No matter how long I’ve been a mom, I still get intimidated by new mom circles. Just recently, my oldest started kindergarten and I agreed to attend a new family meetup. This was an opportunity for families to get to know one another before the school year started. It was at a park, there would be popsicles; the most relaxed, least intimidating way to approach new mom friendships and yet, I was paralyzed by social anxiety and fear. I had to give myself a pep talk the entire drive to the park:

Bailey, everyone is looking to connect just like you.

Be brave and insert yourself in the conversation, don’t hang on the sidelines like you normally do.

They are going to like you.

I will admit the pep talk helped a little but it didn’t make the experience any smoother. There were still awkward silences in the conversation, paused moments to calm my daughter while brushing sand off her popsicle and enduring the overall discomfort of being around new people.

Some of you may love meeting new potential mom friends—more women who can laugh at those funny parenting memes you share on Instagram. Others of you may be crippled by the idea of having to make small talk—I get it, how many times can we continue to ask “how old is your baby? And have you found a nice preschool?”

So, do we really need mom circles?

Despite how scary making and being a mom friend may feel, we still need one another. There is nothing quite as powerful as the connection between two moms. No one will quite understand you better than the woman who is wrestling her child into their car seat with one arm, while football holding her baby under the other. Motherhood is hard enough without adding isolation or loneliness to that journey. So how can we step up and be more considerate mom friends; easing the insecurities many of us have approaching new friendships?

I propose to you three guidelines for better momlationships–where we ditch the competition and shallow conversation and embrace the messy middle of real friendships.

These are recommendations to better support and encourage your mom friends as they go through the toughest ‘hood—motherhood.

See a need and meet it

You are with another mom and you see she needs help getting her kid in shoes and out the door. Instead of uncomfortably shifting your weight from one leg to the other while you stare at her struggling, lean down and help the kiddo snake his wiggly foot into his tennis shoe. A great friend doesn’t need to be asked, she sees the need and she acts. Maybe it’s bringing over a meal, carving out some adult only conversation, or offering to grab the diaper bag from the car, solid momlationships are built on a foundation of serving one another. 

these are some of my momlationships–the best

Make room in the minivan

We’ve already mentioned the mom circle scaries so don’t make a new mom jump through hoops of flaming diapers to be included in your circle. Just remember all the times you felt nervous about inserting yourself into a group of women who look like they run a kid-sized empire and be the one who decides to reach out. Including one another is a momlationship must!

Offer ideas not absolutes

 If I am completely honest …I like to think I know everything there is to know about mommying. But, I don’t. And neither does your friend. Being a mom is filled with all sorts of new things like: failed experiments in discipline, sleep training and family rhythms. Your mom friends need an advocate, not a judge. Offer resources, support and encouragement. Safe friends create the space for us to share our struggles, worries and disappointments. Remind her you are there for her in whatever new thing she tries.

In a world telling moms they can do more, great momlationships remind each other they are more than enough.

Though making new friends can be intimidating, I have never once regretted putting myself in a potentially uncomfortable situation if it creates an opportunity to find my people. The benefit always outweighs the cost. The mom friends I have made over the years have been some of my greatest allies. In practice, I’ve seen these guidelines for momlationships breathe life back into my mom circles. Instead of competition amongst ourselves, we become a team and battle all the other things that make being a mom so challenging.

Let no mom go unseen; let no mom be left out; and let no mom be held back by her fears about making new friends.