Shun my advice at your own risk:
Prenatal classes: Do Not – repeat, Do Not – seek out friendships with these people. None of you have actually had your babies yet. These friendships are potentially destined for the scrap heap because you can’t tell what kind of parents they will be from how they do breathing exercises. Conflicting parenting styles are slow deaths for friendships. However, if you are bound and determined to ignore my advice, at a bare minimum, ask prospective friends if they have a hippy dippy birth plan and a recipe for fried placenta. If the answer is yes, waddle your ass out of there.
Baby socializing groups: Same as above. Babies haven’t had time to be ruined little assholes yet, so you won’t know parenting styles unless you create a real time scientific test of what kind of parent you are talking to. If you have picked out one with potential, you might have to go to extreme measures to get them to show their true colors. Sit yourself on down, pull out a bottle for your baby and a martini for yourself. This will separate the wheat from the chaff. The first woman who comes up to you looking relieved because she didn’t have enough mix in her diaper bag for her own drink is your new bestie.
Toddler Playgroups: This is primo Mom-friend stalking grounds. Pick cool classes and watch the minivans as they arrive. If a mom looks frazzled and rolls out of her fishy-cracker-leaking sliding doors carrying a wiggling toddler by his overall straps, she is ripe for some friendly adult conversation. That is your prime target right there, so bring her a handy wipe and some chocolate.
Pre-School hallway parties: Technically this is the beginning of the “drive and drop” years of school. But mostly when the kids are in their preschool years, Moms still hang out in the hall waiting for precious to go in or come out. This is an opportune time to make your move. Ask your kid who the nice children are, who has vegetables in their lunch, and who the teachers like. Then find out who their moms are. Just don’t be too creepy and wide-eyed when you start the conversation. Desperation has a smell that cool moms pick up with their aquiline noses.
Elementary School: This can be dodgy because the natural habitat of parents during the primary school years is the Parent Advisory Committee. This is where the overachiever queen bee moms lie in wait to make you feel inadequate. Unless you are prepared to either be their minion or fight them for the leader scrunchie, select carefully. Come to a few meetings, hang back and watch the power dynamics. People are their true selves when they are working a fundraising event. Watch who is quietly setting stuff up or helping out but is trying to look inconspicuous. That would not be the Parent Committee overlord, so go make friends with her.
High School: Well, it’s a little late to make your first Mom friends now, isn’t it? You spend no time with your children anyway because their disdain for you is palpable; you have no idea who their teachers are or really anything that goes on at the school. Also, everything is run by a secret coven of super-elite queen bees. These bitches are professionals, and there is no place for tender-hearted amateurs here. They raise BAZILLIONS of dollars for the band program, and you are not worthy.
The Panacea: I know this is going to seem a bit hollow, but Facebook groups are in fact friend harvesting gold. Our “real live human” friendships are almost always a function of convenient geographical proximity. They aren’t preselected for what our common interests might be. Facebook groups based on your hobbies, job, interests or medical condition – whatever – are like finding your pod people. From personal experience, writer groups are some of the most eloquent (duh) and interesting people to hang with. I have heard that the community of video-game-playing, basement-dwelling neck beards is pretty cool too … if you are into first person shooter games.
If you have been successful in your acquisition of awesome woman friends over the years, whether you are Moms or not, it is a beautiful thing. Those same women that held your hair when you were barfing in the toilet from drink or morning sickness can also be there with you during the transition through menopause. Keep those ladies close, deal with their shitty moments with love and understanding, celebrate your lives together and stand by each other fiercely.
Husbands are great and all, but it is your woman tribe that makes life whole.