Four years ago, in an effort to provide stimulating and educational experiences for my infant son, I signed us up for a baby music class. While we still play the music from that class, the real value came from the friendships we developed with another mom and her baby. Four years later, that mom and I regularly laugh, vent, and advise each other. But most importantly, I feel that she can relate to where I am in my life right now.
In the last several years, there has been a great deal of research that supports the fact that women not only want close relationships with other women; they actually need them. Women with strong friendships report increased satisfaction in many areas of their lives. Studies show that women with close female friendships are significantly more physically healthy, and in research on cancer, women with close female friends survived twice as often as those without close friends.
Unfortunately, today’s society as a whole fails to put a premium on friendships and connectedness. People are more likely to work long hours and to move farther away from high school or college friends. As a result, a common lament among women is a feeling of isolation and lack of close, intimate connections with other women.
This becomes especially true as women transition into motherhood. Gone are the nights of meeting friends after work, or a Saturday morning coffee date. As the identity of motherhood emerges, new and often unexpected thoughts and feelings come up. Lack of sleep, anxiety, fears, excitement, feeling like you’re on a rollercoaster - all of these things (and many more) can feel wonderful to share with other like-minded women. Hearing someone else put words to the thoughts in your head can feel unbelievably validating. Likewise, the ability to vent feelings to a nurturing audience is another major benefit of close female friendships.
Unfortunately, new moms often find themselves at a loss for how to go about connecting. Daily activities at home and caring for a new baby can feel consuming. Sometimes, just leaving the house can create the opportunity to engage with other women. No matter where you go - the grocery store, the park, a coffee shop, a walk around the neighborhood - the odds of meeting someone dramatically increase the moment you walk out your front door. Other great places to start new friendships include infant music classes, library story times geared for babies, playgrounds, and indoor play-cafes.
For many women, a structured group for new moms can be extremely beneficial. Moms who attend these groups report that the women they met in these groups are still some of their closest friends 10 years later. Unlike informal gatherings, a support group for new mothers provides an opportunity to see the same women several weeks in a row. These groups are facilitated by trained professionals who help direct conversation to themes common to most new mothers.
Regardless of whether you choose a structured or unstructured way to connect with other women, it is clear that female friendships are much more than a luxury at every stage of life. These friendships sustain us, strengthen us, and promote emotional and physical well-being.
Kim Katz Vargas, Licensed Clinical Social Worker, is a psychotherapist at the Resiliency Center. She works with individuals and couples, as well as co-facilitating the New Moms Group, a local support group for mothers of pre-crawling babies. Please contact Kim at firstname.lastname@example.org or 267-568-7846 for additional information about her counseling or group services, or to register for an upcoming group.