Making friends and navigating the ins and outs of friendships is hard at any age as I can attest after watching my 5 year old daughter do it this past year again after our move back to the States. But making friends as an adult takes on a whole different level of difficulty, especially once you have kids. There’s just the basic practicality of having kids under 5 which means other than for basic necessities you really could get stranded in your house and no one would honestly miss you at times if you are a SAHM, and at times it feels very much like that, being stranded on a lonely desert island (or prison, you choose the analogy) surrounded by restless natives (or prisoners 😉 ) ready to eat you at any moment. And narry a adult is in sight. So how do you escape that island of loneliness? And why is it so darned hard to build a life raft off of it/or tunnel out? I’m pretty sure my house doesn’t have a top level security system or a watch light but I wonder sometimes when I try to go pee alone because it sure does seem there is some sort of high level warning that goes off to my kids “Mom on the toilet, attack, attack!!” At times trying to get out to make friends can feel much the same.
Even if you are working outside the home it can be equally hard to find a network of other working mums who can relate to your struggles. I know personally I’ve never felt more lonely as a parent than I did when I was working full time simply because my schedule precluded me from many of the places parents normally meet each other.
I read a study from the NY Times a few years back that talked about why it’s so darned hard to meet new friends as an adult outside of uni. In a nutshell for a friendship to form you have to have x number of random interactions (yes someone has studied this, and mathed it all out) and x amounts of opportunities to meet up for a friendship to get off the ground. Well guess what? As an adult those random interactions dwindle very quickly. You’re surrounded by the same people day in and day out either at work or at home meaning it’s very easy for you to become your own little one man (or women) island.
Thankfully for you you’re in Sydney. It’s a city of people who are always moving. As quickly as someone comes, they are off on their next move overseas, or across country or to a new suburbs or whatever. And you’re like wait you just said I was lucky but then told me everyone’s gonna move away? How the heck is that lucky? Well it’s lucky because (in my experience) it makes people MUCH more willing to branch out and try to make new friends. People quickly realize that if everyone’s leaving you gotta add to your friend portfolio if you don’t want to become that island. So you go to the park, you go to playgroup and you go to mums group and people are just way more willing to open up to each other and be friendly, than say where I’ve come from where if I started talking to the average mum at the park she might worry I’m gonna pick her pocket or something equally awful. The silly woman might even think I want to take her kids, little realizing I was actually planning to give her mine 😉 .
That’s not to say mummy dating on either side of the world is easy. It’s still incredibly hard. Whether you’re an introvert or a extrovert trying to strike up conversations with perfect strangers in hopes of finding your next Mum’s Night Out buddy is still darned hard and awkward at time. And yes at times it will in fact remind you of a terrible blind/first date. You’ll realize you have nothing in common, there’s the awkward silence or the stilted conversations when you just don’t connect. But other times it will just click.
Yet just like finding your mate may not have been easy and you may have kissed a few frogs to find him you may do the same with friends. You think OMG I’ve found my new friend, and then…. well then something happens. Maybe it’s your kids hate her kids or vice versa, or you realize your styles of parenting are SO different you just can’t mesh. Perhaps you think her spouse is a real piece of work and so does your spouse so there go those double dates/dinners together you’ve envisioned, or simply life gets in the way of a budding friendship. You’re kids or hers get sick so you cancel a play date, then the next is missed because someone’s kid isn’t sleeping/or is 😉 , or school commitments/sports activities make it impossible to find time to hang out. And before you know it you’re oh so hot friendship has now cooled to that awkward phase where you wonder, is it worth it any more or all the excuses just that, excuses, not to see me? It can make even the most confident individual start to feel like an angst filled teen.
So what do you do?
Honestly as scary and hard as it may be, keep putting yourself out there.
Go on mummy dates. Meet someone nice at the park? Ask for their number and if they’d like to grab coffee next week. Don’t leave it nebulous. If you do you’ll never call. Nail down a date while you are laughing together. Make it somewhere neutral, a great local, kid friendly cafe etc.
Shake off the awkward dates. They are gonna happen, it’s just the reality of dating. Don’t let a couple bad ones discourage you from trying again.
If you really liked someone don’t be afraid to call after a few weeks if you genuinely want to still know this person. Admit you’re a flake, or a as* or whatever but go put yourself back out there with them one more time before you say it wasn’t meant to be.
Join a couple of local playgroups. And come back more than once. Playgroups like anyone else have their good weeks and bad ones. Going once and saying “No one talked to me, I’m never going again” isn’t really a fair assessment of a group unless they were plainly rude to you. Give them a couple of chances and if after 2-3 times they are still stand offish by all means move onto a better fit but sometimes things happen and the group isn’t at their best the day you arrive, or they simply get inundated with new comers that day etc. And please remember all playgroups are NOT created equally, before you throw the preverbal baby out with the bath water on them. Some are great and welcoming and some are full of jerks, and some are a mixed bag. Go to a few, branch out to other communities. See if it’s just your burb that has crummy groups or if it’s just not your thing.
Keep up with your mums group, maybe not everybody but try to find a couple of like minded ladies and then keep up that relationship long term.
I know this one may not be popular but: Get off your phone. When you are walking or hanging at the park. Get off the phone, stop looking down at it and start talking to the people around you who are actually present. There’s no greater wall to a possible friendly interaction than that piece of tech in your hand, it’s a clear “Get away from me” sign for those around you. So if you’re feeling lonely put it down, be present and laugh with the mum next to you at the playground as you watch your kids do something insane.
Ask on a mums board if people would like to meet up for coffee at the park etc. Focus on folks with kids of similar ages to yours but try not to get to hung up on that. One of my best friends from AU was a mum I met off of a post I put up on IWMs asking if anyone wanted to meet up since I needed some new friends. She at the time had a brand new 3-4 month old kiddo vs. my 18 month and 5 year old. It might not seem like the perfect match as far as play dates but my kids loved her daughter and I found a kindred spirit in her.
Mum dating is hard, it’s awkward and scary. But when it clicks the rewards can be that life raft off the island of loneliness. So start building your raft, bring some wine and some coffee and enjoy the ride together.
More from Amber:
Rear Facing to 4? Are You Joking?
Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are? Having Babies on Two Continents
Living Life Abroad – Peter Panning Life
101 Things to do in Sydney – Parks & Playgrounds edition
The Great Ocean Road and Kids…Why I Hate Car Trips…
Taking Candy from Strangers – Why Buying a Used Car Seat is a Bad Idea
Moving – The Other 4 Letter Word, and Tips for Surviving it
We Were in a Car Accident. What Now?? (Car Seat Safety/Tips Post)