Making mom friends in the early years of parenthood can be exceptionally difficult. You’re barely put together enough to brush your teeth, how in the world are you going to make a mom friend? And even if you do, how will you keep a friend when you haven’t found time to shower in three days?
Let’s set aside the idea of making mom friends for a second and strip it down even further. In the early years of motherhood, you don’t even realize the extent to which you will sacrifice once that baby (or second, third, fourth, etc. baby) arrives.
You didn’t even know it was a thing to forget to brush your teeth.
You didn’t know it was a thing to be okay with dry shampoo for a week (or a year).
You didn’t know it was a thing to wear the same clothes two days in a row, including while sleeping.
That’s not all. There are so many things you don’t realize about motherhood until you dive headfirst into it. Things such as, you will throw away more clothes than you buy because the spit-up and poop stains have become one with the fabric and its too far-gone to salvage.
Or, that you will find yourself singing a nonsensical song about hot dogs and beans as you wash yesterday’s dishes, because your three-year-old has requested it on repeat for weeks.
Your friends will tell you about the sleepless nights, but they might not tell you about the way sleep-deprivation gives you a new definition of a “good night’s sleep” as two consecutive hours (sitting up, of course, because the baby can’t lay flat without spitting up).
They will tell you that one kid is hard, but more than one is harder. You just don’t know grasp the reality of your limitations until you find yourself wishing for arms like an octopus trying to balance a baby and a toddler on each hip, while drinking your cold coffee and trying to keep dinner from burning.
They will tell you that motherhood bonds you with your mom friends like no other, but you don’t learn how hard it is to actually form that bond until you find yourself surrounded by noise and feeling completely alone.
Yes, making mom friends in the early years can be exceptionally difficult. But, finding mom friends to link arms with in the shower-less, sleepless season of diapers and discipline can also be extraordinarily rewarding. The question is, how do you do it?
Put on some deodorant, and get out of the house.
Let me tell you, this was the last thing on earth I wanted to do when we moved to Tri-Cities. Our family had relocated in the hottest month of the year after spending two years in North Carolina for my husband’s residency program. I had hibernated during our stint there, working over 40 hours from home while miserably pregnant the first year, and attempting to navigate life as a working mom the second. In all honesty, it felt easier to me to do life alone rather than make mom friends. I had one friend, another resident wife with a new baby one month younger than mine, but other than that, there was little to no community. I was alone, and I thought I was okay.
And, to some extent, I was okay. I had friends back “home” in Oregon that I talked to regularly. I soaked up every minute I had with our miracle baby and filled all my spare time with work. She was the easiest newborn, and I honestly didn’t feel most of the things I just listed above. She was a great sleeper, and content to hang out next to me while I worked. I wasn’t too tired or worn out. But, I was alone. And I was missing out on God’s greater blessings that come from linking arms with other moms.
I had every intention of continuing that pattern of solo motherhood in our new location. I refused to make Tri-Cities “home” with hopes of it being a temporary stepping stone to my end goal of making it back to Oregon. We would go for walks on the river, explore our neighborhood parks, and enjoy our backyard. I was content with just my girl and me.
Then, I got pregnant with our youngest daughter. I was so sick. I could barely get off the couch, except to get a snack for my toddler and then go puke in the bathroom. I had been equally sick my entire pregnancy with our older girl, but I didn’t have to take care of a toddler! Fresh air helped, so we made the most of our outside time. But, then winter made its appearance and we were limited to indoor activities.
And as if God knew exactly what I needed (as He always does!), there happened to be a blurb in the church bulletin one Sunday that was written just for me:
“Toddler Gym: Join us in the gym for this free weekly event on Thursday mornings. Connect with other moms while your children enjoy a fun and safe playtime. Invite a friend or come make new friends!”
Sweet. A free, indoor activity where we can move and be active, without food smells and there’s a bathroom in case I get sick. I was ready for it!
I went to Toddler Gym for the purpose of filling our morning and letting my kiddo run around instead of trying to pull me off the couch. I had zero intention of connecting with other moms or making new friends. God had other plans - better ones.
The second or third week of Toddler Gym, an older woman, Marcia, from our GROW group came up to me with a kind-faced gal about my age with a blue-eyed baby boy attached to her leg. Marcia had brought her grandson to Toddler Gym to get some wiggles out. “Mikaela, do you know Amy? She just moved here in July, too. She has a little girl and a little boy.” I put on my awkward nice-to-meet you smile and stuck out my hand, “No, I don’t think we’ve met. Nice to meet you, Amy.” In that moment, I was pretty ungrateful for Marcia making an effort to connect me with another mom, especially right at the beginning of Toddler Gym. Was I now obligated to stick with Amy and attempt to make conversation (something I’m not very good at) for the next hour and a half?
And yet, today, I am forever grateful to Marcia, and for Toddler Gym. Despite my awkwardness, Amy and I hit it off, and connected in a way only the Lord could orchestrate. We walked around that gym, following our three kids from ball to bounce house to slide to ride-on toy. We watched with no worries about where our children were or what they were getting into. And we talked.
We learned that we were both new to the Tri-Cities with no family in town, that our husbands had similar interests, and that we were both just trying to do our best to raise our children in a way that honored the Lord. At the end of that first day, I got up the courage to ask for her phone number (you guys, that’s hard!), and two years later, our bond is thicker than blood.
I left Toddler Gym that day feeling refreshed. Refreshed because of Marcia, refreshed because of Amy, but mostly refreshed because of God’s faithfulness. He can use something so simple as a warm place to play to refresh our souls.
Every mama needs refreshment, and that refreshment often comes by linking arms with other moms walking through this crazy season of the younger years. Making mom friends can be hard, but it is also so rewarding.
I didn’t know how desperately I needed to make mom friends. Even more so, I didn’t realize how much God wanted to work through me being a mom friend. I’ve now linked arms with several women, including Amy that I met at Toddler Gym. God has blessed me with women in the same season of life, willing to embrace the chaos with me.
We swap childcare for dentist appointments and births, and date nights.
We provide each other meals, coffee, and humble pie.
We laugh together and cry together.
We’ve helped unpack and pack up multiple homes.
We exchange parenting wisdom and confessions of motherhood.
We’ve been the hands and feet of Jesus to each other and our children.
Hebrews 10:24-25 says, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another.”
In the season of diapers and discipline, it is so easy to hibernate and give up meeting with others. But, if we can find a way to just say yes, find a place to do life together right in the chaos, there will be blessing. There is so much love and encouragement that God provides through fellow moms.
It just takes one yes, one exchange, one step into community. For me, Toddler Gym was that one step into community that God used to fill my cup. Sometimes, His love shone through a new budding friendship or plans for a play date. Some weeks, it came in the form of just a sweet smile from a fellow mama, whose name I didn’t catch because our kids ran opposite directions right after we said hello.
Whether you come for a warm place to get the winter wiggles out, a free cup of coffee, or for encouragement and friends, Toddler Gym might be exactly what God has for you. Take that step of faith, make a mom friend, and link arms in the crazy season.
Toddler Gym is free! Moms and caregivers, come join us in our gym for open toddler playtime (ages 0-4) every week from 10-11:15 on Thursday mornings (December 5th through March 26th, following the RSD schedule). Connect with other moms while your children enjoy a fun and safe playtime. Invite a friend or come make new friends!