• Wed, Feb 13 2013

I’m Terrible At Making Mom Friends

shutterstock_77687920I’m terrible at making mom friends.

My son is two years old. I have been blaming my lack of friends who are moms on various things along the different stages of his life. He was born in November, during one of the worst winters we’ve had in New York in years. Maybe you remember the term “snowpocalypse?” Yeah. As a new mom, I was terrified of strapping him on to my chest – certain that I would slip on a patch of black ice and crush him to death. The few outings we took with the stroller were reminiscent of watching an economy sized car without snow chains in a blizzard. Stuck every few feet – it was frustrating at best. We inadvertently became shut-ins. Not a whole lot of socializing going on during those months.

As he started to get a little older, the few moms I did know were beginning to put their kids in playgroups that I couldn’t afford. And frankly, paying to go somewhere to play with my kids with other moms always seemed a little ridiculous anyway. I vowed to make mom friends the old-fashioned way – by striking up a conversation at the park.

Not so easy in Brooklyn. I would say that about 70% of the adults at the park with children during the day are nannies. I don’t have anything against hanging out with nannies, but they never really warmed up to me. Whenever I tried to strike up a conversation they would inevitably look at me as if I were some playground spy who was planted to make sure they were doing their job right. Like a live nanny-cam. I started realizing that those pay-to-play dates may not be so “ridiculous” after all.

When I would finally meet a mom who I connected with, it would be almost impossible to schedule a date. I work nights. Most moms I meet are in the nine-to-five grind. I have writing deadlines on weekends. Our schedules just never seemed to mesh.

I am sad about this. It would have been nice to have some camaraderie during the first few years of my son’s life. I always envisioned lots of playdates – and by that I mean our children playing with each other and us moms drinking coffee and gossiping. The way it was with my mother when I was growing up. Times have changed pretty drastically, though. Living in a city I can’t afford has given me the stay-at-home-mom lifestyle, minus the no-work part. Because of this hang-up, I think I’ve become used to blaming city life for the fact that I might not be so great at making friends with grown-ups who breed.

I was late to the party. I didn’t have my first child until I was 37. Now, at 40, I’m expecting my second. Before becoming a parent, I was a bartender my whole life. The group of friends I made when I moved to New York were all a part of that bar scene. As you can imagine, the bar business isn’t that conducive to parenthood. There aren’t a lot of parents who choose to be bartenders due to the long, late hours. And there aren’t a lot of bar regulars in Brooklyn who have children. Thankfully, I guess.

All of these elements have given me an amazing circle of friends – none of which have children. I guess between the hustle and bustle of existing in the city and parenting full-time, whenever I have a free moment I want to spend it with the friends I already have. I know some people think, who cares if your friends have kids? Friends are friends. But it would be nice to hang out with someone who wants to talk about the things most people consider “TMI” if they don’t have kids. Not all the time – I do have a life outside of my child – but it would be nice to have that kind of connection with another parent.

I think my shortcomings in this area have really been to the detriment of my child. He has no friends. Of course he plays with kids here and there at the park – but none regularly. We’re soon moving to Florida, and I’m hoping I can blame this all on city-living, not my inability to reach out to other women with kids. I’m just a little nervous about this whole thing. I mean, if I can’t do it here – why would I be able to do it somewhere else?

Now that I’m moving to suburbia, having another child, and working from home – maybe I’ll be able to finally identify myself as “mom.” Clearly, all of the problems I think I have making “mom” friends are originating in my head. Hopefully I’ll be able to let them go and allow myself to experience some suburban bliss – complete with playdates that involve coffee and gossip.

(photo: CREATISTA / Shutterstock)

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  • http://www.xojane.com/author/eve Eve Vawter
  • Mel

    I had my first child when I was 22, while still being a full-time.student. My friends were nowhere near starting families and the other moms are met were usuall 10 years older than me….I have very few mom friends. And I’m okay with that. It sucked the first year when I was still a SAHM but now that I am back at school and she goes to preschool I don’t mind at all. My job isn’t to provide playmates anymore so we’re good.

    • Genevieve

      Heh, I promise, it’s pretty cool to be the one who can sort of sit back and be all “Oh, poopy diapers? Yeah those sucked, glad I don’t have to deal with them ever again!” when your friends finally do start having kids.

