The isolation that comes with being a stay at home mom was one of the hardest things I had to adjust to. I posted more about that here. When I quit my job to be a stay at home mom, all of my friends still worked and were busy during the day. Sometimes we met up for lunch at Panera, which was a great way to keep in touch and get my baby used to sitting for a bit in his stroller or high chair. I did that a lot more with my first child than I did with my second, and it definitely shows in how well my second child behaves (or doesn’t behave) in restaurants.
As much as I loved my work friends, if I was going to stay sane, I had to get out and make new friends who were stay at home moms. I needed friends who were in the same boat I was in and who could do things during the work week. Here are some suggestions for how to make new friends as a new stay at home mom, based on what worked best for me:
#1 – Meetup.com
I found a great group of stay at home moms on Meetup.com. If you haven’t heard of it before, Meetup is a network of local groups for any topic you can imagine. Anyone can use it to form a group for anything from bacon lovers to bible studies to basset hound owners, with the idea of meeting local people who share your interests. Just go to Meetup.com, click “Find a Meetup Group” at the top, click the drop-down arrow next to “All Meetups” and type “Stay At Home Mom” in the search box, then fill in the # of miles to search and your city or zip code.
The #1 best way to make new mommy friends is to find a newer group that has been formed in the past 4-6 months or so, or start a new group of your own. You can join an established group, but the beauty of a newer group is that everyone is new. Older groups that are open to new members will still work, but usually, no matter how nice they are and welcoming of new members, the girls have already gotten to know each other and that just naturally makes it a bit harder to join in. Although, some of the larger groups will have smaller groups break off when a lot of moms with new babies join, so don’t rule those completely out.
When I found out we were moving to a different state, the very first thing I did was to go to Meetup to find the local play date and mommy groups to join. Meetup provides an online forum for each group and I was able to ask questions of those moms before we even moved about who a good pediatrician was, what schools were rated better, etc.
The groups I’ve been a part of get together at local parks, library story times, museums, and each others homes. We meet for mom’s night outs, Bunco, kids’ birthdays, etc. We’ve done babysitting swaps, meals for new moms, and group holiday parties. This is an excellent way to make new friends because everyone is in the same boat you are in, they are in the group because they want to make new friends too, and they are going to have a schedule more compatible with yours. It is hard not to feel shy when you go to your first meet up; just keep reminding yourself that the people there are just as interested in making a new friend as you are or they wouldn’t be there.
#2 – MOPS
From their website: “MOPS stands for “Mothers of Preschoolers” – but don’t let that confuse you. MOPS is about meeting the needs of every mom of a child from conception through kindergarten with local groups of moms just like you. Whether you’re urban, suburban, rural, stay-at-home, working, teen, adoptive, special-needs, single or married, MOPS is for you! Being moms is what brings us together and allows us to build a community, and a MOPS group allows you to meet and build friendships with moms in your local community. The early years of being a mom are just as foundational to you as they are to your baby, and those years are filled with unique needs that other moms instinctively understand.”
MOPS is an international, dues-based, Christian organization that usually meets at a local church (the denomination of the church varies from group to group). There are groups that meet during weekdays and groups that meet in the evenings. Most groups provide childcare as a part of the dues and the childcare usually includes crafts, playground time (for the older kids), snacks and lots of fun. They want to make sure your children love coming to MOPS so you can love coming to MOPS. Meetings are 2 hours long, twice a month during the school year. They cover a wide range of topics of interest to mothers of preschoolers, with crafts, speakers, discussion groups and more. Our group does a “Favorite Things” meeting in December that is an Oprah-style giveaway of the leaders’ favorite things. We also plan a Moms’ Night Out event once a month and play dates. And we do meals for new moms, three nights a week for 4-6 weeks!!! If you are pregnant, that is worth the dues right there!
What I love about MOPS is getting two hours of uninterrupted grown-up time with other adults who are all in the same boat I’m in. I get advice, empathy, friendship, and a lot of fun out of MOPS. MOPS also provides a chance for leadership opportunities as it is the members who run the local groups with a president or leader, secretary, financial coordinator, hospitality leader, etc. Another great benefit for stay at home moms is that it helps get your baby used to being left with a care-giver from a very early age. It is a great introduction for little ones because it is only for 2 hours, twice a month – just enough to have some consistency, but not enough to overwhelm even the most separation anxiety filled babies.
There is a Christian component to the organization, and depending on how the local group is run this could be given more or less emphasis. Our meeting is started with a brief prayer, and the discussion group meetings are often on a biblical subject relating to our lives as moms, wives, and homemakers.
You can attend a few meetings before signing up (paying dues), so try it out and see if you like it!
#2.2 If you are looking for a non-religious based organization (or if you can’t find a MOPS group in your area) MOMS Club is a similar organization that is not Christian-based. I participated in a MOMS Club for about six months when I moved, until we moved again. The nice thing about this groups is that it was very local – almost all of the moms lived within 5 miles. We met at each others’ homes for play dates and they also had a meals for new moms program and a babysitting swap.
