I’m finally, actively looking for mom friends and other parents with young kids to build relationships with, and I can safely say it has been a process so far. I’ve joined some local mom groups and parenting meet-up groups online, and I’ve made an effort to try and meet people at the park and in mommy-and-me classes. But when I ask myself, "OK, what do you need in a friendship?", especially when I consider my anxiety, my other mental health issues, and my responsibilities as a mother, the entire process seems nothing if not overwhelming. I know I'm not alone, either.
When we consider inviting people into our lives, I believe it's best to be honest with ourselves about how healthy that potential relationship could be. It’s also important to really think about what we need in a friend. Sometimes we can get caught up focusing on just having friends, for the sake of having friends, and to the point that we don’t stop to think about the actual relationships we’re building. Friendships can be intimate relationships that deeply impact our lives, and they can help us thrive as long as we are careful about who we choose to grow with.
Romper spoke with Karin Draper and Ivanna Colangelo, both licensed marriage and family therapists, to better understand what types of things people need from a "mom friend." As busy parents we night not feel as though we have the luxury to be picky when it comes to our relationships, but we do and we should be. After all, our potential mom friends don't just impact our lives; they impact our kid's lives, too.
They Have Self-Awareness
Because we're "social animals," Colangelo says, we're wired to connect with other people. "Friendships are a very important, yet often overlooked, part of our health and wellbeing," she tells Romper.
When we build relationships with people who understand and are honest about their own feelings, motives, goals, and desires, it makes it easier to connect in a healthy way. Find mom friends with that kind of self-awareness so that you can be good for each other’s well-being as self-aware people.
You Have Shared Values
“You might not agree on everything, but most of your core beliefs should be similar,” Colangelo says. This is especially important when it comes to things like identity and parenting styles. If you’re a part of the LGBTQIA+ community, for instance, it’s important to find mom friends who are accepting and who won’t discriminate. We deserve mom friends who recognize our humanity, accept us for who we are, and celebrate our differences.
It’s great to be have a friend you can be honest, open, and transparent with. It’s even better when they’re trustworthy. “Family can be a wonderful source of emotional support and comfort, but we can never receive 100% of our emotional and social needs through our family, or even our partner," Colangelo says. As a result, it’s important to find mom friends that we trust so that we can turn to them for support.
They Give You A Sense of Comfort
Colangelo recommends that you ask yourself the following questions to find out where you really stand with a potential mom friend:
- Does the conversation flow or does it feel forced?
- Are you asking questions because you’re genuinely interested in getting to know them or because it’s what you think you “should” do?
- Do you feel like you can be authentic around them?
- Do you get each others’ sense of humor?
These questions can help you make sense of whether or not you really feel comfortable around this person, or if you're just connecting with someone for the sake of connection.
You Have Shared Experiences
Colangelo explains that since being a mom comes with it a lot of changes, stress, and isolation, it is a “critical time to have other social supports who understand your particular struggles.” That’s why finding mom friends who have experiences similar to yours is so important.
The experiences can range from being single parents to struggling with similar mental health issues.
“Seek friendships that are fun and enjoyable, but it's also important to have friends who help you grow and expand, as well as those who accept you fully as you are and who you can be rawly authentic with,” Draper says. The last thing you need is a friend who judges you or or doesn’t accept who you are.
“Friends can be the family we get to choose,” Colangelo says, so choose wisely.
They Challenge You
“Sometimes our friends challenge our perspectives in ways that are helpful to us, even if we don't always feel great in-the-moment," Draper tells Romper. "This is not the same, however, as criticizing, invalidating, or assuming without curiosity — those actions will only bring pain in a friendship.” So if you have a mom friend who challenges you in a healthy way, cultivate that relationship.
Not only is honesty important for your relationship, it’s also important when it comes to who you have spending time with your child.
“Friends can be there for you to listen, provide encouragement, and help you problem-solve when you’re going through difficult times,” Colangelo explains, and it’s important for us to share those experiences with someone who is honest. That honesty, in the end, will ensure that the connection is genuine.
“Good friends will also have your best interest in mind,” Colangelo says. “Which means they won’t be afraid to offer honest feedback in a loving and respectful way!”
You Have Shared Interests
“Maybe you’re both entrepreneurs, or vegan, or gamers. If you can connect on a shared profession, hobby, passion, etc., you will find a lot of value in conversations that are not just about diapers and breastfeeding,” Colangelo explains. It’s great to bond with friends over things we love, so if you can find mom friends who share some of your interests you've hit the mom jackpot.
“Having friends with similar goals and values can also inspire you, keep you motivated, and provide you with a sense of accountability,” Colangelo says.
You Can Have Playdates With Them
It’s obviously not a deal breaker, especially if your kids are far apart in age or if they don’t really hit it off, but a playdate not only provides you with some much-needed adult interaction, but provides a buddy for your child, too.
In The Playdate: Parents, Children, and the New Expectations of Play, sociologist Tamara R. Mose explains how playdates have evolved into opportunities for parents to network, advance in their careers, and teach their children about culture. If that's something that interests you, possible playdates are something to consider when finding mom friends.
You’re Generally Compatible
Draper says that by checking in with yourself after spending time with a friend, and asking yourself how you're feeling and whether or not your feelings towards them and yourself have changed since spending time together, you can better assess whether or not you're truly compatible.
“If you're repeatedly feeling down or negative about yourself after time with a particular friend, you might want to question the merits of the friendship,” she says. Sometimes, the best way to determine whether or not someone is a healthy addition to our lives is to ask ourselves how they make us feel about ourselves.