Pin on Pinterest
I had a toast with my husband the day I made my first friend. It was three months into our move to Chicago. I didn’t know a soul when I arrived and she was a literal answer to my prayers. I had prayed for one friend – just one – by July. I met her in June.
As a SAHM in a new city, with no family around, priority number one was making new mom-friends. Building a support structure so I had someone to babysit for me (Kidding! Sort of.) But this isn’t college. People aren’t exactly looking to add to their 2,432 Facebook friends. So how as the new person in a new town, in the “near 30’s and have a family” category, do you ever make new friends? Especially when you don’t even work outside the home to naturally make connections?
I saw her at the park near my house in the middle of the day so I figured she must be home at least part time. Her kids were a bit older than mine, but they were being sweet to mine, plus the mom looked nice and I liked her wagon, so I asked where it was from. We hit it off immediately, exchanged numbers (at my request) and I texted her later to see if she wanted to set up a playdate.
She never responded. And I never heard from her again. Maybe I had the wrong number? (I know I didn’t because I called her when I was with her, but I like to think there was a technical error.)
I saw her in a parking lot. She looked about my age, like she was in a stage of life like mine. She had one son, near my children’s ages. I told her I liked her stroller to get the conversation going and it went well enough that I ended it asking if she wanted to hang out sometime.
A few days later, we hung out. And then again, again and again.
We were set up through a mutual friend and she was kind enough to invite me over. I drove the 40 minutes and we had a good conversation between nursing babies and hungry toddlers. I even made myself at home helping to fix lunch in her kitchen. I left, we promised to keep in touch, but we haven’t.
The distance is far and hard to maintain on toddler/baby schedules, and the conversation was good, but not great. Although I don’t know how she truly feels, by her lack of contact, I feel confident in saying we were both mutually uninterested.
There is no magic bullet for making new mom friends. There’s no real rules either. The biggest thing I’ve learned is to be willing to put yourself out there and to not take rejection personally. I’ll be honest, I’m dead sick of small talk. Of retelling our story of why we moved here, how old my kids are, and what my husband does. But I do it over and over again because I know that’s how you make connections.
But by making connections, you also open yourself up to rejection or failure. For every one friend I’ve gained, I’ve probably not hit it off with at least five people. Sometimes it’s me, sometimes it’s them, and sometimes it’s mutual that a connection doesn’t turn into a friendship. No matter how the ties are cut, you can’t take it personally – it’s just part of the road to establishing community in a new city.
There are a million articles out there that will tell you what groups to join as a mom, where to meet new people, how a Facebook group can make an online connection personal, etc. And those are great and worthwhile. But the thing is, that’s where most people stop. They figure, if they just show up, everyone else around them will do the work to greet them and set up another time to get to know them and establish a friendship.
But here’s the deal: People are not going to do that. If you want to make friends, you have to make it happen. Putting yourself out there is the hard work of building a friendship. And putting yourself out there isn’t just showing up (though that’s a huge part of it). Putting yourself out there is actually talking, asking questions, verbally seeing if there’s interest to take it further. That first step, that, “Hi! I’m XX. Want to hang out?” — it absolutely makes my skin crawl — even for a semi-extravert like me. (If you’re curious, I’m actually an ambivert which means I have lots of introverted tendencies and I am not a full-on extravert, though many people assume that I am.)
But to actually make friends, you have to be the one to ask questions so that people ask you questions back. You have to force people to talk so that you can talk too. And you have to be the one to take the next step and invite them to hang out – to turn a meeting into a friendship. It’s unfortunate, but people are just not good a looking outside the box for friends. Often, people can be unintentionally rude, so focused on their current life, family and friends that they don’t realize how hurtful it is when you’re the newbie and it feels like they can barely breathe a, “Hi.” to you.
But I also know that I have been that rude person in the past, when the roles were reversed. (Another post for another day perhaps, on what I’ve learned from being on the other side.) And so I can’t expect or demand anything different.
Sometimes you have to show people that they need a new friend.
And so today, if you’re feeling lonely or need new friendships as a mom – for whatever the reason – I would encourage you to jump. Put yourself out there. You make it happen. It is so worth it to do the hard work of making friends. As I step back and look at how difficult these past nine months have been, I’m also amazed by the community that I’ve already built and the number of friendships I have deepening daily.
It’s is hard, emotional work to find and build friendships, but it’s always worth it.
Though, I will admit, I’m looking forward to the day when I stop walking up to random strangers asking if they want to be my friend.
*This is a follow up post to this one on moving, making space for new friends and living fully right where we’re at.
*My other biggest tip – join a church! I know it takes time to find a church home, and so all of my examples are from before we found a church – because I wasn’t willing to wait while we searched. But finding a church home has been instrumental for me in finding friends that share my values and for our family to build community – although I still find I can’t just “show up” – you have to get involved: volunteer, serve, sign up for studies, make small talk with the nursery workers to find a babysitter, basically all that good stuff up there I already mentioned.
Like this post? I share a whole lot more on this motherhood gig over on Facebook (Oakland Avenue) and Instagram (@laurawifler) and I’d love it if you followed along!