Why is it so hard to make friends as a mother?

"Mom bullies are the worst. You just need to find your tribe."
"Mom bullies are the worst. You just need to find your tribe."

Whether you know her from MTV’s 2006 reality show The Hills or from her YouTube vlog, Whitney Port is fast becoming the best friend none of us knew we needed. 

The former reality star is now a mother to the cutest toddler, 1-year-old Sonny, and together with her husband Tim Rosenman has been documenting her motherhood journey in a YouTube series called I Love My Baby, But...

She's covered everything from pregnancy difficulties to post-baby body struggles, but her latest video touches on a mom issue that's really gone under the radar: making friends. 

"There's this passive-aggressive bullying which is what's going on now. It's not that in-your-face calling me names or stealing my lunch money. It's, 'I'm just gonna do the least amount possible to get by without her feeling like I want nothing to do with her', but I can just see right through that. It's especially hard when you're a new mother and you really want to put yourself out there because this is the time to make lifelong relationships," Whitney explained. 

Also see: The mommy wars: let’s be nice

Are you struggling to make friends with other parents? Tell us your story, and we could publish your letter. Anonymous contributions are welcome.

In the nearly 8-minute video, Whitney tearfully talks about a moms-only event where she was hoping to form a few friendships but left "feeling a little bit insecure". 

One mom in particular really hurt her feelings, Whitney said. "After we had this awkward encounter, she kept on avoiding eye contact with me and I was [thinking] 'It would just be so much easier to just look at me and smile.'" 

After posting a snippet of the episode to her Instagram account, Whitney received a flood of comments from other moms who said they had also found making mom friends really difficult, and the fact that it was happening to someone like Whitney speaks volumes about just how hard forming friendships can be for mothers. 

"Couldn’t relate to anything more... since grade school, I always felt I wasn’t cool enough and couldn’t fit in. After many years, I met some awesome moms and I’m so grateful. It’s been years of rude moms and just rude women in general. Thank you for making me feel less alone! Those mean moms at that event are missing out and most likely [are] miserable in their lives. 

"Mama bullies are the worst! They can be so cliquey.

"I experience this all the time. It's so effin' heartbreaking and sad, especially because you'd like to think when you become a mother you put any 'petty', 'side-eye' bullshit in the past." 

"You just need to find your tribe. It took me 10 years of being a mom to say, 'I finally found mine! You got this girl!' Just focus on you and baby. And please keep showing up to those events. A lot of moms will be very welcoming!!"

Also see: ‘Nothing’s wrong, it’s just hard’: Mom’s post about the struggles of parenthood goes viral

It's not you, it's life: Making new friends gets harder as we get older

Whitney says the encounter really threw her, and it got her thinking about reasons she was not being well-received. 

But according to one study, a decrease in friendships is to be expected the older we get. 

The 2016 study found that "the maximum number of connections for both males and females occurs at the age of around 25" and that women are more likely to "give priority to their spouses rather than to other kinds of peers." 

Psychology Today's Miriam Kirmayer writes that when it comes to forming friendships as a grown up, most of us get stuck on commonly held "misconceptions" about adult friendships. 

"So many of us have the expectation that by early adulthood, we should know how to make friends," writes the therapist, highlighting that there is a noticeable "disconnect between the ideas we have about what our friendships should be like and the reality of what adult friendships actually involve." 

Describing adult friendships as challenging and confusing, Mariam suggests the best place to start when attempting to form platonic relationships is to realise "that you are not the only one who struggles." 

Also see: "I have no life": Madonna shares the woes of every parent

Why the mom squad fantasy is just that

For their Mom Friends series, USA Today spoke with various mothers, including Whitney, on their struggles to befriend other parents and found a few common friend-blocking factors. 

Topping the list was surprising (and mostly impersonal) things like mismatched schedules and interests, social anxiety, personal insecurities, age gaps and even just the plain old feeling of intimidation. 

"I think another challenge moms face ... is the fear of judgement," said Whitney. "With our world being so connected ... online, we see how many different parenting styles and choices are out there. We also see the extremes of people agreeing or disagreeing with one another over them; so when we step out from the screen and into the real world, it can be intimidating." 

Wondering whether or not the struggle was worth the effort was also noted, but for Whitney, a shift in thinking makes a huge difference. 

"Just like dating, if you meet a mom at the park or at one of your children’s activities and you connect with them, make the next move and plan a play date. You never know how much a friendship could change your life."

Chat back:

Are you struggling to make friends with other parents? Tell us your story, and we could publish your letter. Anonymous contributions are welcome.

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