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Staying Home Instead

Making "Mother" Friends

From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 19 No. 6, November-December 2002, p. 222

"Staying Home Instead" is a regular feature of the magazine NEW BEGINNINGS, published bimonthly by La Leche League International. In this column, suggestions are offered by readers of NEW BEGINNINGS to help parents who choose to stay at home with their children. Various points of view are presented. Not all of the information may be pertinent to your family's life-style. This information is general in nature, and not intended to be advice, medical or otherwise.

Situation

My baby is six weeks old and I love him so much, but I didn't realize how lonely I would be. When I was working, it was easy to have friends in my same situation. Now, except for the monthly LLL meetings, I can't seem to meet other new mothers. I'm already going stir-crazy and I haven't been a stay-at-home mother very long. How have other women made more "mother" friends?

Response

Oh, do I hear you! I was so lonely with my first baby, and he was six months old before I even discovered La Leche League! There were days when I thought I was the only mother in the world at home or at least the only one who, in spite of my tremendous love for this infant, craved adult company during the weekdays. I wasn't the only one and neither are you!

Six years later I am nursing my third baby as I type to let you know now what I wish I had known then! I am so glad you have found a La Leche League Group. Maybe you could invite another new mother over for the morning? Sometimes mothers of toddlers arrange playgroups-ask if you could join them. Your baby is never too young to need a mother whose social needs are being satisfied. Also, there are classes such as swimming at the YMCA, music classes, infant massage, or parenting classes. You get to spend time in close contact with your baby and be around other mothers with little ones. Write down names and numbers of anybody who lives close or expresses interest in getting together.

Newborns are a natural magnet. People will flock to peek and coo and admire your little bundle. Smile and let them come close. If someone seems particularly friendly, tell them what you told us. "I love being with my baby, but sometimes I feel really lonely." It can be scary to share our vulnerability, but it gives the other person permission to help-which most people love to do! Let them give advice or share phone numbers. Somewhere along the way you're going to make some special mothering friends. Before you know it, your baby will be ready for first grade and you'll be helping someone else to build her network of support.

Esther Rupert
Martinsville IN USA

Response

When my maternity leave was over and I decided to stay home with my baby, I knew that I would not survive unless I had a support network. I tackled the problem on several fronts. Perhaps most helpful to me, I found another new mother in my neighborhood who had a baby the same age. We visit almost everyday and it is wonderful to be able to get together whenever I just can't stand being alone.

When the boys were about five months old, we started a weekly playgroup in our neighborhood, and unlike most other groups, we meet at 4:00 in the afternoon. We all tend to get really worn out by the end of the day and the late afternoon visit provides a much needed break. On other days we take walks in the evening. We have gotten to know lots of other neighbors that way. I also make a point of visiting my old friends who have become mothers, even if their children are not the same age as mine.

I also started a playgroup at our church. We use the same space and toys as the Sunday nursery. Our weekly bulletin announcement brings in new members regularly.

Finally, in addition to attending two different local La Leche meetings, I joined our local attachment parenting support group. The attachment parenting group has monthly meetings, several different weekly playgroups, occasional outings, and a monthly potluck dinner for a parenting book club. You can find a local support group-or learn how to start one by reading the information at www.attachmentparenting.org/ Many of the mothers in the AP group are also La Leche League members. Remember that there are lots of other mothers in your same situation. Good luck finding them.

Marianne Baker Bolduc
Austin TX USA

Response

When I first became pregnant, I did not know anyone with babies or small children. My husband and I enrolled in a Bradley class primarily because we wanted to have a natural birth, but also because I wanted to meet other pregnant women. I attended my first La Leche League meeting while I was pregnant as well. While at this meeting I realized I had "found my people." I became a member on the spot. After having Vincent, I continued to attend monthly La Leche League meetings and, through one of the Leaders, I found a great weekly mother's group.

Although I am not a group joiner by nature, I wanted to meet other people who were staying at home with their babies, breastfeeding, and co-sleeping. I never miss a La Leche League meeting and hardly ever miss a mother's group meeting. I have made both a priority and mark them on my calendar. I have also met friends by taking advantage of free classes and seminars offered to new mothers: I attended a baby massage class; I went to an attachment parenting meeting; and I went to story time and music hour at the library. It is easy to strike up a conversation with someone when all you have to say is, "How old is your baby?" Remember that everyone is usually in the same boat looking for other people in their situation. Most importantly, I try to keep in touch with the people I have met by exchanging telephone numbers.

Sheila Longo Petruccelli
Alexander NC USA

Response

I am a stay-at-home father of a two-year-old boy and a three-month-old girl, and I know how difficult it can be to connect with other parents. We recently moved to a new community where I knew almost no one. I have met a variety of parents and caregivers at parks and playgrounds. I also started taking my children to a local playgroup where parents have a chance to talk while the children play. In our area, many communities have a family resource center that offers a drop-in playtime one or two days a week. In other places, parents organize playgroups and advertise them on public bulletin boards or in newspapers. I meet many more mothers and female caregivers than fathers and male caregivers, but I find that gender is rarely an issue. If you have a husband or partner who works, find out if any of his co-workers have young children. The main thing to remember is that once you meet a parent whom you are compatible with (and whose children play well with yours), be bold enough to exchange phone numbers or at least set up a time to meet at one of your homes or in a park. Also, many parents use Internet chat rooms (for instance, on parenting Web sites) to talk with others. Before you know it you will not feel so isolated!

