by Melissa Stanton
The friends you have as a mom may or may not be the same friends you had before your child or children arrived. You might have a baby before your girlfriends did. You might have become a stay-at-home mom when your kids arrived while your best friend hired a nanny and stayed in the workforce. Some friends stay, others go, through no fault of yours or theirs. People and relationships just change with time, and they often change with motherhood.
But just as becoming a new mom is a time of great changes and transition, so too is the experience of becoming a stay-at-home mom. Contrary to what many people believe, it's hard work to care for a child or children all day, and the work is often isolating, boring and exhausting. Contrary to what many people assume, stay-at-home motherhood is a job. It can be essential (to your happiness and sanity) to have the support and companionship of friends who can relate to and understand your new stay-at-home reality. You need friends who know how hard it can be for you to get out and about. You need friends who can relate to how nap times, illness, crankiness, logistics and all sorts of other unexpected events and challenges can force you, as a stay-at-home mom, to literally stay at home.
Making fellow stay-at-home friends will provide you with companionship (for fun times and for commiserating) and help you participate in the outside world, both with and without your offspring in tow. Although stay-at-home moms today can meet and spend time with one another via mom websites and blogs, it's important to have some "live" friends who reside in your neighborhood or nearby. If you don't already know such women, you may need to be proactive about finding them.
My mom buddy: My first-born child was five weeks old before I managed to get the two of us successfully out of the house on my own. I'd had a difficult cesarean recovery and the summer had been too hot to even want to go outdoors. At the time I lived in Westfield, New Jersey, a great, pedestrian-friendly town. So with my son in his stroller, I started on my way.
As I walked, I remembered that a man with whom I had occasionally worked also had a new baby. I'd met his wife in passing a few times and she had seemed nice. I decided to take a chance and knock on her door. Karen answered while nursing her daughter. Before I could even open my mouth to explain my presence, she exclaimed, "Thank God you're here!" Karen and I have been great friends ever since.
Like me, Karen was a first-time mom who spent her initial postpartum weeks overwhelmed and alone in her house with a newborn. Neither of us was ready for the isolation of being home with an infant. So we hung out at one another's homes, went on day trips, hosted playgroups, and took our babies to Mommy & Me classes, together.
It's not uncommon for a first-time mom who's a stay-at-home mom to see every woman with a child the same age as hers as being her new best friend. (Even her BFF!) It's a stage of life that's essentially like dating. But over time, the initial infatuation wears off, and a woman and her new pal either develop a friendship or go their separate ways.
The experience of becoming a mom is "not unlike going to college," observes my friend Pat, a licensed clinical social worker who's now home with two school-age children. "You no longer get to see, as often, your old friends, and you're having to choose friends from the people you see as a result of your child. My advice is to keep yourself open to the whole lot of them. You may find that the women you might not have opted to hang out with initially may in fact be the ones you remain friendly with for the long term."
Places where moms can meet moms:
- Local mothers' organizations and newcomer clubs
- Parks, playgrounds and pools, sidewalks while you push a baby in a stroller
- Preschools and "Mother's Morning Out" programs
- Child-friendly attractions, events and classes
- Doctor's office waiting rooms
- Library and bookstore story times
- Exercise classes
- Sales and vender parties. (You may not need a new lipstick or any kitchen gadgets, but attending the Avon or Pampered Chef party next door might land you a new pal.)
- Social events you're invited to. (Friends help friends make friends.)
Melissa Stanton is the author of The Stay-at-Home Survival Guide: Field-tested strategies for staying smart, sane, and connected while caring for your kids (Seal Press/Perseus Books). Prior to becoming a stay-at-home mother of three (including twins), she was a senior editor at LIFE and People magazines. Visit with Melissa, and learn more about her book, at Real Life: Support for Moms. Become her Facebook friend via The Stay-at-Home Survival Guide fan page.
Copyright © Melissa Stanton. Permission to republish granted to Pregnancy.org, LLC.