The Importance of Mom Friends Postpartum

Mental Health, Postpartum Care

Science has proven parenting can be a lonely path – and mom friends postpartum are the remedy.

The postpartum period is hard on parents – especially moms, which is why it’s so important to have a team of mom friends as postpartum supports.

Yet, creating a circle of social support can be much harder than it sounds, especially postpartum. Motherhood was meant to be a major life transformation and job supported by a village, but today many women become a mom and then find themselves going it alone.

Repeated studies have revealed that parenting can feel socially isolating, which has an impact on maternal health and children’s health.

Despite Canadian societal norms that prioritize solitary parenting, scientific studies indicate that having a support system of friends and loved ones, especially other mom friends, can offer significant relief from the difficulties and isolation of raising a child.

At Care for Women, we believe in motherhood, together – and we’ve created this article to bring more attention to why mom friends are so important both for new moms and their children.

Whether you’re a mom to be, a new mom or friends with someone who’s expecting, this article is for you!

Key Takeaways:

  • 51% of mothers with young children feel “serious loneliness”
  • More than 1 in 10 people in Canada are always or often lonely
  • Studies on loneliness indicate that isolation can be as dangerous to physical health as smoking cigarettes
  • 83% of mothers under age 30 report feeling loneliness some of the time, and 43% feel lonely all of the time
  • Breastfeeding can increase the risk of feeling lonely in new mothers
  • Postpartum loneliness shouldn’t be expected, but it can and needs to be prevented through proactive social supports

The science of loneliness and the importance of connection

A study on loneliness commissioned by Cigna Global Health Insurance found that nearly half of all adults (not specifically parents) sometimes or always felt alone or left out – and this study was conducted before the pandemic and lockdowns.

New research shows that millions of Canadians have come out of the pandemic feeling lonely, isolated and anxious.

Cigna’s study shows that people feel less lonely when:

  • They get the right amount of sleep each night
  • They spend more time with family
  • They get more physical activity each day
  • They participate in the workforce

Now let’s think about parenting – a time in many mother’s lives when they sleep little, see people sporadically, exercise less than usual, and are out of work for sometimes up to 18 months.

It makes sense that parenting can feel lonely if postpartum supports are not in place to help new moms and new dads process these changes and the feelings they can cause.

Also read: What to write in a baby shower card

The importance of friendship for brain and body health

Human beings are social creatures. Feeling connected to one another is vital to our overall health and development from infancy to old age.

Social isolation has an impact on brain development at any age. In short, studies show that our brains are healthier when we feel connected to others.

Meaningful connections are described as:

  • Feeling that we have close or “best” friends
  • Feeling that we have someone to talk to about our struggles and our joys
  • Feeling that there is someone in our life who understands us
  • Feeling that we have people to spend time with when we’re craving interaction

Psychology research indicates that close friendships are associated with greater happiness as well as:

  • higher self-esteem
  • a stronger sense of purpose in life, and
  • physical benefits such as lower blood pressure and longer lifespan

Loneliness and connection in motherhood

Loneliness in mothers with infants or toddlers under 3 years has been a studied concern around the world.

In this study on maternal loneliness, some mothers described that following the birth of their child they felt:

  • Lost (a loss of their sense of self, loss of independence)
  • Confined to their homes
  • Unsupported by partners and family members
  • Fear of being judged by others as “not a good mom”
  • Feelings of increased negative feelings and depression

There is an increased risk of being diagnosed with perinatal and postpartum depression in mothers who report feeling loneliness.

Loneliness is a struggle for many new parents – and the process of becoming a mother (“matrescence”) involves hormonal changes, major shifts in identity, and the uprooting of our previously relied upon support structures and routines.

This is where mom friends and creating a modern day version of a “village” can save the day.

The importance of mom friends postpartum for child development

Science shows that healthy, happy mothers equal healthier, happier children.

Mothers who have mom friends as parenting supports also have children who score higher on developmental tests.

Maternal depression is considered a risk factor in children’s socioemotional and cognitive development.

On the other hand, this study by the JAMA Network shows that: “maternal social relationships are associated with cognitive development in children.”

In other words: mom friends help mothers stay healthy, happy, supported and understood – which leads to better connections between mothers and their children and cognitive benefits to children’s development.

Also read: How to help mom burnout – It’s time to stop calling mom’s superheroes 

Making mom friends postpartum

As one mom-journalist wrote for the Times, it took a long time for her to find mom friends who felt like “her people.”

Motherhood is a major life transformation, and even for moms who have a core group of friends, after having a baby these friendships can change.