Jonathan Rootellis
Spencer WI USA

Response

I can empathize with you! I also went through the tough transition of trying to make new friends when I first began staying home. When I had my first child seven years ago none of my friends had children. I felt lost, as friendships had always been such a large part of my life. What helped me the most was going to LLL meetings and taking the initiative to exchange phone numbers or set up a day to get together. I wish I would have done it sooner! I think I assumed that others were not going through what I was, so I didn't always take the initiative. When I did though, it was very rewarding. Some of my dearest friends have come from LLL. When I think back on those early days I am grateful for the loneliness, even though it was so difficult. I know that if I had already had an established group of at-home friends I may have missed out on all of my new friendships. It is a very challenging time, but I encourage you to take the first step and reach out to someone else. There are so many mothers who feel the same way you do and would love to just get together and talk. Try to be patient and enjoy this time. Friendships take time to establish, but you will profit richly from your effort!

Heather Knapp
Columbus OH USA

Response

A baby can be one of the easiest ways to meet more "mother" friends once you have created a rhythm and routine in your new life. First, you have to come to terms with the fact that a baby changes your life forever-your moment-to-moment activities are centered around a new little person now, not yourself. To meet more mothers, you can attend groups focused on mothering. This way, you'll meet people in the same situation whom you have things in common with. My first connection to the "outside world" after my son was born was at a group for new mothers that was organized by the local hospital. After not connecting with anyone there initially, I forced myself to continue going and did finally meet a woman who has since become an incredibly cherished friend.

Because my husband and I moved to a new town before I had the baby, I also went online to find Web sites with message boards to exchange problems and ideas with other pregnant women or mothers. This gave me a sense that I wasn't so alone.

There are many places you can go to meet other stay-at-home mothers: become a member of a children's museum, go to story time at the local library, enroll in parent/child classes, or ask your Leader if she is aware of any playgroups in your area. Be sure to also check the local paper, place of worship, or community center for announcements and lists of ongoing classes and groups that you can join.

Now my son is part of a playgroup that meets weekly. The first year was definitely not easy simply because becoming a mother was a metamorphosis and a real adjustment. It took time to find out about different activities. Nothing happened overnight, but I think I needed that time to get into a rhythm with my son, to learn about how to take care of his needs and his schedule, and to understand how my life was forever changed.

Karen Schmidt
LaGrangeville NY USA

Response

I remember being in your situation when my son (now two-and-a-half) was an infant. I began going to LLL meetings when I was eight months pregnant with him. By the time he was two months old, I had met several mothers I really liked and wanted to get to know better. One day at a meeting, I overheard some mothers talking about a weekly playgroup they had formed. I asked if I could join. I felt a little silly because their children were nine to 10 months older than my baby, but the mothers happily welcomed me. At that point the playgroup was really more of a "mommy group" for me, which was exactly what I needed. A little more than two years later, we are still with the same playgroup. My son loves his playmates and I have developed wonderful friendships with a group of women who are supportive, nurturing, and like-minded. We have even expanded our get-togethers to include a monthly "mother's night out" for just us ladies, a "little school," which is a separate playgroup that includes structured preschool activities for our toddlers, and weekend family potluck dinners on occasion. My playgroup mothers are truly some of my closest friends now. I am so thankful for them!

You may want to ask around at your next LLL meeting about any existing playgroups or just initiate one of your own. I can guarantee that there are other mothers who would love to participate. The nice thing about being with other LLL mothers is that you know that you'll be surrounded by women who are choosing similar ways in parenting their children. You don't have to worry about someone criticizing you for co-sleeping or breastfeeding a two-year-old, for example.

I wish you good luck in finding a group of women to cherish as I have!

Trina Kerns
Silver Spring MD USA

Response

Welcome home! Congratulations on your new job! Being a stay-at-home mother is lonely at first. We seem to be in the minority, but we are worth searching for! Here's where we frequent: LLL meetings, playgrounds in the morning or late afternoon, restaurant play lands, library story time, open gyms, toy and book stores, splash pools, early childhood drop-in rooms, and sidewalks near our homes. Keep your eyes open and start a conversation with us. We'll welcome you with open arms! We've all walked a mile in your moccasins during our early mothering careers. We remember the lonely days when we'd turn on the television just to hear adults talking. Those days are short lived! Some of us would buy back that quiet time in a minute! It doesn't last long! You will start to meet other mothers, schedule play dates with them, get involved in interesting volunteer opportunities and soon you won't have but a minute to send off a quick email to another mother with a brand new beautiful six-month-old nursling!

Mary Fabian
Sauk City WI USA

Response

I felt exactly the same way after my first son was born. For me, it was a huge adjustment from the hustle and bustle of an office setting to the different pace of staying home with a baby. There were a few things I did that really helped me get through the first year.

My son was born in the winter and he was an early riser so we often went walking at the local mall with the senior citizen walkers. They loved having a baby to coo over and I enjoyed being out and about. As the weather got nicer we started walking at parks and the zoo. I often went to places where there were other mothers, such as the library or bookstore. It's also a great idea to meet other mothers in places such as parent-child gym or swimming classes. Once I met some women in these places and at my La Leche League Group who I wanted to get to know better, I started a playgroup and invited them. We met at each other's houses or at a local park in nice weather. The babies, and later toddlers, would play as the mothers talked.

It seems that women from LLL have become my closest friends. We already have one thing in common-breastfeeding-and our friendship blossomed from there.

Elizabeth Campion
Harper Woods MI USA

Last updated Thursday, October 19, 2006 by njb.
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