Making Mom Friends: Think Outside the Box
If you’ve ever found motherhood to be a lonely experience, you’re – ironically – not alone. A 2021 article by the Harvard Graduate School of Education stated that 51% of mothers with young children reported serious loneliness.
Multiple factors can contribute to this sense of isolation. According to an article by ParentMap, some key reasons moms may feel lonely include:
- bearing a heavy mental load
- mistaking the superficial connectedness of social media for genuine connectedness
- juggling unique situations like single parenting or raising kids with disabilities
- dealing with multiple life changes
- being under a lot of pressure
If you’re feeling lonely – or just want to make some new friends for the fun of it! – here are some creative ways local moms have connected with their parenting peers.
Bond Over Books
Vanessa Self, whose five children are currently 9, 11, 13, 14 and 22, moved to Tulsa in 2020 – just in time for the pandemic.
“I knew it would be really challenging to make new friends,” she says. “A book club offered a perfect solution because we could interact online or in person.”
Self had participated in book clubs before, joining her first when her youngest child was 2. “Reading the same book provides a shared experience that, over time, can be a very bonding experience,” she explains. “It’s a neat way to gather with people who have at least one thing in common – we like to read, and we like to learn!”
Self’s current book club meets monthly, and members take turns hosting and choosing books. Occasionally, they’ll meet at a coffee shop, restaurant or other public space. While kids typically stay at home, the book club members will sometimes have family events outside of the monthly gathering.
For moms interested in starting their own book club, Self cautions, “It’s not always easy, and you do have to have self-confidence – people are busy and have lots to pull at their attention – some level of rejection and times of low participation/low response are inevitable.”
To minimize this, she suggests bringing people together who don’t necessarily know each other but are connected in some way. Set ground rules and a plan of action from the get-go and agree to share hosting responsibilities.
“If it stops feeling alive and fresh,” Self says, “let it take a break or even let it go and try again with another group – either on your own or join an existing group, for example, one through the public library.”
Get Involved at School
“Real-life mom friends” Amber S. and Nancy C. both have 10-year-olds at Mayo Demonstration School. For them, nothing beats volunteering at your child’s school when it comes to connecting with other parents.
Beyond building parent-to-parent connections, they say, volunteering provides the “magical” experience of watching your child’s friends “grow from tiny pre-K kiddos into bright and creative pre-teens.” Plus, they feel that getting to know the other families is beneficial for their children’s safety and for navigating potential conflict or challenges.
Amber’s volunteer efforts have included chaperoning field trips, working at the used uniform sale, giving a dog safety talk to her child’s class and attending fundraising events. Nancy has been involved with the PTA, served on the Mayo Foundation Board and led Mayo’s annual trivia night fundraiser.
More than likely, there is a variety of volunteer opportunities at your child’s school. Some require more time commitment than others, and some may be a better fit for your personality.
“I’m a total introvert,” Nancy says, “So I have searched out opportunities for connection in smaller groups. I’ve also considered the need: While I may not have wanted to work the book fair, I sure loved the school librarian asking for volunteers, and I knew someone would need to step up.”
Besides volunteering, there are other meaningful ways to connect with families at your child’s school that require less of a time commitment.
“From my child’s pre-K year up until COVID hit,” Amber says, “Each time I dropped her off at school, I would walk her inside and wait with her until the bell rang. This simple act of spending 10-15 minutes each morning getting face-to-face time with other parents and Mayo kids really facilitated my future involvement at the school because it promoted a sense of community and a feeling of being welcomed into the school.”
She also used social media to invite Mayo parents to her home for small gatherings.
“I knew that I needed to begin building connections with the parents and kids in my child’s class if I was going to be able to entrust my child to their care in later years, when children are more apt to want to have play dates and slumber parties,” she explains.
Nancy concurs. “Showing up is usually all it takes,” she says. “Whether it’s the Fall Festival, the uniform sale, back-to-school night, etc., as I’d see the same faces over and over, even this introvert felt comfortable to start up conversations with other parents.”
They both agree that “Making friends as an adult is really hard. If there’s a parent (mom or dad) reading this who feels isolated or lacking that community connection, getting involved in your child’s public school is a great place to start!”
Take Advantage of Technology
WhatsApp for the Win
Following the birth of her twins, now age 5, Yuly Benton immediately recognized the importance of having a support system. However, with no family nearby, building that support system took some effort.
“Having the support of a community provides resources, ideas and helps to make the mother’s life easier as we navigate the hurdles of parenthood,” Benton says.
She made several attempts to connect with other moms, but factors like different lifestyles and schedules made things difficult. Eventually, she created a WhatsApp group chat specifically for this purpose. Benton added every new mom she met to the group, which she uses to share information about kid-friendly events, plan meet-ups and more.
By sharing information about events, sports teams, etc., group members often end up participating in the same activities in addition to scheduled meet-ups, increasing that sense of connection.
For others looking to build this kind of community, Yuly has a few recommendations. For example, “I had to lose my shyness and be willing to ask other mothers if they would like to join us for a play date or for any of the other events I had scheduled in advance on my monthly plan.”
When organizing meet-ups, she tries to plan activities a month in advance so that busy families have plenty of notice to work the event into their schedule.
“It really does take a village to raise a child,” Benton says, “and to have an optimistic approach to parenting, you need to build a network of support to help and encourage you through the difficulties of being a parent. A child’s well-being starts with family well-being, and family well-being starts with a strong community.”
Build Your Mommy Tribe
Similarly to Benton, Kari Claitt found technology to be helpful in bringing moms together.
“As a new mom, I remember feeling alone. My world was all about a baby boy that barely slept!” Claitt says. “I was also a new SAHM [stay-at-home mom], so I didn’t know where to meet other moms because I didn’t leave the house very much.”
Recognizing that many moms frequently turn to Facebook in their downtime, she started a Facebook group called Mommy Tribe, which has grown to 1,900 members. The group emphasizes playdates, Mom’s Night Outs and chatting about relevant topics.
“It was very easy to set up!” Claitt says. “I just made this group and started sharing it with other moms on Facebook…I know a few moms that have met their best friends through that group, which is amazing!”
She credits the group’s growth to word-of-mouth and the simple willingness of group members to get out and socialize.
“Being a mom is hard,” Claitt says, “but you don’t have to do it alone! I encourage you to step out of your comfort zone and set up a playdate or follow through on plans. You never know, you may be making a bestie!”
How do you make mom friends? Ideas from TulsaKids’ Facebook followers
“I began organizing events for a homeschool meetup group. My son has made so many great friends, and I have, too!” – Karen B.
“Literally start talking. I talk to moms at dance class, our neighborhood, the hair salon, at the park, church. Some have turned to friendships outside of our kids’ events, and others may take some time. Be yourself. Building rapport = invites to events!” – Faye P.
“Sometimes it’s in the heartache of navigating raising a child with complicated healthcare needs.” – Andee C.
“Youth sports is one of the best ways to meet new moms. That’s what has worked for me, anyways.” – Teresa H.
“Started taking a Zumba class. Everyone is so nice and fun there.” – Sara W.
“I LOVE this question! For me, my mom friendships happened at the daycare level! Taking a genuine interest in all the kiddos in my son’s daycare — not just my son — led to casual parent conversations at drop off/pick up that then evolved into meet-ups and playdates outside of school (for the kids and families alike!) My closest mom friendships are now close family friendships which all originated from FIRST deeply caring about the kids in my son’s school community.” – Bea K-D.