Gabrianne slid into the last seat at our restaurant table. She was twenty minutes late. Rather than apologize, she pumped her fist as she sat down. “I made it!”

The rest of us laughed, and once Gabe was in her seat, she proposed a toast. “To friendship!” we said. The glasses clinked. Gabe then added, “And to nights without our kids, even though we love them!” Five of the seven of us around that table had babies in the last year, and the glasses clinked again.

As a new mom of a nine-month old, I have learned to cherish these nights with my girlfriends. The things that used to glue our friendships together—coffee dates, movie nights, sharing meals at each other’s houses, talking late into the evening—these things are now decidedly not the norm. With babies who go to bed at 7 p.m. and nursing moms who have a three-hour time window to be away from their children, we’ve had get creative about cultivating our friendship in this season.

Here are a few things that we’ve learned:

Practice Intentionality

It becomes much too easy as a new mom to stay at home all day and control the environment around us and our child. The hours can pass by in a tornado of naps, feedings and playtimes, and the phone call that you meant to make or that visit you meant to take to a friend’s home never happened. To build friendships with other women now requires planning. For example, I have a recurring play date with my friend and her daughter every other week on Wednesday mornings. Whether it’s a phone chat during naptime or a walk together with strollers, schedule time with a friend regularly and mark it in the calendar—in pen.

Be Flexible

While intentionality is important, flexibility is a baseline necessity for a mom. Because while we plan play dates and coffee dates, our lives simply aren’t our own anymore. When my daughter gets sick or when I’m feeling exhausted, the flexibility of my friends extends grace and reminds me that I don’t have to have it all together. We reschedule, or play it by ear, or scrap the play date for a phone conversation. By choosing to say no to frustration when our plans don’t work out, we have created a community of grace that helps foster open and honest friendships.

Ask For Help + Offer Help

The truth is, being a mom is hard. It is beautiful and fun and exciting, but it’s also unbelievably difficult at times. None of us has this act of mothering figured out or tied up nicely with a bow, so we have decided to be honest with one another about the struggles we are dealing with. My friends and I often text about sleep schedules and feeding issues, or ask for advice when our kids are sick or crabby. One time, one of the moms had to take her child to the E.R. and the rest of us brought her meals for several days. We aren’t trying to hide the fact that mothering is hard. We’re asking for help and trying to offer that help to one another whenever we can.

Get Time Together Without The Kids

Although it can be a challenge, getting together every once in a while—sans kids—is a great gift to one another in this season of motherhood. Ask your husband or hire a sitter, put on some heels, and head out the door. While it may only be for an hour or two, that uninterrupted time together can help refresh your friendship; without distractions you can be fully present with one another. When my girlfriends and I have a chance to connect over a meal, we clink our glasses, we make toasts, we laugh and sometimes we cry. And we remember to see each other—and ourselves—as women who are moms but who are also many other things. In a season that can feel very narrow, those hours can re-energize our personal identities and also our shared identity as friends.

Celebrate & Encourage One Another

Find ways to celebrate and encourage each other as often as you can. No need to wait for a birthday or a holiday—celebrate the milestones that only moms care about. A friend’s daughter started sleeping through the night? Celebrate! The newest mom in your circle made it through the first week of motherhood? Write her a card! Your best friend and her husband went out on their first date night since having their baby? Encourage them! In a season of life that is often focused on lives other than our own, it is immensely important to speak words of encouragement and affirmation to one another. Tell your girlfriend that she is a great mom. Look at one another with sleepy eyes and tell each other that this, too, shall pass. Celebrate the victories of motherhood with one another and become each other’s biggest cheerleaders.

What are your suggestions for forming friendship as a mom? Have you found it easy or difficult?

Image via Cariann Bradley

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