    • Andrea

      Agree with Genevieve. I now point and laugh (not to their faces lol!) at my friends who are in babyland..while I can rejoice with my older children (10 and 12) who need no diapers, can make their own sandwiches, and can be left alone for (short) periods of time!

  • Hip-Baby Mama

    I feel like you and I would be awesome mom friends. Why don’t you move to Austin instead of Orlando?

  • Peggy

    I’m in a similar boat; I’m just not great with female friends, and moms seems to be an even harder group to crack into. I’m finally beginning to make some friends through my moms of twins club, but it’s still kinda frustrating. Good luck in florida!

  • LiteBrite

    I too was late to the mom party; I had my son at 38. (He was also, coincidentally, a November baby.) I had the same sit-around-and-gossip-while-our-kids-frolick fantasies that you did which never came true, partially because we live in a suburb that’s a pretty good drive from a majority of our social circle and also because our social circle had kids earlier than us and now those same kids are several years older than our son. All of our neighbors’ children are grown, and we live on a busy street so don’t interact much with them anyways.

    I was hoping that would change once the boy started school, but so far it’s been slow going. DH isn’t exactly a people person which means any socializing has to be initiated by me. Plus, many of them are SAHMs and younger than me, and my full-time schedule doesn’t leave much time for socializing.

    Yeah, I know: excuses, excuses, first world problems, yadda yadda yadda. I wouldn’t care so much if it was just me, but I don’t want it to have a negative effect on my kid. I don’t want him shut in with the ‘rents every weekend. I did tell my husband that we need to “engage outwardly” more with the other parents so the next birthday party invite we get we’re accepting. Hopefully that’s a good start.

  • Justme

    I guess I got lucky. The women that I met through my job which ultimately have become my closest friends all have young children with whom my daughter can play. But I don’t seek out “mom” friends. I just have my friends who happen to have kids for my daughter to play with while we sit, talk and drink wine.

  • brooklyn mama

    Wish I could have something useful to say or some advice to give, but no, I feel your pain. I’m a Brooklyn mama with a 3.5 year old and I have virtually no friends, mom or not. I’m fairly young though, so my problem is that I feel like I’m stuck in the middle. My son started nursery school this past year, so I’m happy that he now has friends and gets to interact with other kids regularly, but playdates outside of school rarely happen because I haven’t really clicked with the other parents. It’s kind of awkward when they say things outright like, “Jeez, you’re a parent here? But…..you look like you’re so much younger than me.” Or when I was at a parents-only event at my son’s school and the parent in charge of drinks semi-seriously asked me if I was old enough to be drinking wine. On the flip side, my pre-baby friends are nowhere near settling down and having children, so they don’t always understand what my parenting duties entail exactly. Like, I understand that it’s your birthday, but I also understand that if I stay out until 4AM with you, I will be a zombie when I have to get up at 6AM to parent. The whole nanny/playground situation is true, too, and when the babysitters or nannies find out that I’m a parent they kind of close down a little, and the few parents that I have met at the park and interacted with always assume that I’m a babysitter.

    • kirsten

      I get you! Although I’m in the Bronx. I had my son while new in NYC and without friends here. I stay home for the time being with my infant, so I don’t cross paths with new people often. My few non-parent friends make it incredibly hard to keep up a friendship when they do things like make a last-minute decision to go to a show in Brooklyn that starts in a half hour… I mean, I don’t expect everything to revolve around me/baby, but almost all our interactions follow that pattern and I just can’t keep up. And the mom groups/events I have attended felt too “old” for me, not in an age sense but in an acceptance sense: everyone else talks about mom stuff, but I’m still new at this and it doesn’t feel like me.

    • Melody

      Same here. It seems like all of the mothers that I try to connect with are put off by how young I am, and all of the girls my age are busy with their college life nightclub scene and I’m just in between. It gets pretty lonely being a SAHM, especially when you realize that you haven’t had an adult conversation in days. I feel awful that my kids don’t have friends over for play dates because I can’t make any friends. My MIL gives me all kinds of grief over it too. As if I wasn’t painfully aware already, I am ruining my kids lives by being so socially awkward.
      People are always assuming I’m a nanny too when we are out. In the interest of being social, I’m in the NYC area if anyone wants a friend :)

    • kirsten

      Bronx is NYC area :)

    • Melody

      Let’s be besties!!

