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It’s Personal

Mom Friends in the Time of Coronavirus

Why friendships with other parents are more important than ever--and how to form those bonds, even now.

Interview By
Marnie Schwartz
Whether you are a first-time mom in the newborn stage, or a seasoned pro, finding your circle of fellow moms to text in the middle of the night, vent to, and laugh and cry with is critical to maintaining your own happiness… and your sanity. With in-person meetups canceled for the foreseeable future, how can you forge those connections (or strengthen the ones you’ve already got)? We chatted with Rachel Bertsche, mom of two and author of The Kids are In Bed: Finding Time for Yourself in the Chaos of Parenting and MWF Seeking BFF: My Yearlong Search for a New Best Friend about why it’s more important than ever to prioritize your friendships, and how to form your own mama circle (yes, even in quarantine!).

Why are mom friends so important, especially right now?

Friendship is so important, whether or not you are a parent. It’s super important for your mental and physical health. We might think of it as a “nice to have,” but really science points to the fact that friendship is a “need to have.” With parenting now, we’re all spending a ton of time with our kids, but adult interaction--whatever it may look like--is really key to staying sane and knowing that you’re not alone. There’s so much comfort when you see someone else’s kid doing what you’re kid does and a feeling of “we’re all going through this together.” Research does show that especially for moms, a big part of their happiness comes from the support of friends, not just romantic partners or co-parents.

Even though we’re home, between homeschooling and working many of us are busier than ever before. How can we prioritize these friendships at this moment and make time for them?

It’s a little bit of the oxygen mask thing--you give, give, give all the time, and the only way to have your cup full enough to give, is to fill it yourself. Also, studies show that what kids want isn’t necessarily more time with their parents, but less stressed parents. If you’re at the end of your rope all the time, that doesn’t benefit anyone. Even in “regular times” we wait until everything on our lists is done before making time for ourselves, and during stay-at-home, it’s magnified even more. But you have to just put it on the list and do it. Think about what will fill your cup. Give yourself a little something so you have something to give your kids. For example, tonight I have my book club meeting via zoom. It’s on the calendar just as if I were going out. I’ll go downstairs and close the door and it’s as if I’m not home. A lot of our connecting might be through a computer screen, but you can still carve out that time.

If you’re a first-time mom, how can you go about making some mom friends without the opportunity to go to in-person meetups right now?

Many of the places that coordinate real-life meetups are doing things virtually now. It’s not a perfect replacement, but it’s something. And I always advise asking for friend setups. If you want to meet people, ask your friends if anyone knows of new moms to connect with. One thing that’s nice, now, is that it doesn’t have to be someone who lives down the block. When you’re connecting virtually it’s just as easy to do it with someone who is across the country. Just put yourself out there a little bit. This is such a weird time, and moms in the throes of new motherhood will have a lot to connect over.

And if you do have a circle, but feel like the ties have faded… how can you use this time to strengthen your friendships?

People do seem to be reconnecting with old friends right now. Something about a crisis makes people reach out. It’s less awkward than ever to reach out and say “Hi, I miss you.” If you want to reconnect with people and some time has passed and you’re feeling nervous, it’s nice to do things around an activity, like a game night or a book club or cooking class. It lifts off some of the pressure. And there’s something nice about doing something and not talking about the pandemic. An activity can distract you for a little bit.