Remember starting a new school, when looking around for a seat in the cafeteria filled you with dread? Well, becoming a mom is kind of the same, except that you've got a baby sidekick—and a whole lot of emotion, thanks to sleep deprivation and more out-of-whack hormones than a teenager. But the good news is the playground isn't high school. So even if it takes some time, you will find your peeps eventually. Here's what we wish we'd known about making mom friends.
A mom's group will be the worst and best thing to happen to you
Its incredible to wear anything other than pajamas and talk to grown-ups when you first join a mom's group, but it can be harrowing, too. On the one hand, you'll connect with women who are going through exactly what you are. On the other, they may not be. If you're having trouble breastfeeding or have a baby who's not sleeping through the night, it can be hard to hear about a champion nurser or power sleeper. But stick it out—no one really has a perfect baby, even if they say they do.
You really only need one
It can be hard to make new friends if you're a little out of practice or weren't particularly outgoing to begin with. But remember that you don't need to make a million new friends at once: even a single mom friend with a baby the same age as yours is a lifeline when you’re freaking out over that rash or think you might lose your mind from exhaustion. Try to make one friend and the rest will fall into place. Oh, and yes, you and your friend can be the moms at the park who invite the lone new mama over to hang out. Be those moms.
You might never finish a conversation
Remember the days of long-form catching up? They might be gone, at least for the time being. Your stories might be interrupted by spit-up (now) and fleeing little people (later) for the next few years. Don’t worry if you have to wander off mid-conversation to figure out what your baby just put in his mouth. It's the new normal. Just schedule a baby-free girls' night every once in a while for distraction-free dishing.
It will feel like dating
Does she like me? Is it weird to ask for her number? Does she want to take things to the home play date level? You may no longer be dating, but you’ll remember how hard it can be to put yourself out there from your single days. And like dating, it doesn't always work out. So move on -- there are many more moms to chat up.
You might feel judged…
There are fewer things more fraught with emotion than parenthood and that’s especially true when you’re brand-new at it. Enthusiasm for, say, attachment parenting or exclusive breastfeeding can come off as disapproval if you’re doing things differently. Try not to take it too personally—you can still make small talk at the park even if you're not 100-percent on the same page.
…and you’ll judge too
Until you settle into your skin as a mom, you might not be able to hear about someone else’s drug-free birth or their strict nap schedule without getting a little uppity yourself. Keep in mind that you'll be facing some version of these conflicting parenting philosophies for years. Today it's breast vs. bottle, but before you know it will be parents who let their kids play video games vs. those who don't.
Your friendships might change
Pre-kids friendships can take a hit as you both have kids, especially if you're on different timelines. If you're still in the baby zone and your friend is ferrying kids to three different afterschool activities, it can be easy to grow apart. But the intensity of the baby years will be over before you know it and it will be easier to coordinate your schedules. In the meantime, plan some kid-free time together—or even catch up over the phone with a glass of wine after everyone is asleep.
It can get to be all about the kids
“How old is your baby?” is a question you'll answer with startling regularity. And when the common bond you share with a friend is your kids' ages, it’s easy to just talk shop. It will take some effort, but try to see what else you might have in common, even if it's been a while since you've seen a movie or read a non-parenting book.
Mean moms are out there
We wish they weren't, but means girls exist, just like in high school. And just like back then, they're almost always fueled by insecurity. But the good news is, you're a grown-up now and you aren't required to sit in math class with them. So if you come across a mean mom, just walk away and find someone else to talk to.
You can make your own fun
Even if you're not up against actual mean moms, you might still get left out of the girls' night or group playdate. Maybe the moms were already friends or have older kids the same age. Don't take it personally and organize your own get-together with a bunch of moms you may not even know that well. There's security in numbers and trust us, other newbie moms will be thrilled to get an invite.
It takes time to find the right ones
The moms' group friends you make right off the bat might not end up being your inner circle. After all, besties wouldn’t be so awesome if they were a dime a dozen. As your baby gets older, you'll constantly be meeting new moms—at baby class or daycare or preschool—and eventually you'll find friends you really click with.
Your kids might not get along
That mom friend you met in baby group might turn out to be your rock of support. But that doesn't mean your kids will get along as they get older and form their own opinions. Don't sweat it if your kids aren't best buds—that's what coffee after drop-off is for.
It gets so much easier
Trying to make friends when you're still figuring out how to breastfeed or you're chasing down a toddler who's about to hurl himself off the slide can be hard. But as your kid gets older, regular activities, school and kid friendships throw moms together with zero effort. Before you know it, you'll be relaxing on the playground while your kids play tag just like the other moms.
They'll become more than mom friends
At first you'll differentiate between the "mom friends" you know from baby group and your "real" friends that you've known forever. But as your kids get older and you spend more time together, you'll realize that you have so much more in common than just your kids. That's when your "mom friends" become your close friends, and you'll wonder how you ever survived without them in your life.
A version of this story originally appeared on iVillage.