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October 18, 2018

Moms Need Friends Too

By Tara Payor, Ph.D.

An Instagram meme caught my attention: “When you try making plans with your mom friends and realize no one is free for 20 years.” I need my friends now. Psychology experts note that moms need close friendships for emotional fulfillment. Friendships are part of mothers’ sustenance, but finding time for them is tough. A constellation of factors contributes to the time we have for friends. Somehow, we must all make the time.

Shifting Needs

Moms need friends who understand their experiences and provide unconditional love. This proved true for Megan Rose during her kids’ younger years. “I didn’t talk to anyone,” Rose recalls. “I was immersed in childcare and so tired from caring for them I had no reserves. I missed my friendships but had zero left.” Carmen Beavers, mom of three, says she relies heavily on friendships, which have evolved with her needs. “It’s about more than girls’ trips now,” Beavers says. “I need friends for moral support and help. I need to know that no one’s feelings get hurt when I have to say no.” Also, friendships satisfy us in ways romantic relationships can’t, Rose says. “Our spouse is in the mix and having perspective when you’re living the same things is difficult.”

The Village

Kids’ schedules seemingly govern parents’. Research shows that the “invisible labor” of parenting, like making logistics work, primarily falls on mothers. Friendships help moms work through negative feelings associated with that. “It takes a village and a carpool,” Beavers says. Rose has learned to ask for help: “It’s easier for me to ask because I help too. I need to know I can give back two months later and it’s okay. No timeline. No pressure.”

mom friends

Motley Crew

Sometimes, we’re fortunate that high school and college friends share in our life’s journey. Rose notes that vibes are different with college pals. Not a Tampa native, she found making Tampa friends difficult because it seemed others had well- established relationships. Now, she’s intentional in accepting invitations and not talking herself out of going: “I know I’ll be tired, but I’m always glad I went.” When the kids were younger, Beavers made friends through playgroups. With school-aged children, some friendships develop because of kids’ extracurricular activities. With increasingly full schedules, finding new ways to nurture friendships is key. Group texts, shared photo streams, and social media are important touch points. They don’t replace face-to-face time but support connectedness. Katie Larson, who moved here recently from New York City, says her newer Tampa friends aren’t ones she’s spilling her secrets to yet, but she puts herself out there by socializing with moms she meets in her neighborhood and at both work and kids’ activities.

Moral Support

Until kids’ toddler years, Carmen found playgroups great for needed moral support. “If I was a mess and crying, I needed to know someone shared those experiences. If I didn’t want to get out, they came to me.” Playgroups establish friendships for mothers and children and counter mothers’ sense of isolation. Larson admits she currently lacks time for relationships. “I’m hopeful it’ll come because it’s important that moms lift each other up,” she says. “I’ve always prided myself on maintaining relationships. Now, kids are first and then work so I can help provide. There’s marriage and myself. Time for friends is hard because many things need our focus.”

Lessons Learned

Observing mothers’ friendships helps kids understand the need for relationships with non-family members and helps them see their mothers in other roles. Larson says: “It’s healthy that kids understand they aren’t the center of parents’ worlds. They know I need adult time with friends.” Beavers believes friendships reassure kids: “They know a lot of people help and care about them.” Although our friendships evolve when we become mothers, the need for human connection and unconditional love is constant. Friendships are essential parts of self-care. Caring for ourselves, we are better able to care for our children.