    • kirsten

      I’m newyorkgraduate at gmail :)

    • ali

      I am in the same boat as you. I live in NJ though and it feels like my situation is hopeless. Granted my baby is 3.5 months old so a little early for play dates but I am 26 and none of my few friends have kids. No one can relate and when we do go out for fresh air there is no one at the park. In NYC not many people drive so everyone is outside walking around (not to say its easier for you to make friends) while here everyone drives so there is even less chance to talk to others. I’ve always been the kind of girl to make friends with males easier and now that I’m a first time mom I feel lonelier then ever. I am almost foaming at the mouth for my fiance to get home so I can talk to an adult! I also have to admit that I am scared to try to make mom friends because I feel like so many moms are very judgmental of one another and I HATE that. Sigh, sadness.

  • Random Soliloquy

    Hey, I’m in Florida! So… we can be besties, right?

  • Ana

    Since my daughter was born almost 5 years ago we’ve moved twice, so as a normally introverted person who has been forced to find ways to connect with other parents in new communities in order to make mom friends, I feel I can say I’ve had some experience. It’s never feels easy and I admit, I’ve always come across moms with cold shoulders, but the majority have been pretty receptive and I can at least make small talk with them while feeling out if there’s a chance for a future playdate. In one town there was a free newcomer’s club with a playgroup, online you can check out meetup.com for your area, free library storytime programs during the week and weekends are a great way to meet moms, music or gym classes as well. And as for the idea of being a different age than other moms, all I can say is that after our last move I joined a new mom group organized through the local hospital (to take my newborn son to) and the moms’ ages ranged from early twenties to mid-forties, with the median seeming to be around 35 or so. About 25 of us stayed friends through a secret facebook group getting together for playdates and birthdays and mom’s night out and we are all different in many ways (ages, first time parents to third, sahm and working moms, different ethnicities and religions) but with one crucial thing in common – wanting to have friends to share the mom experience with. If you put in the time and effort I really think you’ll find a good mom friend (or even two!).

  • Kristin S. (@AustinKVS)

    Don’t worry, Maria – it will come, and moving may just be the impetus you need. A different environment and different people will give you confidence to try something new. When I moved to Austin, I didn’t know a soul. Soon, I was pregnant and sick for months and couldn’t meet anyone (Facebook was my lifeline!). Four years later, I have better friends than I’ve had anywhere. It will happen!

  • http://twitter.com/mariaguido Guerrilla Mom

    After reading all of your comments – maybe I can’t blame the city! Maybe it’s just harder to interact with people period nowadays and it has nothing to do with parenting at all. It’s good to know that lots of moms have the same problem, though.

  • CK

    I have the same problem, but for different reasons. I’ve never been a “girl’s girl”, and shun the cattiness that many women seem to thrive on. I despise drama, and have strong convictions, personality traits that are impressed into young women, but rarely translates to womanhood. Due to various life events, I just completed my bachelor’s degree the same year that I found myself pregnant (at 31). I wouldn’t be able to find a job that provides income on top of paying for day care, so I have found myself at home. Trying to juggle several money making opportunities, I don’t get out of the house much, anyway, but I am also not the typical stay-at-home mother.

    I’e never been one to have many friends anyway. My closest friends are in Maine and Alaska, while I am in New Hampshire.

  • gnatelbow

    I hear ya. I’m a social introvert, my oldest son is an introvert, and while I’m currently a SAHM, most other parents in our neighborhood aren’t. I remember playing outside with other kids in the neighborhood when I was his age and walking to friend’s houses. Unfortunately most of the moms I’ve met in the meetup group I joined don’t actually live anywhere near us and at this point are hard to get together with. I’m hoping kindergarten will be better for him as a source of nearby friends. I must admit I’m pretty terrible at trying to create playdates on the weekends when other kids at his preschool might be available. Never mind me trying to make conversations/friends with their parents. Sigh…

  • Andrea

    I honestly can’t conceive the kind of money that is required to have a family in the city. It is mind blowing to me. Nor can I conceive having to deal with the “outside” in strollers and Bjorns every single day of my life.

    I think moving to Fla is going to do wonders for you. In boring suburbia, we moms (stay at homes AND workings) have to socialize or we would go nuts :)

    But seriously between preschool (which believe me, you will be able to afford in a normal part of the country – economy-wise I mean) and parks, and swimming holes, and church (if that is something you do), and grocery stores, and play areas in fast food places you will encounter and meet lots of moms and I am sure will be able to click with one or two at least.

