The Secret Salsa to Making Mom Friends
I’m being a little bit cheesy (Queso-y?) this morning because I’m getting ready to jet off to Mexico for a Girls’ Weekend! Before you throw shade, you need to know that this trip has been TEN YEARS in the making and we are all celebrating our 40th birthdays. However, be clear that I believe in the importance of taking girls’ weekends and girls’ nights out and date nights and doing things that fill your cup JUST FOR YOU.
You are not here to be a martyr who does nothing for herself.
Sigh, I digress! That topic gets me fired up. Let’s talk about the importance of finding your tribe as a mom…
Before I begin, I want to tell you that I've been typing and deleting this first paragraph a while (actually ALL of the paragraphs). Because I really want to share something helpful about how to make friends as an adult woman with a family. But, I’m going on this trip with friends I’ve had for YEARS.
I listen to tons of podcasts about business, so I was equating this situation to the successful entrepreneurs who talk about growing a large instagram following (for example), but they were ahead of the game and started building their companies 10 years ago "Before Instagram and Pinterest even existed!" 🙄So I always think, "Thanks for your $.02, but I don't have the luxury of having started ten years ago and your advice doesn’t apply to me at all." That's not really fair, but it’s kind of how sharing this making-friends advice feels. Like if you are in a new city and a new mom and everything seems hard and lonely, hearing from me when I’m taking a trip with women I met when I was 5 years old, 10 years old and 17 years old might be super annoying.
Stick with me, please! I don't want to discount the way that I've been able to connect with women over the years. Or the amazing new people I've cultivated strong friendships with in the past couple of years.
All that to say, I’ve really thought this through.
This is what I believe to be the secret sauce: Go first. Be open and vulnerable. Share something personal or embarrassing or slightly unflattering about yourself. The idea is that you’re letting someone else in to see the real you. So they can peek behind the curtain. Your life may look like a highlight reel to an outsider, or you may be used to being private and guarding your heart. Well, when it comes to making friends you need to open up a little. Let them see who you really are.
Warning: I’m not saying to lay out all of your dirty secrets or begin a convo by unleashing the pent up rage you’ve been feeling about your significant other’s lack of picking up his DAMN WET TOWEL OFF THE FLOOR. I AM NOT A MAID! (Whoa. Sorry!) Start with something that helps another person feel comfortable being around you. This is especially important because if you are taking my advice on wardrobe, because you are going to look like a lady who has her ish together.
You know those times when you’re feeling slightly self-conscious and down? Maybe you’re exhausted because you’ve spent the last three nights up with a sick kiddo? Imagine if you walked into preschool drop off or a conference room and another woman smiles and jokes with you about how she just tripped in the hallway. Or how she nearly forgot to pack her kid’s lunch. Your brain thinks, “ME TOO!” And then it’s your turn to laugh and share something. Your job is to reassure her that she’s not alone and to take the conversational bait that she was giving you. Try out this little technique the next time you spot someone who looks like they need a little boost.
It’s not always going to go well! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried to start a conversation in the line at the grocery store or preschool pickup and the other woman just looks at me with a disapproving frown like, “Why are you talking to me?” Well, NO THANK YOU. She’s not my person. That’s ok! My person knows how to respond. I mean, it sucks and I feel super weird at the time, but it is OK.
The bottom line is that we all instinctively want to know we’re doing ok. Because parenting is HARD. If you’re a mom like me, you tend to doubt yourself. Hearing from another mom that she’s not perfect helps me feel like I’m not alone. If this entire idea makes you squirm, you could also go with Plan B. Ask her a light-hearted question about what she’s up to today/this weekend/for Spring Break. You get the idea.
Smile and make eye contact. A warm, genuine smile can say more about you as a friend than your words. If you’re heading into pickup your kiddos or waiting at a dance class, try keeping your cell phone in your pocket or in the car and standing open and ready for conversation. It’s ok not to have something to do for a minute. When you practice moments of small talk everyday, you’ll become naturally friendlier and you’ll attract good times and good people. This can be especially hard for you if you’re an introvert. But, if you want to meet new people, you have to master it! Try out having short conversations in low-stress situations where it’s totally ok if it doesn’t go well. My favorite place to chat is in line at Trader Joe’s. Those cashiers are specially trained to talk to you. Notice how they start by making eye contact and asking you a question?
As moms, everyone wants something from us and, sometimes, we need a chance to talk to another adult. The next time you have the opportunity, instead of being the talker, listen. Give another Mama a chance to open up: Be curious. Listen twice as much as you speak. Ask great questions and actually let her answer them. It’s such a gift to get to have an uninterrupted thought! Rather than waiting for your own opportunity to share what you think about the question you asked, let her finish her sentence! Let her ask you a question when she’s done talking. Don’t pry or get too personal. Be encouraging.
Find space and time to have real conversations in your life. Ask someone to coffee or lunch. Invite them to your home for a playdate with the kids (and turn on a movie for the kids so you can TALK!). Go for a walk together. Friendships may begin in the office or the pickup lane, but they need to be cultivated and nurtured.
I have a third grade son, a second grade daughter and a kindergarten son. Going into this school year, I thought I had made all of the mom friends I’d have through my kids’ school. I guess I just figured that I’d met all of the women in the entire school. LOL—not true! But, after a few months of chatting at pickup, I realized that there were some amazing women that I wanted to get to know better. I asked one to lunch with our boys. And we had fun! And now we are friends. The End. Ha!
But seriously, I had to put myself out there and risk her saying no. One thing I’ve learned over the years is that when people say no the first time we ask them to hang out, ask again. Moms are busy! And sometimes they don’t even think about making time for new friends because they haven’t actually thought about what THEY want to do in years. So, be persistent. But also be cool! You' don’t want to seem too needy. It’s kind of like dating.
Don’t judge. The most unlikely person could become your friend. And your friendship may not look the way you imagined it. There is opportunity to make friends with your kids’ babysitters, teachers, your hair stylist, neighbors in a different age group, at the park with a cool caregiver. Friends can be everywhere.
One more thing…I’m not sure exactly how to say this, but I want to. (I’m actually planning to share more about my MLM experience one day). If you are in network marketing…don’t ask a new friend to host a party for you or to buy from you. Don’t reconnect with someone on social media only to tell them about your company either. They will come to YOU if and when they want your product because they’ll see how wonderfully it helps you. I know you’re being trained to do the exact opposite. But COME ON! Think about it. Do you want a random new friend that you are just starting to get to know to ask you to buy something? Would you trust her if she did?
The last tip I’ll share today is my favorite. Follow your heart! Do things that interest and inspire you. Even in those challenging lonely hours in the middle of the night when you’re nursing your baby and you feel exhausted and alone, you can listen to a podcast or a book in your headphones. You are not alone! Honing in on your own interest helps you to fully experience life. Immerse yourself in things that are interesting to you as a person and not just a wife/mother.
Read books, watch tv shows, learn new skills. Have something else to talk about with people other than work and kids. Those topics are somewhat universal and they can be a good starting point to cultivating relationships, but the real juicy friendships will come when you have other things going on in your life. Not only does it give you more to talk about, when you have interesting things going on in your life, you will be fulfilled and the friends will just be a perk of your amazing, incredible, fun, life you’ve created for yourself.