By Sandra Orellana
Becoming a mom is an amazing journey, but one thing you don’t realize before entering motherhood is how hard it can be to make mom friends. If you browse the mom Facebook groups, this topic is brought up repeatedly: How can I make mom friends?
In addition to having genuine connections with other women and mothers, parenting style also comes into play. On top of that, you add in all of the activities your kids start to get involved with, and that layers in more complexity – the reality is making true friendships as you get older gets harder. And we should be particular about who we surround ourselves with and give our time and energy to.
If we flip the script, it will sound more like, “Who do I want to spend my very little free time with, and why?”
So, how can we think about making friends and putting ourselves out there without sacrificing who we are or trying to fit into a group or community that doesn’t align with our values? We interviewed Sandra Orellana, Founder and COO of The RAway. Sandra is a transformational coach for individuals and teams, author, public speaker, and entrepreneur based in Miami, and she focuses on authenticity, self-acceptance, healing trauma, transforming destructive thought/behavioral patterns, team building, and self-fulfillment.
Let’s dive in and unpack aspects of forging mom-friends.
Why do so many moms find it challenging to make mom friends, and are there any underlying factors contributing to this challenge?
I don’t know about you, but as a kid, I had a hard time making friends with girls. I was an introspective kid, mostly interested in adult activities and conversations, who found herself roaming around school, observing the world instead of playing in it. When I started feeling the need to make friends, I didn’t really know how to, so I figured if I acted like the girls in those groups I wanted to be a part of, I would fit right in. I painfully learned that one couldn’t connect with others by pretending to be like them.
Authenticity is a must for genuine connections to flourish.
Early on, I learned this valuable lesson: True friendships happen naturally; they cannot be forced. Just because we are sharing a space with classmates or colleagues, it doesn’t mean we are destined to be friends. The same goes for motherhood: just because our kids go to the same school or are on the same sports team, it doesn’t mean we will share enough interests or curiosity about one another to develop a nurturing friendship.
And that is okay.
How can moms overcome feelings of isolation and find a sense of belonging within a community of fellow moms? AND What strategies or techniques can moms employ to enhance their social skills and connect more easily with other mothers? It can be scary to put yourself out there.
And boy, do we need girlfriends who nurture us! Because the journey of motherhood can feel very isolating at times, so, can the journey of an entrepreneur. And imagine when you are both! As women, we are amazing in setting our self-expectations very high.
And we not only navigate under the constant pressure of “getting the job right” but also experience the guilt of believing we aren’t, even when we are. Having safe outlets where we get to check and recalibrate our expectations and vent our feelings of stress, exhaustion, fear, or frustration is crucial in this journey.
And, of course, there is no one better equipped to understand and support us than a fellow rockstar mom that fully understands and relates to our pains. The way to connect is through bravery, honesty, and vulnerability. I find it nearly impossible to connect with someone who hides her struggles, pretends everything is perfect, or shames me for feeling overwhelmed with my everyday pressures.
I feel a sense of relief and comfort when I can hold space for another mom expressing how powerless she feels because her child is acting out. Or be able to share my concerns regarding the time I spend with my children vs at work.
A couple of years ago, out of this genuine need for community, I began creating forums for women called FLOURISH (floreSER), with the intention of creating safe spaces where we can fully express all we are going through with all of our responsibilities and celebrate and support each other throughout this wonderful journey.
The requirement for these forums to work, however, is that:
1) We hold one another in great reverence, knowing that we all belong here and are equally important,
2) We listen to one another with absolute curiosity vs. judgment because we are mirrors for growth and expansion, and
3) We NEVER give each other advice or tell each other what to do. Yup! Unsolicited advice is a huge obstacle to safe conversations.
Sharing our experiences, on the other hand, and trusting the other’s capacity to make the best decisions is the most empowering practice to abide by, in my opinion.
I’ve learned that these spaces are fertile grounds for women to grow, learn, shed, transform, and feel supported and empowered to find their authentic voice, raise their children more consciously, bring beautiful ideas and businesses to life, and enjoy this life’s journey to the max. I try my best to apply these communication protocols inside these spaces and in all my interactions with other women.
Are there any specific barriers or limiting beliefs that moms might be holding onto hindering their ability to form meaningful friendships with other moms?
After a rough start to making friends as a kid and teenager, I learned to truly value the gift that is a girlfriend nowadays.
I saw how my personal beliefs around other women hindered my ability to see them for who they truly are: amazing women, just trying their best. Comparing myself to other women had become like a sport in my young adult years. Eventually, I realized that what makes each of us unique, our life’s stories, struggles, and triumphs, are what makes us connect. And that in being myself and showing up genuinely, an actual act of bravery, I found a way to connect and benefit from finding amazing sisters to do life with.
How could I be brave? By surrendering the need to impress them, win, be right, stand out, or be memorable. By staying curious and kind when meeting other women and offering my vulnerable and honest feelings, experiences, and viewpoints without an agenda. By just being me, with no control over the outcome. This is the birthplace of nurturing, real, and transcendental female friendships, which can begin at a parents’ school meeting, in the waiting room of the pediatrician’s office, or in the line of your local coffee shop – wherever you go.
What new mindsets or behaviors can moms practice to proactively seek out and engage with potential friends or support groups in their local communities?
The key for me has been to understand that which I can so quickly judge from another woman is a revelation of something I am being invited to work on in myself. And that which I so greatly admire in others is a reflection of my potential. In other words, meeting other women is an invitation to deeper self-discovery and awareness. What a gift, right?
So, regardless of our culture, age, number of children, parenting styles, or values, when two women meet and are genuinely curious and open to learning from one another, real conversations begin, and life-long friendships are born.