    And once your kids start regular school, forget it. You are so immersed in that culture, you will have make an effort to socialize outside kid-things, Which I do because I don’t want to lose my mind, but it is hard. Weekends are always packed with activities that are for the kids and I have had to work damn hard at having a night out that doesn’t involve their stuff.

  • Genevieve

    I had my daughter when I was 21 & none of my friends were ready to reproduce yet, so I was lonely (a bit). I never fully connected with the other moms at the daycare & schools she’s gone to (they were almost all a good 10 years older than I, at vastly different points in their non-baby lives), and so I only really ever got to know two or three of them.

    Now after 15 years, I’ve got friends dropping babies left & right, and I *still* feel “other” because my little bit isn’t very little, and there have been SO MANY changes to the conventional wisdom of how to raise a child. I’m not even sure if you’re still supposed to put them on their backs to sleep or what, but apparently blankets are verboten now, which was not the case in 1998.

    At least I’m done, though; no more booster seats & noisy toys for me! :)

  • Bailey

    When my first was a year old, I joined a playgroup through meetup.com. I met some really nice ladies, but as time has gone on, I realized having a kids the same age isn’t really a great basis for a friendship. I got tired of playing nice with women I didn’t really like and had very little in common with. Now I pretty much only have consistant contact with women I was friends with before I had kids. Some of them have kids now, some don’t. We are all friends because we like each other and have things in common.

    My kids are in kindergarten and pre-school now so I know they get plenty of peer interaction and it has taken away the pressure of feeling like I have to make nice so my kids can have friends. I am expecting my 3rd baby in a few months and this kiddo will either have very little peer interaction aside from his/her brothers or I’ll venture back into the world of playdates and playing nice.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Kwhite1980 Kristina White

    I have a hard time making “mom” friends too. I think my problem is that I really am just not that into all the stuff most of the women around here are. I went to a gathering once, and was nice and polite. I tried to fit in to the conversation, but have no idea what the “ABC catalog” is, or why you would want to decorate your living room in a safari theme….I’m also not big into cleaning products, clothes, makeup, or decorating, which made me an instant outcast in the majority of these social groups. I need friends with kids who still listen to heavy metal and industrial or rap music in between Laurie Berkner. I’d like friends who actually play with their kids instead of texting on their phones all day. I don’t care if you’re still nursing your 3 year old, or that your 2 year old is wearing a tutu with combat boots, I’d like to know if you caught the last episode of NCIS or Criminal Minds, and man isn’t that dude on Bones hot? <3 lol I'll never fit in, and I'm good at that, but please don't exclude my kid from playing with your kid cause I'm wearing a greenday shirt and pretending to be the "grumpy old troll who lives under the bridge" from Dora on the playground:)

    • Saskia

      WoW! I’d be you friend in 3 second! I have the same problem. To bad I live in Holland.

  • K.

    Maybe I’m just not the “joiner” type, but I tried the mommy-and-me stuff and while I liked the women in them I found that there was a weird side-effect in that meeting with all the other mommies was starting to make me a sort of crazy mom. The constant, “Oh, Jackson is walking! Yours isn’t yet?” and “Bella turned over at 4 months” and “Elliot is learning Farsi and the teacher is so great with toddlers” and “Oh, you have THAT stroller/baby carrier/bottle/toy” was making me neurotic.

    Don’t get me wrong–those examples makes them sound like judgmental bitches, which they definitely weren’t–it’s just sort of the natural stuff that comes out when you put a bunch of moms together who don’t necessarily have much in common other than the fact that they’re…moms. You talk a lot about milestones and the latest parenting theory and this or that and it might have weird effects, like it did with me. Little things like the fact that I didn’t know what “dream nursing” was until some mom raved about it and then the little voice goes off in your head, “Maybe I should do that? Hmmmm….” For some women, that kind of discussion is inspiring and encouraging, but I guess for me, it just made me unsure and encouraged me to start anticipating problems that weren’t there. That’s not everyone’s experience of course, and many moms find great groups but it was something subtle about the experience for me that I wouldn’t have expected, so I’m passing it on for posterity.

    So I dropped the groups, BUT kept in touch with the 1 or 2 moms that I connected with. Maybe that could be your next stop–meetup.com to troll for a few good besties. Just watch for the influence of herd mentality.

