That New Mom Life Podcast, Episode 5: Wanted: Mom Friends
Months at home with a newborn can be incredibly isolating. Yes, they're cute and cuddly, but there comes a point in every new mom's life when she needs to interact with a human who can talk. The problem is, finding the perfect mom tribe is not always as simple or intuitive as it may seem.
Michelle Kennedy, the creator of Peanut, a social networking app for moms, joins co-hosts Grace Bastidas and Desiree Fortin for Mom Friends 101. The three discuss how to find mom friends, how to approach a mom in the wild (it's not too scary, we promise!), and how to know when a mom friend is "The One." They also talk about what's next: transitioning from mom friends to just, well, friends, or having a breakup.
And if you feel like you're the only mom on the hunt for mom friends, don't worry. You'll hear from four moms in the That New Mom Life community about their fears, struggles, and how they found their tribe of moms...and mailmen.
Upcoming topics this season:
- How to stay in the moment
- Body changes
- How to share the parenting load
- Establishing routines
- Sex and romance as new parents
- Preparing for what's next
If you have a story to tell or want to learn more about That New Mom Life, email us at email@example.com.
Listen to episode 5 right now:
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Desiree: Recently I was just playing with Cambria on the ground and I'm like, "OK, like what are we doing?" And I'm like, "This is so boring! I need to get out! I need to do something. I need to talk to someone!"
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Grace: Welcome! I'm Grace Bastidas, and I have a question for you: Are you tired of talking to a teeny tiny baby all day long? We know the feeling! Motherhood can be really isolating, especially in those early days.
Desiree: Yes! I'm Desiree Fortin. We can all use a mom friend. Someone in the trenches who can show up when we don't exactly look or feel our best—and just hold our hand.
Grace: Get ready to find your new bestie! Today on That New Mom Life we have Michelle Kennedy, mom of two, creator of Peanut—an app designed to connect women through all stages of motherhood. She's here to tell us how to connect with other mamas!
Desiree: I'm listening! But before that, let's hear about how these moms found their tribe…
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Mom 1: I took Stroller Strides classes after my son was born to get back in shape while bonding with my baby. But I never realized how much bonding I would end up doing with other endorphin-hungry moms.
There would be certain exercise moves that felt a bit risky to do when our new mom bods, like jumping jacks. They're not every new mama's best friend, but we were determined to get a good workout in while we could.
So we'd still cheer each other on, share reassuring glances, praise each other's babies for being so well-behaved in their strollers.
Let me tell you nothing builds a friendship like supporting a fellow mom who just peed her pants while doing those jumping jacks.
Mom 2: I got so excited that this mom wanted to hang out with me, and I assumed it would be like a playdate because that's mainly what mom friends are. You hang out because your kids are friends or you're trying to make your kids friends.
So I told her to come over, you know she showed up to my door with no baby and two bottles of wine. This is how I knew that me and her would be friends for a long time. It was pretty funny because it wasn't what I expected, but it was exactly what I needed. So I thank you for that girl. You know who you are.
Mom 3: My neighborhood Facebook mom's group has subgroups so that you can join based on your baby's age and find other women who are on leave at the same time as you. And it's a really great way to meet people except it's also totally nerve-wracking. And I remember going to my first meet up at a mom's house, and I was so nervous.
It felt like the first day of school, like, was I wearing the right thing? Would the other moms know each other already? Was I bringing the right kind of snack? What would we talk about?
And of course it's totally fine because everybody's at the same stage of life as you, and if nothing else, you can talk about how you're not sleeping or you don't know if you're feeding the baby right or all the other things that are going on in your life at that moment. But I remember leaving feeling worried. Would I really make friends with these people? Or would it always be just surface stuff? And we went to yoga, we went to more meetups. And I definitely found some of my best mom friends and best friends in general thanks to that group.
Mom 4: I was completely unprepared for how isolated I would feel for the amount of postpartum anxiety I would have. Nobody warned me about it, I guess it's the stuff that nobody talks about.
My husband would go to work and he would be gone from 9 a.m. to about 8 p.m. And I would be alone with the baby. And so I would just wander the neighborhood. I'd put her in the ergo carrier, and I'd just wander around.
