be, find a concrete way to stay connected.
Even if you hit it off with a new mom friend, a first playdate can still be anxiety-provoking. The two of you are still searching for common ground while trying to keep an eye on the kids. In the best-case scenario, the kids will play well on their own and you'll have enough time to get to know one another. The worst-case scenario: Your kids demand too much attention and there is pulling, pushing, and wailing that disrupts the personal interaction.
Try to pick a time and place that works best for you and your child. If your little one is happiest and most energetic in the morning, suggest meeting then. If she's typically overstimulated in new environments, host a playdate at your home. Plan ahead of time and be strategic. Keep in mind that it's not just about how your child feels: If feeding time makes you nervous, avoid a lunchtime playdate. If something doesn't work for you, it's fine to say so, but always offer alternative suggestions so the other mom sees you're committed to forming a friendship. When you do meet up, never overstay your welcome. A good playdate should not last more than two hours, especially in the beginning, as it's the right amount of time to minimize meltdowns.
You don't always have to wash the bottles or clean up your place while your kids are sleeping. Instead, put them in a stroller for a walk with your new friend, grab a coffee together, or meet at a park bench. There's nothing wrong with meeting another mom for a quieter, follow-up playdate while your kids snooze. You can really focus on one another and determine if there is a true connection. "I was all over the place, and being able to meet moms for stroller walks while the kids were sleeping was always a nice and less chaotic way to connect," says Soleil Moon Frye, author of Happy Chaos. Whatever the situation may be, a naptime "playdate" gives moms a chance to relax without feeling like their attention is occupied elsewhere or feeling like they're neglecting the kids.
Just because you have some things in common, like kids of the same age, or house on the same street, doesn't mean you'll like each other's company. Making mom friends is all about trial and error, but if you don't try you won't get anywhere. "It's important to go into a playdate with a positive attitude," says Robyn Brecker, creator of SMRT, a new website for parents. "But also to be realistic. Not everyone has to be your new best friend, but hope that you can like and respect another mom enough to spend an hour or so a week with her -- especially if your child gets along well with her child. Plus, you never know who you'll meet through a new friendship." There are still other moms out there you can find and connect with to form a lasting friendship.
Copyright © 2011 Meredith Corporation.
Wendy Straker Hauser is a professional speaker, freelance writer for The New York Post, and the author of Men At Work: A Job by Job Search for Mr. Right. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and her 3-year-old son, Zachary.