  • friendless

    its so nice to see i’m not the only one! I have trouble meshing with most women, & I just moved my daughter & I from new jersey to rhode island. she had several friends that she spent a lot of time with, & I was close to 2 women – one neighbor & one cousin. my daughter is struggling with the move, she seems to be having trouble settling in at school & making friends, today she is actually begging me to NOT send her to school. the other parents at the schoolyard where we pick up and drop off just seem so unapproachable. we are both very homesick & struggling, & its hard for me to find a way to help her thru this.

  • http://twitter.com/OneFunnyMotha OneFunnyMotha

    I think it’s hard no matter what. I had my kids a little over 10 yr ago, and I experience the exact same thing. Motherhood is very isolating, and it’s hard to make friends you really connect with. I had a very rough time, but it does get better. I, too, found pay to play a bit ridiculous. I did everything I could find that was free – parks, library story time, B&N story time, museums that had kid programs, hikes, anything to get out of the house & have an adult conversation. And I wasn’t shy. I’d talk to anyone because I was desperate. Still, it was hard. When they get a bit older and start preschool or regular school you’ll meet plenty of people & it will get a lot easier.

  • Holla

    Ahhh, mommy groups. Having done a literal over-night shift from bread winner while hubby was in school to SAHM when he graduated and I gave birth (which was the agreed upon plan all along) I was in absolute shock. I had no idea how much work was also my social outlet. I would go visit work with my newborn and look around with longing! The mommy groups were, well, ok. But I can honestly say aside from maybe 3 women there, I would have never socialized with any of the other group members had we not all reproduced and joined a group at the same time. I started to feel like I was in high school again, noticing all the “cliques”- groups within the groups.

  • Cuprite

    This may sound incredibly stupid or insensitive, but I found what worked for me was luck (a neighbor) and church. I’m an agnostic with what I hope will be an atheist family, but one weekend I thought it would be neat to check out the Unitarian Chruch. The next Quaker meeting. There were a lot of stay at home parents at both who had kids of similar ages and wanted to meet up. Maybe there would even be some atheist parent groups, or pastafarians in your area. I’ve also been trying to find secular day cares, and have found that often they are more like a cooperative of play group. They usually start at two years old and though it may be like paying for a play group it is daycare so you could take some time for yourself and think of it as paying for occasional baby sitting.

  • Camille D.

    Interesting viewpoint. I feel the same way, even though we’re not in the same stage in life. I’m often conflicted with the choices to have a career or start making babies. I’m not getting any younger, and the fear of infertility is slowly eating at me. I find it difficult to make friends as I get older, so to top it off with having children, I can’t imagine how friend-making works. How do people make friends?!

    There’s school, workplace, other friends. But I have to slightly agree with your theory that city life is hindering your ability to meet decent friends. I imagine it’s pretty fast paced living in a city. I would love it, but I couldn’t justify the cost to The Husband’s tight money grasping fist. :(

    Cheers to the new chapter, in Florida. :) I think it’ll open up more opportunities for you, as a friend with children. Maybe even slow down life (in a good way).

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  • doo doo

    oh, I feel so bad for you. I live in sunny southern CA and the mommy crap is horrible here too. I never had these social problems when I worked in the movie business , restaurants, bars, retail etc. I think a lot of women who become mothers are wierd and re-enacting their own mother issues. I know having my daughter brought up my own mom issues. I try really hard not judge how anyone is a mother. I have been a rock star mom and my daughter saw me get arrested. She thinks i’m human.

  • Krista Shek

    It is hard for me and my children to make friends, they are both ADHD and ODD and were placed into separate schools, there are all sorts of behavior issues like the kids screaming in public causing a scene and everyone just staring, maybe my self confidence is gone out the window and I am afraid to approach the other moms in this neighborhood, or maybe we are considered too weird. I am not into conventional things and around other moms I don’t talk about ‘mom stuff’ I prefer political discussions or alternative music like punk and heavy metal. Most moms in this neighborhood are very conservative and are hard to even approach it is kind of intimidating really. And the kids are not making friends in their ‘behavior schools’ because those kids have problems and there’s a lot of bullies. And when we go together to a play ground there are few children there that are even the same age and the mothers are standoffish so I don’t approach any of them. But like I said it might just be me with a lack of self confidence, will try to meet my old friends more often who do have kids and are into the same things. Hard though with schedules an all…

  • Friendlier Than Ever

    I would love to hear how this turned out for you, Maria. I demand a follow-up!