You might think you have all the BFFs you need, but motherhood brings the opportunity to make a friend you’ll treasure forever.
Having a baby drops you into a new world full of exciting experiences, from hearing the soft whirl of your child’s heartbeat in your belly, to the very first time he babbles what might just sound like ‘mama’.
And sharing this joyful journey of discovery are lots of other mums – all sorts of women you might never have come into contact with in your pre-baby life. Motherhood brings so many new people into your life that you’re likely to find the best friend you’ve always wanted among them.
‘You’ll discover a group of women you’ll share an experience that, although extremely common, is also very profound,’ says relationship psychologist Susan Quilliam.
‘Motherhood is one of the biggest periods of change and adjustment you might go through in your life, so you will inevitably bond with new people in the same situation.’
Becoming a mum is an experience that undoubtedly moulds you into a new version of yourself. And as that happens, it’s natural that you might look for a new friend to match the new you.
‘You may feel that those people already around you begin to see you in a new way,’ adds Susan. ‘Motherhood is a chosen, but at the same time imposed, reinvention of yourself. It’s normal that you might need reassurance and validation as you change.
‘You’re rapidly learning new skills, so you’ll want people who you can chat with about these skills, and share experiences. When you find yourself on a whole new learning curve, it really helps when someone simply says, “You’re doing great,” and a new peer group will do this for you.’
As your life becomes focused on your baby, long-standing friends may take a back seat, leaving space in your life for some new relationships.
But during pregnancy and the early stage of motherhood, you’re likely to make friends very differently to how you normally form friendships in adulthood, when more often than not these connections cement over a lengthy period of time – the colleague you’ve been having desk chats with for years, or the friend-of-a-friend you’ve met on multiple nights out.
Instead, you’re more likely to form friendships as you did in your school days, when best buddies were made and lost in the space of a day. Just as it was in your younger days, you’ll find it’s hugely important to align yourself with people during this transition into motherhood.
‘It may feel strange to suddenly find one, two or maybe even more people who you really like. And to discover that you’re really keen they like you too,’ says Susan.
‘But it isn’t all that odd. Think back to the times in your life when you have felt a similar need to find allies, be accepted and have help through a nervous, exciting time: it was probably when you joined a new school or university, or started a new job. It would have been a time when you were thrown into the unknown, and your sense of self became a tad wobbly.
‘Being pregnant or becoming a new mum can be a little like that. You’re possibly leaving behind a job, or feeling that some of your old friends can’t quite understand you right now.
‘So, you may find yourself becoming very good friends with people in a short space of time, because mentally you need new bonds to assist your transition.’
Of course, it helps that you will regularly find yourself at antenatal classes or baby groups with lots of people in just the same situation as you, with similar needs.
You all have the perfect topic for that first, ice-breaking conversation too. And while you still have a demanding boss – just one who wears a nappy – there’s more time in your life for encounters that can lead to a meeting of minds.
‘Modern life means many of us are too busy to stop for even a moment, but once you are working to a baby’s timetable and not yours, that can change,’ says Susan. You might find yourself pulled into conversations in cafés and parks, and be freer to chat. And sometimes the right words from the right stranger can form the foundation of a lasting friendship.
‘You might be grumpy after a long night with your baby, but a kind word from a stranger while you’re pushing a swing can help you smile again,’ says Susan.
‘It’s often these situations, coupled with new emotions, that make us more appreciative of kind words or an unexpected giggle, and this allows new bonds to tentatively grow.’
There’s a natural filter when it comes to friendships, so don’t worry if it takes a while for you to find someone you really click with.
‘If you are easily overwhelmed by lots of new people, then meeting for a quick coffee is as beneficial as spending hours together on days out,’ says Susan. ‘But if you do find someone you really like, make an effort to keep that friendship up.’
And don’t let your emotions stand in the way of making these new connections.
New mums encounter a whirlwind of different feelings, so it’s natural that you might shy away from company when you feel grouchy, but embrace social activities on other days.
But it’s these ups and downs that may be the very key to why new mums make bonds that last.
Motherhood reveals many sides of you, so a potential friend gets to see a lot of your personality traits in a short space of time, and that can form the basis of a long-term friendship. Seeing the bad – when you’re on the snappy side after a tricky morning – as well as the good, is all part of the glue that helps bind you to others.
‘Research suggests self-revelation is a short cut to a lasting relationship,’ says Susan.
‘When you reveal more about yourself, other people are more likely to value what you have to offer. Studies have discovered that, when strangers spend an hour together answering questions designed to reveal lots about themselves, many feel an unusually close bond after just 45 minutes.’
So, don’t be shy about sharing your new-mum feelings with people you’ve only met a few times. Laugh, cry and even vent with the other mums you meet.
Not everyone will love you for it, but there’s a good chance that the person who does will turn out to be a friend for life. Who knows when it will happen, but she’s out there waiting to be treasured, like a shiny penny – OK, maybe a tired and not-quite-so-shiny penny!