And eventually I started running into our mailman, Archie, and he was so nice. Always happy to see you, always asking about the baby. He would tell me about his grown-up children when they were little, and it got to be that I was really looking forward to seeing him.
And I would also run into our super, Stanley, and he would talk about, you know, his wife feeling isolated when his kids were little and her breastfeeding struggles and how much he missed the baby phase. And he would always ask about me and my daughter and it got to be that I looked forward to our chats, and I would almost go out of my way to make sure that I saw them. It made me feel a lot less lonely to hear their stories and when their kids were little. And it was just nice to have another person to talk to who actually talked back!
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Desiree: Let's check in with today's guest, Michelle Kennedy. Michelle knows just what it's like to try and make new friends once you become a new mom. She found it really tough at times, and she's now created a social networking app for moms, Peanut.
Grace: Hi Michelle. Thanks for joining us today. We're talking about mom friends. And nothing throws a wrench into your social life, quite like a baby, no matter how adorable they are. What was your experience like when you became a mom?
Michelle: I think new motherhood was a complete shock to the system, like I never expected. I was someone who was very prepared. So I had lists, I had an Excel sheet actually. And in my Excel, I had every item I could possibly want. And of course, this small person arrives and what you don't need really is stuff.
What you need is to be mentally prepared or at least have a little bit of an idea of what you're doing. So, I don't think I had any of that on lock at all, and so I spent much of the first three months just trying to find advice or trying to find out what I was meant to be doing. As well as actually just dealing with a bit of loss of identity, not really loving this generic tag of mom, and feeling quite like everyone knew what they were doing apart from me.
Desiree: You know Michelle, many new moms can feel really lonely when they have a baby. And for some, maybe they've never felt lonely before! And that can be so confusing.
Michelle: You know, loneliness is something that is such a difficult emotion to admit as an adult. There's almost like a stigma or something attached to loneliness where you feel embarrassed. But of course, as soon as you've gone through a huge life change, like having a baby, it can be lonely and isolating because you're in a brand new stage of life. You've never experienced this before.
And when you have that moment, it can feel like you're the only person in the world, whether that's because you feel like you don't know what you're doing and everyone else does, whether it's because your girlfriends aren't going through this, or haven't been through this yet and you're the first. Whether you've moved, you don't necessarily live near your sister or your mom, or your other half's parents or family, that's when you start to really feel like this is very isolating.
The other thing no one says, and I'm just going to say it in case anyone needs to hear it: It's really boring at the start. And you have this period of time when you've got a tiny person and they don't talk, and they're not even really smiling at the start. And you feel like you're just this feeding machine. You've got hormones racing and your girlfriends are at work, right?
No one's just ready to hang out with you at 2 o'clock in the afternoon, when you finally managed to like pull on a pair of joggers out of your PJ's, and the baby's finally sleeping. And, you go through these wild periods of boredom where you're like, "Wow, you actually don't do that much, small person." So many reasons why it can be lonely.
Grace: I love that you said that it's boring as well, because that is so true. This little person is not talking back to you, like you said, your girlfriends are at work potentially. So, so much changes when you have a baby, including those friendships. Is it normal to lose these old friends and not feel as connected anymore?
Michelle: You know what? Let's not think about it as losing those friends. Those friends are going to be there, right? You're always going to have them, but sometimes you need friends for a reason. That reason is to help you through something or share or laugh or sympathize.
And if you are at a point in time or in your life that your girlfriends aren't, it's hard to have that conversation. I remember going out for dinner with one of my very best girlfriends, when I just had Finn, and she was talking about a date she'd been on. And I just couldn't, firstly could not relate. Secondly, I was obsessing about the fact that I needed to be home to feed Finn at 10.
And so, as I was watching her order another glass, I was like, "Oh, God, I'm going to have to leave, but she's really deep in this story." And also, you know, just even when she was talking about kissing someone, it was giving me the ick. Because I was like, ugh, kissing. You know, I was barely kind of sleeping at that point. Let alone kind of thinking about any kind of intimacy.
I'm happy to report. She's still one of my very best friends. You can still have all of your old friends, but you might want to bring in some new ones because you also want to have that conversation with someone about terrible TV that you were watching at the 2 a.m. feed, or the fact that you're concerned that your baby isn't rolling and everyone else's seems to be. You need someone who understands some of that.
