I have always been the type of girl that didn’t have a lot of girlfriends. I’m an introvert by nature, so making friends was never the most natural thing for me in the first place. But making friends with girls in particular was even harder. I never could relate to the things that girls seemed to enjoy: gossip, make-up, shameless flirting, cheerleading (no offense), etc. I preferred reading, writing, having actual conversations . . . you know, nerd things. So, while I had a handful of close-ish female friends in high school and college, I never really understood the importance of having girlfriends.
But then I had a baby and, all of a sudden, I felt the need for female friendships in a way I had never experienced before. I can’t really explain it, but there was a deep seeded need in me to connect and engage with other women in my stage of life (new motherhood). And as hard as it was for me, initially, to reach out and find groups of new mamas to hang out with, I swallowed my fear and started trying to meet other moms.
I can’t tell you how much that decision has changed my life for the better. Yes, it was hard. Yes, I felt vulnerable. Yes, it was exhausting for an introvert like me. But it was worth it. It has saved my sanity, and my life, in so many ways.
1. Postpartum Depression
I suffered from postpartum depression pretty severely after the birth of my first child. At first, I refused to believe that I had PPD. But my midwife and doula finally convinced me that what I was feeling was much more than the “baby blues.” My doula suggested that I get in touch with a group of women that had formed a Facebook Group and regularly met for playdates. I was hesitant, but I did it, and a week later I took my 3 month old baby to her first playdate. Clearly, my kid did nothing but sleep on my chest, but the women I met there changed my life. They helped pull me out of my funk and get me on the right path toward healing. I will be forever grateful to them for being my lifeline when I was feeling very lost and alone.
2. SAHM Isolation
Becoming a stay-at-home-mom after spending six years as an attorney was quite a shock. I was not prepared for how isolating staying at home with an infant could be. It was very easy for me to feel depressed, invisible, out of touch with the outside world. Having a group of moms that I could regularly meet with, if only for an hour once a week, was just enough for me to feel not so alone. Plus, as I got to know my mom friends better, we started chatting via text or in our Facebook group and when we were lucky we met for mom’s nights out.
3. Wisdom and Advice
Of course, seeking advice from women you barely know can be risky business. If you’ve been a mom for 5 minutes, you know that mom shaming and mom competition is real (and it sucks). But when you find a group of moms whom you feel comfortable with, it’s so helpful to be able to talk about parenting decisions and other things with people who just get you. You don’t always have to see eye to eye about the way each of you parents, but it sure is nice to get others’ perspectives and advice when you need it.
Eventually, the mom group I joined shortly after my daughter was born became more than just mom friends. They became girlfriends. It was such a nice feeling to have women in my life that were walking the same path that I was walking and could relate to my every day challenges and share my joys. I hadn’t realized until that point in my life how vital girlfriends are to a woman’s mental and emotional well being. Yes, my husband was important and he was still my partner and best friend. But having girlfriends to lean on and talk to who could understand exactly what I was experiencing as a new mom was incomparable.
5. Free Babysitting
Sometimes, you just need to run to the store without worrying about what to do with your kid, am I right? My mom tribe was so wonderful when it came to keeping each other’s kids when a mom had no other option and needed to run out for an errand. It was such a relief when I could call my mom friend and ask if I could drop my kid with her for an hour so my husband didn’t have to take off work early or so I could just grab some groceries without wrangling a screaming child.
For the first couple of years of my daughter’s life, I never had to buy her new clothes. My mom tribe would regularly bring outgrown clothes to our playdates so that the rest of the tribe could take home whatever their little ones could use. This was also true for toys and baby equipment. I’m pretty sure at least four of my tribe’s daughters wore the same outfit over the years because it kept getting passed between us! Swapping clothes and toys saved us a ton of money and it was fun to see our friend’s kids rocking our baby’s cutest outfits!
7. Breastfeeding Woes
Breastfeeding was so hard for me, especially with my first child. I had no idea at the time that it was not something that always “just came naturally.” I thought I was defective or that my child wasn’t getting it right or that my body was betraying me. When I voiced my concerns to my tribe, I was instantly reassured that I was perfectly normal, that my kid was not a mutant, and that I wasn’t alone in my struggles. What a relief! My tribe also referred me to lactation consultants, books, websites and doctors that could help me get my breastfeeding relationship on track.
8. Free Meals
After the birth of my second baby, the mom tribe that I had already gathered around me was vital in making sure my family was fed after those first hard newborn weeks. My tribe created a meal train for us and one of my friends would show up at my door each night with a hot meal. I can’t tell you how wonderful that made me feel and what a weight off my shoulders it was not to have to worry about cooking for my family while we adjusted to our new normal.
9. Bunco/Wine/Movie Nights
As much as I love my family, sometimes a mom just needs to get the hell out of the house and get stupid with her girls. My tribe was instrumental in keeping me somewhat sane by organizing monthly girls’ nights. We would play bunco or watch a movie or just sit and chat over a glass of wine or two. There is something magical that happens when you are able to get out of the house and hang out with a girlfriend or two for a few hours. You come back home refreshed, a little less insane, and ready to be a mommy again!
10. Carrying Me When the Worst Happened
In October, my worst nightmare became my reality when my sweet, amazing husband suddenly and unexpectedly passed away. I can’t even begin to describe the way my world has been turned upside down. But from the moment that my tribe found out what was happening, these women set aside their own busy lives and did everything they could to surround and support me. These ladies brought me food, cleaned my house, took my kids to the park, drove me to appointments, made sure I was eating, helped gather important documents lost in my messy office, set up a fund for me and my kids, took me to find a dress for my husband’s memorial, planned and paid for my kids’ birthday party and bought them Christmas gifts. I don’t know how I would have survived the first several weeks after my husband’s death if it weren’t for these amazing, generous women, some of whom barely knew me because we had just moved to a new city. Even still, I have mom friends checking on me and making sure we have what we need on a regular basis. I can never begin to repay these women for all that they have done and continue to do.
If I hadn’t let myself be vulnerable to making friends, if I hadn’t reached out of my comfort zone to engage with other moms, if I hadn’t opened myself up to loving and letting myself be loved by other women . . . my life would be very different right now. My life has been enriched and enlightened by the wonderful women who have become my closest friends. They have walked with me through tough new mommy challenges, laughed with me at crazy toddler antics, let me bitch about mundane grievances, and let me cry, held my hand, fed my kids when my life as I knew it shattered before my eyes.
If there was only one piece of advice I could give to a new mom, it would be this: find your tribe. Don’t wait. Don’t be afraid. Don’t worry about feeling awkward or vulnerable. I’m sure your husband is wonderful; mine was too. I know you can probably do this alone; many women have. But you don’t have to, and you shouldn’t. There is truth to the saying, “It takes a village to raise a child.” Even more true is that it takes a tribe to support a mom. Find your tribe, mamas.