Good friends are essential for anyone -- but for moms, friends provide more than just emotional support.
They can help keep feelings of isolation at bay for all those stay-at-home mothers who wonder if there is life outside of their toy-filled, child-focused home.
Friends you met way back when, when you just were a kid, can be a source of comfort unlike any other relationship.
"Friends model and remind us of the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle: not eating too much, getting enough sleep, and being active, not drinking to excess or smoking," said psychologist Irene S. Levine, a professor of psychiatry at the New York University School of Medicine who also runs The Friendship Blog. "Having other moms around can also help abate loneliness and depression."
That's not all friends are good for, however.
"Healthy friendships improve a person's overall well being," said Dana Kerford, a friendship expert and founder of a Canadian program for tweens called GirlPower & GoodGuys. "Motherhood is not always easy, and healthy friendships provide moms with a strong support network to get through the ups and downs."
Here are five types of friends that most moms need to stay emotionally and physically healthy.
The Feel-Good Friend
Moms have small pockets of free time that are too precious to be taken up by people who exhaust them.
"A feel-good friend is someone who fills your soul," said Kerford. "After you spend time with this kind of friend, you leave feeling energized, happy, and a better mom."
Being mindful of how you feel also helps parents, or anyone for that matter, better recognize the friends that aren't good for them. Lori Lizotte of Palm Bay, Florida, cherishes the variety of friends she has in her life.
She said they keep her "happy and sane because I can talk to them about anything -- and they don't judge."
The Friend Who Parents As You Do
"It is easier and more fulfilling to spend time with people who approach motherhood in the same way you do," said Kerford. For example, if soda or unhealthy snacks are totally off-limits for your kids -- well, spending time with a parent who lets their kids indulge can be a challenge for you.
While opposite parenting styles can be a good teaching experience, those won't fill you up socially. When you're just looking to relax and have some fun, having to explain the diverse nature of families to your kids will sap your energy.
The Forever Friend
Friends you met way back when, when you were a child or in school, can be a source of comfort unlike any other relationship. Jan Dobrich of Waukesha, Wisconsin, said she maintains close friendships with women she met when they were all in middle school.
"They know what I cherish and they are always there for me," she said. "They all have a great sense of humor as well. That is important when it comes to raising kids and life in general. You can't be serious all the time."
We naturally gravitate toward people who are most like us, but when you become a mom it's important to put the effort into keeping old friendships going. Rebecca Lehman of Rocky Top, Tennessee, met a dear friend 13 years ago in college who she's still extremely close with.
"She is the one person, other than my husband, that I really feel like I can be myself around. We've remained friends through quite a lot in our lives, and that's pretty rare."
The Neighborhood Pal
Friendships are easier to make and maintain because of the internet, but there is nothing like having someone close by. Levine said it's important to have other moms around "who are conveniently near to help out in a pinch or with whom you can get together spontaneously."
"We keep up with each other, ask how each other's kids are and what's going on in our neighborhood and our town," said one mom.
It's also important to seek out friendships in your neighborhood that you personally feel a connection with -- rather than people you see because of your kid's social circle.
Said Lehman, "I have friendships that I've made solely based on the stages and ages of our kids, but I find that the kids are much closer than us as the parents. Great women, every one of them --but it's about our kids' friendships, not our own."
One Westchester County, New York, woman described the group of women on her street who see each other several times a week during spring and summer when their kids are playing outside or when they're walking their dogs. "We keep up with each other, ask how each other's kids are and what's going on in the neighborhood and town," she said. "It's a source of strength that is hard to describe. It's good to know they're there, and I almost always pick up a good tip or piece of information, too."
The Social Media Friend
Facebook and Instagram (believe it or not) can be a lifeline for stay-at-home moms who don't have a lot of friends nearby, who don't have someone they can grab a cup of coffee with in person at a moment's notice.
Social media friends can help moms feel connected to the world "during children's nap time or when the day is over," said Levine.
In years gone by, when a good friend moved away, you'd lose touch with that person on an everyday basis. Dobrich said social media allows her to stay connected with long-distance friends in a meaningful way.
"It helps us feel like we are more a part of each other's lives," she said. "Two friends I've known since we were kids both live in other states, and social media allows me a glimpse into their everyday lives."
Even More Friends
How do you meet new friends who will be good for you? Levine suggested putting aside time for yourself to pursue your own interests, such as exercise classes, art classes, museum visits, hiking, swimming or antiquing.
"Doing so will enable you to find kindred spirits," she said.
Moms have the benefit of meeting new people as their kids grow and experience new activities. Kerford suggested venues such as weekly sports games are the perfect outlet for making friends.
"Take action. Some people are shy, but someone has to be the initiator. Ask them if they're on Facebook and take it from there."
Seeing the same people weekly will allow you to slowly build up a friendship and make it grow.