Desiree: Where are some good places that we can meet other moms in real life? Baby classes, the playground?
Michelle: Coffee shops, Peanut, your local church, wherever you can.
I remember walking down at the local high street where I live with Finn and my mom and there being this group of like three women with their pushchairs, having a coffee, and like sitting and laughing together. And I was so filled with like, self-loathing that I didn't have that, but also pure jealousy that these women, how did they find each other, and how did they know each other?
It can feel really scary also to then go and speak to that group of women, right? They already know each other. I can't go in and interrupt. And yet had I have gone in and said hi, but it probably would have been absolutely fine. So, honestly, there is no one like a mom to lift you up because we've all been there and we all know what it feels like.
Grace: Finding mom friends is often compared to dating. You really have to put yourself out there. Are there any rules? You know, with dating, you have to play it cool. Not look too desperate. Does the same apply to meeting moms?
Michelle: No way! We can't apply rules. I think the only rule actually is no judgment. That's one rule. Everyone's just trying to get by and do it in the way that they think is best. And that means that we all have to support each other and there can be no judgment.
If you need help, you have to ask for help. There is no playing it cool. There is no like 24-hour rule to wait for them to reply. You can be as uncool as you like because they will be feeling it too.
Grace: That's where I excel: uncoolness. So, thank you.
Desiree: And you know, sometimes there's this sense that you have nothing in common with these people, except for that you have children. What makes a good connection? What should we look out for?
Michelle: That's a great point because I actually did feel a lot of that when I had Finn. There was this feeling of, I don't know if we'd be friends in real life. So why are we friends in mom life? And sometimes making friends or trying to force a friendship for the sake of it makes you feel more lonely?
I don't know if anyone else has had that experience, but you're kind of hanging out with someone and you're not really on their wavelength or you don't necessarily share their views on life, and it makes you feel more alone. Finding commonality is really important. You know, the babies are going to be fine. The babies are going to grow up. They're going to have their own friendships and their own lives. So it's really important that you do this for you. This is actually about you.
Grace: And you also mentioned finding people who are not judgmental, right? That's really key as well.
Michelle: It's huge, you know, we all feel like we're doing a terrible job, at some point some of us feel it, you know, more than others, but the point is what you need is someone to tell you you're doing an amazing job. What you don't need is someone to just sit in judgment of you.
And the most important thing, even if you don't think it: You're doing an amazing job. Your tiny babe thinks that you are the most incredible person in the whole world. You are their world. You need someone in your life who is going to remind you of that.
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Grace: You mentioned seeing these groups of women and feeling a little jealous. I have to admit, I felt the same way when I would see all these moms just laughing it up at the playground. Do you need a mom tribe or is just one kindred spirit good enough?
Michelle: I've had both actually. My daughter is, 18 months and, you know, I'm busy. I have my oldest son, I have my business, and I just have one really good friend with a baby of her age. With Finn, I had a bit more of a tribe. Again, I'm really relaxed about it now because I can see you need friends for different reasons at different times, and whatever works for you is absolutely fine.
So I think it depends on what stage you're at and who you meet. Right? You can't force it. You might want to try it, but if you only meet one person you gel with, don't force it. Chemistry is really important. Better to have one woman who you're completely aligned with than a gang that you're not really feeling it.
Desiree: You know—sometimes you can feel really nervous about how to even start a conversation. What are a few good opening lines?
Michelle: Listen, it's easy. "How old yours?" A classic. "Sweet outfit." I usually use that one. "Baby looks cute. What's your baby's name? How are you today?"
I remember when someone asked me, "How are you today?" And I was just so blown away cause no one had asked me. It had all been about Finn. And as soon as someone in Starbucks was like, "How are you today?" I was like, "Oh, I'm fine."
That really helps. So, you know, there were so many things. Don't overthink it. She's probably desperate for you to speak to her.
Desiree: I've met a lot of moms who just want to talk about their babies. I think we all love our babies, we want to talk about them, but why is it important to talk about other things than just our children?
Michelle: This is like my obsession. And it's what I was kind of saying earlier. This is for you. The friend, particularly when you have a new baby, is for you. So you don't have to spend your whole time speaking about your little ones.
