On Making Friends

When I was pregnant with Charlie I really looked forward to being home, alone, with a new baby. No social obligations, no work to attend, just me and the baby and Netflix all day everyday. It was my dream. For as long as I can remember I have been a homebody, and even growing up, I was the kid who always turned down hanging out with friends or going for sleepovers. I ALWAYS blamed my Mom - which was 100% believable if you knew her back then - but the truth was I have just always preferred to stay home rather then venture out. Imagine my surprise when a few short weeks into motherhood I found myself craving social interaction. I wanted to spend time with other adults, and for possibly the first time ever, I desperately wanted to leave my house.

To my horror, I learned that if you do not cultivate friendships prior to having kids it becomes a gargantuan task afterwards. It felt like dating again, only this time I was super desperate for every "date" to really like me which made me anxious which definitely made me seem crazy. I get extremely awkward when nervous and am either overly chatty, or withdrawn, neither of which makes for a good first impression.

It is so easy to make friends when you're young, because you're always surrounded by people your own age. In school, sports, activities, or at your summer job there are always people around you that are your age and into the same stuff as you. It is a lot harder to make new friends as an adult especially if you are new to your community, you're the first one in your group of friends to get married and/or have kids, you're a homebody/introvert or you just don't meet a lot of new people in your daily routine. As a new mom, you can add the fact that you have a baby with a demanding feeding/sleeping schedule that limits your availability. It is really hard to explain to old friends without kids WHY you can only hang out from 9am-11am, why skipping naptime is a bad idea, why you need 2 hours to get ready, why you have a 45lb backpack full of snacks and diapers and changes of clothes plus a stroller you have to haul around. Before I had kids, I didn't understand this either, and I remember times when I was not considerate and felt inconvenienced by people I love who had kids before me. As with all things, when you know better you do better - and since this sort of misunderstanding goes both ways, now I try to remember how it can be hard for people without kids to totally get where I'm coming from. It's no one's fault; simply put, it is difficult to truly empathize and understand where anyone is coming from if you don't have similar experiences to draw on, or your circumstances are radically different.

In my experience, when you have kids you try to connect with other parents because kids tend to entertain each other and adults are able to chat and drink coffee. While it's still hot! I literally feel refreshed when we get out in the mornings and spend time with other people. It is amazing what a conversation can do for you. And it is awesome for kids too. They get to play and explore with peers, which is known to help them improve their motor and verbal skills, but more importantly tires them out for a really great nap later in the day.

I didn't really make many friends when I was home with Charlie, and I regret that looking back because we missed out on a lot. After Sam was born, so many more opportunities to spend time with people presented themselves, and I in turn was better about inviting people to do things. It makes a huge difference to have something to look forward to - I truly enjoy playdates as much as the kids do! I also should add that I NEVER invite people over to our house, because I hate to clean it. Just kidding (sort of), it's because we have a large dog who, while being a pretty well-behaved dog under the right circumstances, is very bad when guests are over. Just ask anyone who has ever rung our doorbell ever. If there are reasons why you don't want anyone to come to your house, don't let that stop you from trying to get together with other people, just pick a place to meet up. In fact, I personally prefer getting out of the house and so nearly always plan to go to the beach, a playground or for a hike.

If you are feeling lonely, you are not alone (ha!). This is honestly something that affects many new parents, so if you are in need of a friend here a couple tips I have found helpful:

1. Re-visit past friendships and acquaintances. If you have drifted from someone over time, or were never that close to begin with, consider reaching out and bonding over parenthood.

2. Use your connections. Some of my best mom-friends were actually friends I stole from my sisters. Similarly, once I got more involved with the nursery at our Church, I made a lot more friends that way as well.

3. Use the internet. Local facebook groups are always organizing events and get togethers! Mom fb groups are great places to meet people in your area. If you're in Saint John, this is a great one.

4. Let your kid make the introductions! Kids make friends effortlessly - if your kid has found a buddy on the playground, use that as an opportunity to chat with that kid's parents and maybe even set up a time to meet there again.