Making new friends as an adult who is going through a major life transformation can feel daunting.

However, there are a number of ways new moms can make new friends postpartum, as well as ways other women can help form a new village around a new mom.

Below are 5 ways women can make new mom friends postpartum:

5 ways to make new mom friends postpartum

1. Mom and baby classes:

Many moms bring their infant to mom and baby classes not for the baby, but to meet new mom friends. Look at your local library or community centre for classes you might want to attend. Use the class to get out of the house, and begin a network with other moms in your community. It’s okay if your baby is asleep or hardly aware of what’s really going on.

2. Go virtual:

Joining your neighbourhood Facebook mom group, or an online community dedicated to moms – like Mamaraderie – can be an easy way to start building new connections, especially during those early postpartum days and weeks.

3. Begin a playground routine:

Even if your new baby is too young to climb on the playground, going for a short stroller walk by your local playground at the same time each morning can lead to new connections right by your home.

4. Join a support group:

Postpartum support groups for anxiety, depression or child development learning can be one of the best places to make new connections through shared experiences and deep bonds. Check with your family physician, local hospital or community resource centre for advertised groups. We’ve curated a number of powerful resources for new moms on our website. See the complete resource list here.

5. Directly ask for connections and support:

Similar to dating, sometimes reaching out to your current network to make new connections is one of the best ways to build new relationships. Email or text current friends, old coworkers or your family and ask if they know of anyone in their network who has recently become a new mom who you could connect with.

Remember, it may take time to build those connections around yourself – which is why postpartum supports exist in the meantime to help you get through those early days of seeking and finding your mom friends.

3 ways to create a village around a new mom

If you have a friend, coworker or family member who is about to become a mom or is newly postpartum here are three things you can do to help create a village:

1. Do a meal drop off or organize a meal train. Shared meals are one of the best ways to create a connection and show someone you care. Bonus points if you include uplifting messages for mom!

2. Spend time with her on her terms. Sometimes an invitation to come over can overwhelm a new mom, even if she wants to see you. Nap routines, feeding schedules and more can conflict with social time. Offer to drop by, especially after the first initial weeks have passed and ask what windows of time work best for mom.

3. Ask her how she’s doing and ask her again. After a momentous event like birth, new moms are often only asked how they’re doing once and they often want to reassure family and friends they’re doing fine. Continue to ask how mom is doing and be specific when you offer help: can you pick up groceries? Can you drop off a coffee? Can you connect her with a mutual new mom friend?

Motherhood together – you are not alone

Our organization, Care for Women, is a community of women for women. We’re here for women who find themselves feeling alone in their transition to motherhood.

Feeling lonely isn’t a reflection of your ability to “cope with parenthood” – parenting is hard to cope with alone.

You may feel lonely for reasons such as not having a supportive family, not having family available to help out, living in a new area away from old friends, or many other reasons.

But, you don’t need to do this alone.

If you’re a new mother looking for support and connection, we’re here for you. Take a look at the services we offer the mothers in our community who have applied for care.

Follow this link to apply for care today.

If you’re a compassionate person who has, or knows someone who has experienced parental loneliness, we invite you to donate to our program today. Your contribution helps us care for more mothers and children in our community and is greatly appreciated.

Follow us on Instagram and/or Facebook to start being a part of our online community, where you may meet other moms looking for mom friends, just like you.

A hiking mom watching her children explore nature

What is the criteria for being a "good mom"?

For our children to develop a secure attachment to us they need to experience feeling seen, soothed and safe. Renowned psychiatrist  Dr. Daniel Seigel, calls these the 3S’s of secure attachment

It is so easy for moms to heap on the guilt for having natural human emotions and experiences, such as being tired, worn out, wanting space, or feeling angry or disappointed. 

If I had to sum up the criteria for what all the books and research indicates about being a good mom is: show up with presence (much easier said than done), allow your humanity to come through, while being the adult to your children. Now before you roll your eyes and dismiss that as a cliche answer, allow me to elaborate because it can be very hard to put into practice. 

The more you push away or deny your lived experience of feeling tired, bored, sad, disappointed, angry, or lost, the harder living life will be.

Also Read: Get more information about the effects of mom burnout here. 

"Good enough" mothering

You don’t have to be all things to your children at all times. 

There are so many nights I have checked on my sleeping kids before going to bed myself, and felt a wave of regret for all the ways I wasn’t a great mother to them that day. 

It’s a common experience for many parents. What is important about this regret, or disappointment with how we behaved, is that it illustrates that we cannot be the parent we always want to be. The reality is that children will thrive without us being superheroes.

