in pregnancy and postpartum
Children often make it look easy, but making friends as an adult is actually quite difficult and for busy parents, it can be even harder. I would argue that as a new mother, having access to supportive relationships and spaces to gather with fellow moms is critical in the often difficult adjustment to parenthood. While your careers, hobbies, and personal interests may give you a sense of purpose, these are often less accessible postpartum and it can be helpful to lean into your relationships during this time.
Having strong friendships is essential for your maternal mental health and well-being. Studies have shown that people with close relationships are generally happier and more satisfied with their lives than those without. Becoming a mother can often be a joyful, yet overwhelming and emotional experience. If you’re like many mothers, you may find yourself experiencing a general sense of overwhelm. You might also be suffering with symptoms of postpartum depression or anxiety, and social support can provide emotional comfort and a sense of belongingness during this postpartum period.
Moreover, friendships and human connections can also have a positive impact on your physical health. People with strong social networks tend to have lower rates of chronic diseases and live longer than those who are socially isolated. This may be because social support can help us manage stress, which can have harmful effects on our bodies over time.
We’ve always known the importance of human relationships and female companionship, but now the data is backing it up. In the New York Times article – Take stock of your relationships, Dr. Bob Waldinger, a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and Marc Schulz, a psychology professor at Bryn Mawr College, and authors of a new book, “The Good Life: Lessons From the World’s Longest Scientific Study of Happiness,” share their findings:
“In 1938, researchers at Harvard set out to learn what makes a person thrive. Now, 85 years later, the Harvard Study of Adult Development has expanded to three generations and more than 1,300 descendants of the original subjects; it is, according to the researchers, the longest-running in-depth study on human happiness in the world. From all the data, one very clear finding has emerged: Strong relationships are what make for a happy life. More than wealth, I.Q. or social class, it’s the robustness of our bonds that most determines whether we feel fulfilled.”
So, how can you cultivate strong friendships and human connections during pregnancy, and motherhood? Here are some tips:
- Prioritize time for social activities: Make time to spend with friends and loved ones, whether it’s having a weekly dinner date, attending social events, or simply chatting on the phone.
- Be open and vulnerable: Sharing your thoughts and feelings with others can help build trust and deepen relationships. Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable and let others know how you’re really feeling; especially when dealing with mental health challenges postpartum. You’ll often find you feel less alone.
- Listen actively: When interacting with others, make sure to actively listen to what they have to say. This can help foster understanding and strengthen relationships.
Friendship and human connection are essential for your mental, physical, and emotional well-being. By prioritizing time to connect with others, you can cultivate strong relationships that will enrich your life and provide you with support during all the challenging moments of parenting.