Trying to Make “Mom Friends” Felt Like High School All Over Again
I am a COVID-era mom. I had both my children during the pandemic, which pretty much means I avoided social interactions with other moms for the better part of two years. As an introvert with a touch of social anxiety, this might not have been the best thing for me. It was just the excuse I needed to not put myself out there and parent in isolation.
Unfortunately for my antisocial tendencies, I was not able to continue parenting under a rock forever. My toddler got to a point where she started to excitedly scream out “kids” wherever we went and was clearly ready for more social interaction with her peers, so I started to frequent our local parks. I confess that I would stand at the far end of the park so my toddler could run off and play or meet kids but I could avoid interacting.
I was used to making friends through work or happy hour, but not through my new role as “mom”, and it just felt awkward. The small talk was hard for me and filled with uncomfortable pauses. I was so focused on keeping an eye on my kids that I felt like I couldn’t hold a functional conversation. Also, what is the protocol for when my kid upsets another kid? What am I supposed to do when my two-year-old loudly announces “I don’t like that kid”? Ugh.
I wondered if the other moms at the park could tell I was struggling. Every other mom I saw looked calm, cool, and collected. They seemed to effortlessly comfort an upset child while babywearing another little one and looking put together. Could I really fit in? Where is the “Un-showered, I Have No Idea What I Am Doing” mom club? Sign me up for that.
Trying to make mom friends felt like high school all over again. Everyone else seemed so cool to me, and I just felt out of place. I beat myself up for saying the wrong thing and usually came home feeling more awkward than ever.
Despite feeling insecure, I knew my kids and I needed to make friends, so I started to initiate conversations. It felt scary and vulnerable, but I kept at it. I eventually began to run into the same moms and even exchanged numbers with a few. Soon I got invited to a weekly play date with several moms at our local park.
On the day of the first meet-up, I was so nervous that I wanted to cancel (and almost did). Before we left the house, I made sure my toddler and baby had cute outfits, I hid my crazy hair under a baseball hat, I actually put on some makeup, and I tucked my extra baby weight into a pair of high-waisted leggings. I didn’t want to look like I was barely holding it together (which I was).
When I arrived at the park, I was relieved when someone else’s kid threw a complete meltdown and his mom seemed exasperated. Another mom accidentally knocked her daughter over, which resulted in a huge fit of tears. Another mom forgot her kid’s snack. One admitted to using too much TV to survive parenting over the weekend. And that is when it hit me. THESE ARE MY PEOPLE. They didn’t have all the answers, they were doing their best, and they were openly imperfect.
It’s been months now and I still meet up with these moms every week. We have continued adding to our group. It seems like every week we run into a mom who just moved to the area or is just venturing out for the first time since the pandemic, and we invite them to join us. I have never felt judged, not once. I now have the confidence to show up a complete, disorganized mess, because they accept and support me.
The thing I didn’t realize about making mom friends is that parenting is the ultimate bonder. We have all been through the wringer these past few years keeping up with multiple children under the age of four, while also grappling with work, a pandemic, and so much more. It’s been a hard time to parent, and it is in this struggle that we have connected the most.
I still feel awkward a lot of the time. I was a sweaty mess of nerves last week before going to my first toddler birthday party. But it turns out that making mom friends wasn’t as scary as surviving the high school social scene, because my new friends don’t care if I am cool, put together, or projecting perfection. In fact, I now see it as my mission to be authentic about the hot mess that I am because I hope it gives other moms permission to stop pretending that parenting is easy.
I don’t know what I would do without all these wonderful, supportive moms in my life. The more we get to know each other, the more we are connecting on more than just parenting. I am even thinking of inviting them to get together WITHOUT our kids (gasp!).