You're allowed to speak about yourself, your interests, your life. It will help you reconnect with your identity if that's feeling a little bit wobbly since the baby's arrival. You can talk about the things you're interested in and by the way, it doesn't have to be anything too deep or philosophical.
I don't know about you guys, but when I had Finn, I just wanted to talk about stuff that wasn't sleep routines and the brand of diaper and just talk about, even if it was Keeping Up With the Kardashians, it didn't matter. I just wanted to talk about something other than him. And that's OK.
Grace: Speaking of not just talking about the baby, it's these other topics that kind of bond you together, right? Not just the baby. How do we move past being "mom friends" to just being friends? Or does that just happen organically?
Michelle: I think that is something that happens organically. Do you feel comfortable enough with that person to start talking about your life? Things you care about, things you're interested in, things you've read. That's just a natural progression. You know, some women that you meet will just be friends on a more super superficial basis, and that's OK. Don't read too much into it. Some will become really good friends, but that takes time. You can't go from zero to hero overnight. It takes a while to build.
Desiree: So tell us a bit about Peanut. You set it up so moms could easily find other moms near to them, but how does it work?
Michelle: So peanut is an app where you can find women around you who are going through the same thing as you, in relation to motherhood.
So it might be, in your journey to conceive, it might be IVF or adoption or surrogacy. And then right through to pregnancy, becoming a new mom. We'll show you women who are at the same life stage. If you've got a 2-year-old, we can show you other women with 2-year-olds and so forth.
You can ask questions. There's a community, you can share. You can offload, you don't want to have sex, and you're worried that you won't ever like rekindle your sex life. No problem. You can speak to the women on Peanut and find support and advice. But most importantly, find those like connections and that friendship.
Desiree: I love that. I think it allows you to be vulnerable and create connections with other moms who are in the same state that you're in. What success stories have you had about friendships that have bloomed?
Michelle: You know, every day I feel so grateful and privileged that women use Peanut as a way to find friends and find support, because you're dealing with women at a very, very vulnerable part of their lives, whether that's because they're trying, whether it's because they just fallen pregnant, whether it's because they've just become a mom, whether it's because they're in the thick of it.
And so we've had stories of women who've met on Peanut who have become godparents to second children. We've had partners who are now best friends, women who have started businesses together.
We recently just heard of a story, of a woman whose partner was in the military and didn't have anyone at home. She was going into labor and her Peanut friend came around to look after her 3-year-old while she went into to have the baby. Stories like that are just incredible to me. And you just can't underestimate how amazing women are when we come together and we do like good things for each other.
Grace: All right, Michelle. So just like in dating, sometimes things don't work out with our mom friends. Is there a graceful way to break up with someone?
Michelle: I think we can either just say I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed right now. I've got so much going on, I don't want to keep letting you down. Can I let you know? Can I reach back out to you when things calm down a bit?
I think that's a nice, elegant way to do it. Or, you know, what's the worst? Go for a 20-minute walk. She might annoy you, but you might actually be really, really changing her day. And you get your exercise, you get some steps in.
Sometimes it's not enough just to think that she's not quite the right fit for you. You might just be really, really like saving her life that day. So, you can keep it short and sweet, but don't leave her hanging
Grace: So just give her a chance.
Michelle: Yeah. Go for a walk, you know, that's fine.
Grace: Lastly, what's your best tip for finding that special someone? And I'm not talking about a life partner here, but a fellow mom who just gets you.
Michelle: Do you ever walk down the street and you smile at another mom as you walk down the street because she's either stressed out and a hot mess like you are, or she's singing some crazy song and other people are watching her and you think, "Oh, that's me."
So that's it. You're just looking for kinship. You're just looking for your alter ego. You're just looking to feel normal, and she's looking for the same. So that's all we can do is just look for those commonalities. We are so much more similar than any of us think.
Grace: Thank you so much, Michelle, for joining us today. And I am so ready to go find some more mom friends with all that great advice.
Michelle: Thanks for having me.
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Desiree: Well, that was a great interview with Michelle. She talked a lot about being isolated and how tough that can be for a new mom. Did you ever feel that Grace?
Grace: You know, I was a late bloomer among my friends. They already had school-aged kids by the time I started having babies.
