Once my son was about 2-3 months old, I decided it was time to make a new friend in the neighborhood – someone who also had a new baby – so I’d have someone to chat with, have coffee with, and generally spend time with during my days at home on maternity leave. I’ve never been one to be shy, so I thought this shouldn’t be hard, I just have to initiate conversation with one of the other new moms at my Gymboree class. (Yes, I started Gymboree when my little guy was 7 weeks old – and I highly recommend starting early – that’s a topic for another day).
Anyway, here I am at Gymboree, with my mind set on making a new friend. With 6-7 other new moms to choose from, all presumably neighborhood locals, and all with babies close in age to mine, this should be a piece of cake. I would participate in the 45 minute “class” and then when it was over, and we were all changing diapers and giving our babies their next bottle or session on the boob, I’d strike up some conversation in my usual friendly way, and we’d be on our way to Starbucks in no time!
Well… I did end up at Starbucks, but – alas – it was just me and my little guy. Don’t get me wrong. I tried. “It’s Melissa, right? I’m Stacy. Your little guy is so cute. Look at all that hair! How old is he? Oh cool – mine too! Where did you deliver? Did you like it there? Oh yeah? An emergency c-section? Wow. Well hopefully we’ll see you guys next week!”
What was my problem? Why didn’t I ask her if she wanted to grab a cup of coffee? Why didn’t she ask me? I know she’s desperate for adult conversation just as badly as I am. So what gives?
Well… just because two women live in the same neighborhood and have babies who are about the same age, doesn’t mean those two women have anything in common. Once you’re done with the initial chat about your respective babies, where does the conversation go from there? We know nothing about each other, have no reason to think we’ll like each other, and neither of us is feeling particularly confident in our skin to begin with since we’re both dealing with new mom hormones, lingering pregnancy weight, and a handful of other issues for another blog post.
So, what’s a new mom to do?
After a few weeks of false starts on this end, I tried a new tack. It was a summer afternoon out on Hudson River Park, and I decided to bring my little guy out to the “Babies 0-6 Months” playgroup, which was just a loose gathering of moms on a shaded patch of grass outside on the river. There were about 6 mom/baby sets out there, all with our picnic blankets and Sophie giraffes, and the conversation was generally relating to births, breastfeeding, and babysitter interviewing. All of these topics were relevant to my life, but I was so bored with them. Not the women, but the topics. That day, I decided it was time to break through. So I went for it.
“Hey Ellen. I’m Stacy. I think we met out here once before, right? Your little one is Daisy, right? So tell me, aside from being a mom, what do you do? Or if you’ve decided to ‘stay-at-home’, can I ask what kind of work you did before becoming a mom?”
There, I did it. Did I risk coming across as rude? Perhaps. Did I risk her – and possibly the other moms around us – thinking I was too assertive? Perhaps. But I couldn’t take it anymore. I had to ask.
“I’m an attorney. I work in-house at a bank. How about you?”
Exhale. Relief. A hot one. I found another lawyer. This chick and I speak the same language. I’m golden.
However, let me say – it wouldn’t have mattered if she had said she was a buyer for Bloomingdale’s, or a television producer, or a wine expert – anything she said was going to be something that gives me real information about this person. A starting point for a real getting-to-know-you conversation.
“Oh wow, I’m an attorney too.”
And from there we went. A full 30-minute conversation about the type of law we practiced, whether we felt we wanted to go back to our work situations now that we had babies, the respective paths that led us to our then current positions, the realities and demands of a busy law practice, and on and on. I had done it. I had broken through.
The conversation with Ellen came so easily. She remains one of my best new mom friends to this day, three years later. And of course, our conversations have moved past babies and the legal profession.
Ellen was my first breakthrough, and since then, there have been many more. I urge you to do it. Go out on that limb. Be the first one. The rewards you will reap from introducing new genuine relationships to your life with people who are navigating the same new mom waters as you are invaluable. And the bonus? Your baby makes a friend too.