#3 – Girlfriend Circles
Their website says it best: “We introduce awesome women to each other for friendship. We know it’s sometimes easier to line up romantic dates than it is to figure out how to find other women who value making and fostering female friendships. So we’re here to help. By matching you into small groups at local cafes for conversation in our ConnectingCircles — we do all the work for you! Or, you can schedule events to our calendar; post a classified for the type of friend you’re looking for; or search our members to find someone to connect with on your own. No matter your preference, personality, or schedule, we will do our best to provide you with the online tools that help you make friends offline.”
I read about Girlfriend Circles in a magazine shortly after moving to a new state and I was like “YES!!! This is exactly what I need!!” This is another place to look for fun things to do with people who are in the market for new friends. They are currently in 35 cities and growing, so if they haven’t fully launched in your area they will give you a free membership.
I have to mention this… the woman who founded Girlfriend Circles, Shasta Nelson, has an awesome blog about friendship and she writes some REALLY good articles on the subject. A few of my favorite posts are “Three Friendship Inspirations from a 7-Year Old”, “All Those “Unhealthy People” Drive Me Crazy”, “4 Consequences to Labeling a Friend ‘Toxic'” and “Toxic Friendship? Or Can You Work Toward Frientimacy?”.
#4 – Library Story Time or Gymboree Classes
When my first child was born, the local library had a free, weekly class called Baby Bookworm for babies ages 3-months to walking. The librarian sang songs, played music, played with the big parachute and some puppets, and brought out some baby toys at the end. Mostly though, this class was not for the babies. A 3-month old baby doesn’t really need to be at the library story time. But the mother of a 3-month old baby desperately needs to be with those other moms at the library story time! Fortunately, the librarian realized this and she built in a good chunk of time at the end of the class for the moms to talk while the babies drooled on the big parachute. Most libraries have several story times grouped by age, so if you’re new to staying at home with your toddler or preschooler, this is a great free activity to check out. Go regularly and you and your child will enjoy seeing familiar faces. I encourage you to ask some of the moms you see there from week to week if they’d like to go get coffee or lunch or go to the park after the next class or tomorrow. They will probably be over-joyed at the chance for new friendship. If you are too shy to do that, ask the librarian to make an announcement at the next class that a new group is starting up to get together for lunch or the park and for anyone interested to stay after the class. Then you can just invite anyone who stays to meet up at the closest park the next day or whatever makes sense to you. You’ll have a similar experience at Gymboree and other Mommy & Me classes, I just like the library ones because they are free (well…already paid for by our taxes).
#5 – Fertility Friend & other Online Due Date Groups
I have to mention this valuable resource for making it through the early years. Sites like Fertility Friend and Baby Center have online groups based on your baby’s due date. These groups tend to stick together long after the babies are born, supporting each other as you weather the storm of having a new baby. The due date group for my oldest child is almost six years old and still going strong, going so far as to set up our own separate website. We have members all across the country and some overseas. Over the years we’ve built close friendships and now there is an annual moms-only trip for the group. Members who are in the same region get together for play dates and mom’s night outs. That may not happen in every group, and even if it did, you won’t be seeing each other in person often. But it is so valuable to have a group of people who have a baby or child the same age as yours who can help you figure out if what your baby is doing is normal or warrants a trip to the pediatrician. The synergy that comes with a group like this will put you miles ahead of where you’d be trying to figure it all out on your own. You can learn from others’ mistakes, hear about great products and books that you wouldn’t have otherwise known of, and get a heads up on behavior milestones so you know what the heck is happening when your child turns four and every disciple method that use to work suddenly doesn’t anymore.
#6 – Preschool
Once your child is old enough for a Mother’s Morning Out program or preschool, the moms of the kids in your child’s class can be a great group of friends. Early in the school year, consider planning a play date at a park or your house with the all of the kids in the class. The other parents will be grateful for the chance to meet the kids that their child goes to school with and to get to know the other parents. Follow up with the parents who you seemed to hit it off with, or schedule a park play date with one or two of the kids that your child seems to like the most. A lot of the moms at our preschool will stay after school and let their child play on the playground while they pass the time until they have to get their older child off the bus. The kids love getting to let off steam after school together and the moms get a chance to catch up. I’ve made such good friends with the preschool moms that we’ve started an annual moms-only beach trip and we try to do a Mom’s Night Out once a month or so. The key there is someone has to take the initiative to plan it and invite people and keep it going (and I am forever grateful for the mom who took the lead on this at our preschool).
Really, the key to all of this is having someone step up and make some plans to get together on a regular basis. Everyone wants to get out and do things both with and without the kids, they just need some plans, an event, something on the calendar, a reason to tell their husband they have to go out on Wednesday night. You can be that person, and know that if you keep extending the invitation, other moms will be grateful to have a social coordinator and a way to make new friends.
One last tip: Once they’ve seen your house looking all pretty, make a pact with a few of your new friends that you won’t go to great lengths to clean up before they come over if they’ll do the same. It is nice to have some friends who you can invite over no matter how you’re feeling or how much laundry is piled up on the sofa. If you always feel like you have to have things “company clean”, you’ll miss a lot of opportunities to spend time with friends.