You’ve probably heard the African proverb, “It takes a whole village to raise a child," but the reality is, many find that motherhood brings feelings of isolation and a whole new set of social challenges. Who wants to host a play date when your house is strewn with toys and laundry? How can one be expected to go out in public when it takes three days’ planning to get a shower? It can be hard to think about putting energy into friendships when you’ve been up half the night with a colicky baby or are battling post-partum mood swings, but in the long run, friendships have an incredible payoff for moms.

“The strength in numbers concept is not a myth,” says Mikki Pierce, LCSW, a Clinical Therapist at McCain Psychotherapy in North Little Rock. “We need to be part of motherhood together. Friendships give us other perspectives. They make our world bigger.”

Pierce points out that the key to fostering healthy friendships as a mom is having something in common with each friend. “I’m not talking about age, marital status, or social status. You need to have one or two common interests to maintain a friendship, but you also need to have an open world view.” In fact, Pierce advises against surrounding yourself with mothers who are very similar to you. Single, divorced, married; liberal, conservative; quiet, chatty, demure, or harlot; even women with no kids (gasp!); having different types of friends can provide you with different things that you need.

As moms, we also need to give ourselves permission to drop some of our pre-kiddo perceptions about what is socially acceptable. Finding lasting friendships as a mother can be a challenge, considering that nap schedules, parenting styles, and the kids’ personalities all come into play. Pierce advises, “Other moms are not going to judge you based on how clean your house is. Don’t stress about how your house looks or how you or your kids look — relax and enjoy your time with your friend. She’s there to see you, not your house.” Plus, the kids are probably going to trash the house while they play anyway.

Friendships Can Make Moms “More”

Moms Clubs and organized playdates make it easy to get to know several moms and cull out your favorites over time. Even the most basic interactions with other mothers can help us give and receive empathy, which, according to Pierce, “helps us to know that we’re not alone, that we’re sharing the same experiences, both positive and negative, through motherhood.” And since all moms have one major thing in common — kids — it’s easy to break the ice with that topic. Every mom can commiserate about changing diapers or picky eaters and understand the need to celebrate things like sleeping through the night and learning how to tie shoes.

It can take a while to determine if a new friendship has what it takes to last. As you’re building friendships, make sure you make your expectations clear. “We have the right to set reasonable expectations for our friends,” says Pierce. Expectations generally fall into the categories of recognition, appreciation, attention, and affection. “Our friendships should make us more. They should make us feel kinder, more patient, more understanding, and so on.”

Motherhood is an incredibly difficult journey. Having a great group of friends can make things so much easier, offering emotional support as well as practical perks. Nancy Welsh, a Little Rock mom whose kids are now grown, says, “We moved around quite a bit and without our families nearby I really needed good friends. We watched each other’s kids so we didn’t need babysitters during the day when it’s difficult to find someone. When our husbands were away on business, a couple of us shared meals together so it wasn’t so lonely.”

When it comes to finding friends, cast a wide net and then choose wisely. By keeping your circle of mommy friends diverse, you can continue to expand your world rather than be buried in an avalanche of diapers and soccer practice schedules.

Seek & Find

Here are some resources for finding friends:

  • — Search by zip codes to find a moms group, or other groups who you share an interest with.
  • — MOPS is a Christian-based moms group for mothers with kids ages birth to 5. You can search on their site for a local chapter.
  • Stroller Strides of Little Rock — Stroller Strides is a fitness program for moms that you can do while your kiddo rides along in the stroller.
  • Little Rock Mommies — Take part in the online forums and make plans to join in on one of the many events and playdates planned each month.