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Making New Mom Friends: The Struggle Is Real

I’ve got a confession to make. Every Monday morning, without fail, I shower and do my makeup solely to present myself as worthy to a group of other mommies.

You see, my daughter attends a mommy and me gymnastics class, and I routinely find myself feeling a bit out of place among those other mommies — many of whom seem to be far more put together than I am, and some of whom seem to be all too aware of that superiority.

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Typically, you can find me in yoga pants with my hair piled on top of my head and not a lick of makeup to be seen. I am a work-from-home single mommy to a toddler; scrubbed out and comfy is kind of my uniform.

But around those other mommies, I feel this strong desire to fit in. To be deemed worthy. To make friends.

This is admittedly probably more about me than them. I’ve never done great around strangers. I’m a true introvert at heart and a bit socially awkward to boot. I tend to cave in to anxiety around people I don’t know, blurting out totally inappropriate things in a failed attempt to be funny, or remaining off in the wings as I strive to simply be unseen. Really, it’s a wonder I have any friends at all.

Overcoming those barriers to make new friends only seems to get harder as we all grow older.

But I do. I have amazing friends who are like family to my daughter and me. In fact, this is one area I have somehow always excelled at — making friends with truly genuine and good people who enrich my life and who seem to think that I enrich theirs as well.

I am a lucky girl when it comes to the friendships I have been able to surround myself with over the years.

But still, I am awkward around strangers. And overcoming those barriers to make new friends only seems to get harder as we all grow older. There seems to be an unspoken rule at that gymnastics class; one that indicates no one is really interested in making new friends. Their lives are busy. They have friends of their own. And they don’t have time for new people.

Their circles are full.

Maybe this is a phenomenon I don’t fully understand, but … it continues to catch me off guard, making me feel even more socially awkward in the process as I smile and try to remain friendly, only to be met by blank stares in return.

Still, there is one mommy in this class who has been warm and friendly from the start, remembering my daughter’s name after the very first day and always going out of her way to encourage her daughter to play with us. I actually told one of my best friends recently that this woman was the saving grace of the gymnastics class for me — having another mommy there to talk to was nice. More than once, she has singlehandedly made me feel like I’m not a total outsider.

She probably doesn’t even realize how much her warmth has meant to me.

Then again, I have a feeling she might feel the same way about me.

After our last class, this other mommy (whose name I didn’t even know, because we have always been so invested in learning the names of the other children in the class that we never bothered to make the mommy introductions) walked up to me somewhat nervously and invited my daughter and I to her daughter’s birthday party, which is coming up in a few weeks.

“I mean, only if want to come…” She said. “I totally understand if you have other plans. It’s not a big deal, really.”

I beamed like she had just asked me out on a first date and responded emphatically that we would be there. Because it was nice to be asked. It was nice to feel like someone was making an overture toward becoming friends!

It was so silly, but I had forgotten how exciting it could be to make a new connection.

We exchanged numbers, and names, both of us smiling from ear to ear in this dorky way that was reminiscent of making that first friend in junior high. And as soon as I got to my car, I called one of my nearest and dearest and blurted out, “I made a new friend today!”

It was so silly, but I had forgotten how exciting it could be to make a new connection. There was a time in each of our lives when new friendships were probably forged with frequency. But as we get older and add other responsibilities to our routines, we tend to hone in on our circles and it becomes so much harder to make those connections with other people.

The truth is, I don’t need new friends. I have amazing friends and am lucky to be in a position where we are able to spend a good deal of time with those who have become Aunties and Uncles to my daughter. We are all in similar life stages and our children all love playing together. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t still exciting to find the possibility of another person you might actually want to add to your circle of friends.

It doesn’t mean that a warm smile from a stranger can’t totally make your day.

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Making new friends after 30 is hard, but I don’t think that means we should stop trying. Even being an introvert, I know there is always room for more quality people in my life — of course, I also know that sometimes it is about me pushing past my own social awkwardness and opening myself up to meeting new people as well. About being willing to look up and see who else might be searching for a bit of eye contact.

Am I the only one who seems to struggle more with that as I get older?

Or are we all wandering around, feeling a bit out of place and wondering when it became so hard to make new friends?

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