Ever since I began working with moms, I’ve found myself listening, deeply listening, to the conversations we have with each other.

I listen because there’s always gold in the way women talk about what they need most, where they feel least supported, and what’s missing in their lives that they crave more of.

One thing I’ve noticed is we tend to have very conflicted feelings about our desire for more authentic connections and support in our lives.

On one hand we know how important it is to reach out and invest in relationships and friendships with other women and mothers as we navigate the motherhood journey.

On the other hand, we often don’t know where to find these kinds of relationships that feel easy, natural, and honest. And simultaneously we complain about having “no time” for anything these days, our life is so jam packed full.

As I’ve worked over the years to circle myself with a strong maternal network of friends and mentors, I’ve found these 3 guidelines hugely helpful.

1. Invest in what you want more of

We tend to think that seeking out connection is like filling a hole in our lives–that it requires us to simply receive the good coming from another person. But the truth, all good and true relationships function on a sacred value exchange, they thrive when each person has the reserves to offer parts of themselves to the other.

It takes energy, time, and attention to cultivate a meaningful relationship. Many of us give lip service to wanting deeper friendships in our lives, but we’ve created a life that has no space for those kinds of relationships.

As a busy mom, a meaningful and essential connection with another mom doesn’t have to take the lion share of your time…but it does need something. Often we can keep ourselves so busy that we have essentially buttressed ourselves from true connection. Consider if there are ways you can make yourself a little more available to invest in the kinds of connections you most deeply desire.

2. Watch the old stories we keep telling ourselves

This one really hit home for me recently. I was in conversation with a mom I had just met and we found ourselves deep in conversation about our mothering experiences. I caught myself telling her that I wished I had more “soul-sister” kinds of friendships with other moms that lived in my local area. I was commenting on how isolating and lonely the job of mothering can be sometimes.

No sooner did I begin saying these familiar words I realized I’d been telling the same story to myself (and apparently to others) for 5 years now, but it’s simply not true any longer.

I do have beautiful, deep, rich friendships and mentors in my life now. I had to remind myself that I no longer had to hold onto my “old” story.

Sometimes we keep feeling disconnected simply because of an old story we’re telling ourselves. Look around at the relationships you do have in your life and take an honest assessment. Many times we get so used to feeling a lack in this area, we don’t recognize the friendships that have taken root and grown in our lives.

3. Allow open spaces

When I first began having children, I had just recently moved back to New Jersey and didn’t have many local relationships with other moms. A huge lesson I learned was that sometimes it’s better to be okay with feeling lonely instead of immediately trying to fill those lonely spaces with people that weren’t a right fit for me.

We all know that energetically some people feed us and some people drain us. In my desire to feel less lonely and more supported, I often let people have more time and access to me than I should have. I’d leave their company feeling drained, anxious and insecure rather than uplifted, encouraged and confident.

In my (newly released) book, Replenish, I write, “Cultivating authentic connection in your life is about mastering the art of boundaries and access within your relationships. You need both. But often we get these things utterly backward. We hedge ourselves from true intimacy and connection (which comes with vulnerability) and we give free access to people who, time and time again, leave us feeling depleted.”

Do you feel well-supported in the area of authentic connections and support in your life? How do you manage to cultivate deep, vital friendships while managing the demanding life of a mom?