Blogger, Writer, Urban Adventurer
When I was pregnant with our first child, I remember reading some BS article about how it is nearly impossible to make new friends the older you get. As I read it, feelings of disappointment, sadness and panic set in. We had just moved to a new city, I was working from home for my old company that was based out-of-state, and had no real outlet to meet new people. Even though we had family near us, I felt alone and desperate for adult conversation…and this was before our kid even arrived!
Several months later when our daughter was born, I quickly realized how wrong that article was. As a new parent, all you do is look around, trying to make new friends to commiserate with. (It’s even how Mommy Nearest got its start—parents desperate to meet other parents, find out recommendations and insider info on things to do, where to go and how to muddle through this crazy journey of raising tiny humans.)
I’m now eight years into this parenting gig and I have learned that we make new friends all the time. Each different stage is an opportunity to expand your network, because, let’s face it—we need each other to get through this!
New baby friends
The new baby friends are the ones you meet at all of the mommy-and-me classes that you sign up for with your first kid, but forget to do for subsequent children. I needed these friendships as a lifeline for all of my panicked new mom questions. Plus, they are always down to talk about baby poop habits or brainstorm ways to get your kid to sleep more.
Filling out pre-school applications felt like a preview of how nerve-wracking college applications are going to be. When we finally “got in” to a program we liked, we got on with the business of getting to know other parents. Pre-school is awesome; they give you lists of contact information along with all of the photos of the kids, so when your four-year-old says they want a play date with Miles, you have some sort of shot of figuring out who Miles is and how to get in touch with his mom. At this stage, we still have complete control over who they hang out with, so we might as well pick families that we like, too.
These are all of the people you do the sporty things or the dance things or the Girl Scouts things with. You spend so much time with these people, there is no way for you not to make friends. Have you ever been to a swim meet? They last for HOURS. Just signed up for a baseball league? Better find a buddy quick to help pass the time and carpool.
Elementary school friends
When you reach the elementary school stage, your world opens up even more to moms with older children who have already “been there and done that.” Find one of those moms and befriend them. They can give you the low down on school events and potential pitfalls. The parents we met that first year in kindergarten are still my go-to group when I can’t remember if today is Western Wear Day or not. Over time, you learn to navigate the bigger school and find your niche.
I’ll be honest, many of our friendships are formed around our oldest child. That being said, our twins are now into their own activities and groups, and we are meeting more families through them and bringing them into the friendship fold. It is an extra bonus if you are able to make friends who have the same age spread as your children. That way, when you hang out everyone is matched up with their own buddy.
Special circumstances friends
Chances are you are going to end up with some “special something” for at least one of your children. For us, we have twins and are in a local “moms of multiples” group. However, you might have a child with a food allergy or needs reading intervention or has ADHD. Whatever it is, you will form a group of people who are dealing with the same challenge you are and lean on them for everything related to that. It is important to have friends who understand the unique set of circumstances you are dealing with. My fellow twin mamas have helped me navigate a number of odd, twin specific questions that have come up over the years.
Church & community friends
We are pretty active in our church and as a result many of our close friends are people that we have met through Sunday School or VBS. Even if you aren’t a member of a faith community, chances are there is something in your neighborhood that brings people together. We have a number of summer friends that we met through the Community Pool, or our kids attending camps together. Anything that brings whole families together for a length of time can result in some great friendships.
When we first moved into our neighborhood, I felt like we were the youngest people by 20 years. Not anymore. When the weather is nice, there are kids on every corner. Nothing helps tackle that witching hour of the day when you’re trying to get dinner done and keep the kids occupied better than having a neighbor come over and play. While some of these friendships start out over proximity and convenience, we have been lucky enough to have a valuable relationship with our neighbors.
Crisis transition friends
These people are true treasures. They are typically in one of the camps above, but when something terrible happens, they show up in ways you never expected and become very important people to you. You find yourself in the middle of a crisis, and they swoop in to help. When I was completely freaked out about having twins and going on bed rest, a member of my multiples group talked me through it all and told me it would be okay. She visited me in the hospital and brought me meals when we finally came home. When she saw we were in a good place, she moved on. I have now returned the favor to other families in the early days of twins. Lending support during a hard time, but realizing they may only need that friendship for the hard season until they find their “people,” is a true gift.
Somewhere within all of these different groups, you will find your ultimate people. The majority of our close friendships started out as the cool mom I met in SongPlay, the mom from bookclub who visited me in the hospital, or the person I befriended in the library. There is something about becoming a parent that opens you up to making new friends and bonding with people who are on the same path as you. When I look around at some of the truly wonderful people in our lives, I know in some way we have our kids to thank for all of it.