And while they gave me some good advice, you know, a lot of what they said was, "It gets easier. Oh yeah. They'll eventually sleep through the night." And what I really, really wanted was someone right in the trenches with me, dirty, just trying to survive. So I did feel lonely. I had all these great girlfriends, but they weren't what I needed at the moment.
And like Michelle said, you have friends for different seasons of your life. And you know, it's good to have these mom friends who are going through the same stuff you are. What about you Desiree? I mean, you have a baby at home. Are you feeling lonely? I hope I'm filling that void.
Desiree: Yes, you sure are! You know, it's funny, she said, in the interview that being home with the baby is sometimes boring. Right?
And recently I was just playing with Cambria on the ground and I'm like, "OK, like what are we doing?" And I'm like, "This is so boring. I need to get out. I need to do something. I need to talk to someone!"
I know that I have been trying to be intentional about relationships this go-around with Cambria more so than I was with the triplets. But it is hard. And I think that it does require you to step out of your comfort zone a little bit.
How did you meet new people, Grace?
Grace: Well, when I was a single gal, someone told me, "Hey, you're never going to meet somebody sitting on your couch." So, I took that advice and applied it here. And I went to all the playgrounds in my neighborhood, looking all cute and fun, you know, the opposite of what I was feeling, trying to catch another mom's eye.
But the biggest difference with dating is that I had to be much more extroverted. I couldn't just sit back and wait until another mom made the first move. Especially with a baby as my wing woman.
I just had to get out there and start conversations and, you know, like Michelle said, just say, "Hey, what's your baby's name?" Or "Oh, cute outfit" or whatever it was. Just like small talk.
What about you? How are you meeting people?
Desiree: I mean, I feel like I can relate to that entirely and it's like, are we going to make eye contact? And "Oh, we locked eyes. This is our time! This is our moment! Let me ask you how you're doing." You know?
And I think that just like Michelle said, hearing someone say, "How are you?" Gosh, it just feels so good as a mom!
Grace: Desiree did you ever make any friends in any unexpected places or are we just talking playgrounds and you know, the usual spots?
Desiree: It was probably more so the usual spots. I feel like I consider myself an extrovert. So I do my best to say "Hi, how are you?"
And anytime I was out with the triplets, I did get a lot of attention: "Oh my gosh. Three babies!"
So that of course, did start a lot of conversation. But I feel like for me, it was usually mostly expected places to find friends. What about you?
Grace: You know, I didn't really meet anybody in any unexpected places, but I did meet another mom who was my doppelgänger.
So I met a mom in my apartment building. And at the time we had girls the same age, we were both pregnant with our second children, and both Latinas. And get this, we both had the same name: Grace!
So it was amazing and it was a match made in heaven. I knew it was meant to be when one night she invited me out for fancy wine and chicken wings. That just sealed the deal for me. Fancy yet down to earth, just the way I like it.
Desiree: I absolutely love that. And you know, when you find that person and you have that connection and you're having wine and…
Grace: Sparks fly, sparks fly, Desiree. That's what happens! Did you miss any of your old friends?
Desiree: Absolutely, I could relate to you a lot. Just in a sense, going through infertility, a lot of my friends had already had babies and by the time I was having babies, their babies were like 5 and 6, and I was here with these newborns.
On the other hand, I also had friends who weren't even having babies. It felt confusing in some ways. And I missed having them around, and I missed connecting with them. But just like Michelle said, they're still your friends. They're still in your life, but you're all in different seasons, and it's OK.
What about you?
Grace: You know, pretty much the same because my friends and I have kids of different ages. We may be in different life stages, but we have so much history together that really still connects us.
And we may not be able to hang out the same way we used to, but all these mom friends that I've made are now just my friends. So my old friends, my new friends, we've all come together. We're one big happy family. Of course there always has to be music, wine and chicken wings!
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Grace: That's all for this episode of That New Mom Life, a podcast from Parents magazine. To find out more, head to Parents.com/newmompodcast.
Desiree: We'd love you to let us know what you think, so please leave us a rating, and of course, tell all your mom friends!
Grace: Thanks to Michele Kennedy, to all the moms who shared their stories, and to our production team, Pod People: Rachael King, Matt Sav, and Sam Walker. I'm Grace Bastidas.
Desiree: And I'm Desiree Fortin. Hang in there mom, you're doing great!