Making Mom Friends at a New Duty Station
A new military spouse has a huge disadvantage when meeting people and making friends. She moves with her husband to a new duty station with no family nearby. Everything is unfamiliar. Stay at home moms don’t have many opportunities for adult interaction, unless the husband invites over some guys from work. But they are all going to deploy with him.
So if you are a military wife staying home with a baby and looking for new friends, you are going to have to do some detective work. The good news is that the military community is extremely welcoming because, hey, we’re all the new kid whenever we move! Here are some unexpected places for making mom friends:
Living on Base
If you have kids during a deployment, consider living on base. The on-base community is convenient and supportive. Your neighbors will be a similar rank to your spouse, and likely have kids the same ages as yours. Military spouses are quick to help each other if you lock yourself out of the house or car, (which is bound to happen, because of the deployment curse), if you need someone to watch your child briefly, or just need a cup of sugar. There are also playgrounds and gyms in most base housing areas, so you can meet other moms there if you go during the day. Finding a playground buddy or workout partner can be the beginning of a wonderful friendship.
Stay at home moms want to meet other stay at home moms, so they can hang out together and drink coffee while their kids play. Sounds great, right? But where do you begin? You have to be a little outgoing. If you go to the park and another mom is there, start a conversation. Tell her you are new to the area. Being new makes you a celebrity in the military community! Most moms will tell you about all the child activities in the area, and groups they have joined. If you haven’t met other moms yet, start researching online. Every military base has tons of children, so search local Facebook groups for moms. There may be play dates and field trips scheduled. I have also used the website Meetup.com to find local play groups (civilian or military).
If your child is at least 2, they can explore toddler classes! You can go on base to a Mommy and Me program or Kindermusik (where available). Or you can go off-base to places like Gymboree, swim lessons, or baby ballet. In these types of classes, the moms stay with their babies and play alongside them. Your child will learn some new skills, and you can make some new friends! Usually you must pay a fee to participate, but always ask for a military discount.
If you are a runner, then you can make mom friends through workout groups like Stroller Strides or Stroller Warriors. Both are national organizations. Whether you are training for a marathon or just want someone to run with once a week, these ladies are super welcoming. They are a sure way to improve your fitness, too! Everyone runs at their own pace, and everyone understands the frustration of trying to jog with a toddler.
For my first few years as a mom, I avoided the library. My children weren’t old enough to read, and the thought of taking my loud, wild ones into a quiet public space was terrifying. I finally tried it with my 3-year-old and discovered what we were missing! Most libraries—on base or public—have a weekly story time program for little ones. The activities are different at each library, but generally include music, dancing, art, and reading books aloud. Many people bring babies that are 1 year old, just for the social interaction and a chance to get out of the house. So this is a wonderful place to meet other moms! Plus, look at these 10 things you can do at the library besides checking out books. If your town has a USO, they also offer story time activities, and usually give away free books to children who attend!
Even if you aren’t religious, there are many wonderful programs moms can attend. Most churches are family-friendly. Some programs, like MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) provide free childcare during meetings! If your church doesn’t have mom-friendly programs, consider starting your own. Many times I have coordinated a Book Club or Bible Study to meet at my house. That way, I could spend some quality time with adults while the baby was napping. Once, I organized a stroller prayer group. We would meet weekly with our strollers, then walk and pray for about a half hour, then finish at a park or someone’s house for the kids to play. You can find these potential mom friends by contacting your pastor, or by advertising in a church newsletter.
It takes time, but making new mom friends is worth it!
So how did things work out in North Carolina? Well, my first attempts to find friends were slow and awkward. At one point I considered advertising on Craig’s List (which I do NOT recommend). But after repeated attempts, I finally started to connect with other moms and make real friends! I went to local playgrounds and chatted with anyone I met. I joined Stroller Warriors for a weekly run. I found a very active play group on Meetup.com. During the deployment, I spent several mornings a week with these ladies and their children. We celebrated holidays together and made meals for each other whenever there was a new baby. We watched each other’s children for doctor’s appointments, or during field trips. They had husbands I could call when my car wouldn’t start. And one of them volunteered to come with me to the hospital when I had my deployment baby. These moms became my family for 2 deployments. I’m not sure how I would have survived without them. It’s because of these wonderful mom friends that I remember our North Carolina years so fondly, even though they were some of the most challenging years of my life.
If you are facing deployment with little ones, don’t do it alone! Reach out for new friends, and you will be amazed at the generosity that responds!