When my family relocated from Manhattan to a Boston suburb for my husband’s job, I realized very quickly that I was not going to make mom friends at the playground. No matter how hard I tried to make a connection, every interaction seemed to end with, “Well, it was nice meeting you. Good luck settling in.”
“Come back!” I wanted to scream. “I’m exclusively pumping for my newborn and I’m losing my mind! I have children 20 months apart and I think I’ve made a huge mistake. Can I just vent to you for a little?”
The worst part about being a working mum
My husband, Dave, promised everything would fall into place when our daughter, Nora, started pre-kindergarten, but it didn’t. The parents appeared cold and disinterested. At pickup, they stood around talking in tight circles. I just couldn’t break in. Or so I thought.
“Often what we see as a clique is simply some women who have known each other for a while, and have journeyed together in a way that leaves them feeling close,” Friendtimacy author Shasta Nelson tells TODAY. “We wish we had that familiarity, so we end up feeling rejected. The truth is, we simply haven’t had the time to build up those relationships yet.”
So how do you go about building those relationships? Nelson and friendship expert Miriam Kirmayer share their top tips with TODAY.
"Life affords no greater responsibility, no greater privilege, than the raising of the next generation."- C. Everett Koop
Turn to technology
Peanut — a Tinder-like app for making mom friends — is ideal for new-to-town mamas. (You describe yourself by choosing icons that describe you such as “Strictly Organic,” “Wine Time” and “Hot Mess.”) For parents of children with special needs, Canada-based therapist Kirmayer recommends the social networking app Wolf and Friends.
Keep showing up
Whether you’re in a mommy and me class or a PTA member, be as consistent as possible with your attendance. “Every friendship requires time spent together so you can actually start getting to know each other,” Nelson, who founded GirlFriendCircles.com , tells TODAY. “The more involved you are, the more you’ll feel like you belong.”
Put yourself out there
“Know that it’s absolutely OK to be open about your desire to meet new people,” Kirmayer notes. “Most people respond to this kind of vulnerability and are often relieved to have someone else make the first move.” This tactic worked for Lindsay Powers, who runs noshameparenting.com . Powers wrote notes to the parents of children in her son’s daycare asking for a playdate. “I felt like a stalker, but everyone emailed or texted me back,” the author of the upcoming book "You Can’t F*ck Up Your Kids" tells TODAY. “I think every new parent is lonely, overwhelmed and bewildered. Putting yourself out there awkwardly is the best solution.”
But if this sounds too daunting, Nelson suggests joining a group. “That way consistency with someone can develop for a while without having to invite and schedule,” Nelson tells TODAY.
Faking it until you make it is an effective skill — except when you’re trying to find your tribe. “The most important thing we can do when making friends is to focus on being our truest selves,” Kilmayer says. “People respond positively to this kind of authenticity. What’s more, it helps us attract and connect with people with whom we’ll genuinely hit it off.”
Give appropriate praise. Instead of simply saying, "You're great," try to be specific about what your child did to deserve the positive feedback. You might say, "Waiting until I was off the phone to ask for cookies was hard, and I really liked your patience."
Show them you like them
“When we’re getting to know someone we want to be thoughtful and add positivity to their lives through laughter, affirmation and acts of kindness,” Nelson explains. “The more people enjoy being around us, whether it’s for five minutes or a full lunch, the more their brains will to them that they would like to repeat that experience.”
As for me, I am happy to report that I no longer look longingly at mom friends laughing in the nail salon. In May, Dave and I bought a house in Sudbury, Massachusetts, a town where everybody shares snacks and toys at the playground.
These days, I look forward to school pick-up: we commiserate about the nightmare that is bedtime, make wine dates and help shepherd each other’s kids to the parking lot. I know I lucked out, but at the same time, I promised myself I would do everything possible to make friends in our new town, even if it meant stepping out of my comfort zone.
Take Moms Night organized by the parent committee. I was terrified to go. I pictured myself sitting alone at a four-top nervously glugging wine and picking at cheese cubes. But when I arrived — late because I was dragging my feet — the other women smiled and made room for me at the table.
Try to avoid thinking that you can save your children from getting hurt (emotionally or physically). Instead, prepare them to cope.