What they need is for us to show up with presence

And too many parents are not present. I’m not suggesting we need to be present all the time, that’s not realistic or developmentally necessary for children, but when we do talk to our kids, or answer their questions, or read them a story, or nurse them – too often we are distracted (often with technology) and it impacts our ability to attune to our kids. 

Children can thrive without many things in life, but not without a present parent. 

Accept your humanity. You aren’t perfect and you can strive to grow; it’s not an either/or situation but a both/and. 

The paradox is that when we accept our own humanity and lived experiences, it becomes easier to accept our children’s reality and accompanying emotions. 

This doesn’t mean you have to like your newborn’s cries or child’s anger. It simply means that your child’s emotions are varied and will come and go, and that instead of creating judgements around which ones are acceptable to you, you are able to accept they have a different reality than you. 

When we practice this daily, deep acceptance for how we feel (remember, acceptance is different than liking something) or what our children feel we can: 

  • Become less triggered and have more capacity to be curious about what is driving our children’s behaviour (are they hangry, tired, scared, disappointed, are they off their rocker because their brain is developmentally immature and needs help?)
  • Differentiate our reality from their reality (our child may be upset but we have greater ability to not be sucked into their vortex of chaos). For example, say something to ourselves such as, “My child is disappointed and having a hard time, but their reality is different than mine. I am not experiencing their disappointment.”

  • Reframe a hard situation – hearing crying or fighting can be highly distressing and exhausting but it won’t last forever.

When you learn to accept your humanity – which can be a long process of healing depending on your upbringing – you develop greater capacity to accept your children’s humanity and hopefully see your children for who they are, soothe them when they are in distress and help them feel safe.

If that sounds foreign or hard, perhaps spend time exploring your internal world with a trusted  loved one, a crew of mom friends, or a mental health professional.

 

What to do when you are struggling

I hope it’s clear that “motherhood nature” isn’t a fixed state or trait. Our motherhood nature can change and grow. 

I want to reiterate, work on letting go of perfection. There is a tension that all parents need to balance in striving to grow and become the best parents they can, while acknowledging their shortcomings. We all have shortcomings. You are a human not a robot, that is what makes you interesting. 

You have an attachment history that has deeply impacted you the person you are today; most parents are doing the best they can with the tools they have. 

Though we all struggle as parents, it’s so much worse to do it alone. We are wired to be in relationships with others and we need friends and seasoned mothers come alongside us for encouragement, guidance, and relief. 

If you are struggling, connect with social media accounts like Diary of an Honest Mom, The Good Mutha, Raising Yourself, or Lindsey Gurk to normalize your experience and hopefully feel a little less alone. 

If you are struggling, you are being a good mom by getting help; you are not weak. There are many resources available on the Canadian Mental Health Association.

If you are struggling as a parent from traumatic events you had as a child, check out Complex Trauma Resources to begin the process of healing. . 

Part of healing means making connections with a village of mom friends who have got your back, and who may be struggling with the same parenting challenges and life experiences that you are. If you are going to be a new mom and you don’t have a village of support around you, make sure you apply for care here

Put it into perspective: you are raising humans

Every difficult stage of parenting can feel like it takes forever. The first step to shifting your perspective is to think not about the difficulty of your present moment, but to consider the bigger picture.

Imagine yourself 5 years from now by asking yourself these question:

  • How old will your child(ren) be? 
  • How old will you be? 
  • What stage of life will you be in? 
  • Who will be in your life?
  • Who may not be in your life?
  • How would you like to have grown as a person?

One of the best pieces of advice my parents gave me was, “this too shall pass.” The stages of our children won’t last forever. The sleepless nights will one day be over. The behaviour of siblings chucking toys at each other will not endure. 

Being a mother is one of the hardest things you will ever do. It will change you – and it should. The experiences change you forever, in so many deep and meaningful ways. I believe if you allow it to transform you, it changes you for the better. 

Your motherhood nature will change as you change. 

Embrace the complexities and nuance, learn and strive to grow while honouring your humanity. And above all,  find other mothers who will walk-alongside you to be a source of strength and support. You were never meant to do it alone. 

Help us to support more mothers! Donate now to ensure that every new mom has a village of support around her when she has a new baby to care for. 

Written by Renae Regehr

Renae Regehr is a mom to 4 kiddos, co-founder of Care For Women and a Registered Clinical Counsellor who works primarily with children, youth and families who have been impacted by trauma and attachment disruptions.

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