Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Friendship, for Mums

After my daughter was born, I felt so isolated. My husband went back to work after a glorious - and exhausting - month of tandem newborn parenting; suddenly, it was just me and Mia. On top of that we moved for a three month stint in a different province while she was 3-6 months old – then moved again when she was just shy of a year! My BBFs (before baby friends) pretty much made the requisite newborn visit and that was it. They mostly had older children of their own, so we weren’t in the same trenches. The friends without children… well, they weren’t interested in my favourite (okay, only) topic of conversation, and suddenly staying up late or going out was not an option for us.

Meanwhile, I was going mad without adult conversation!

After a while – when I recovered from the birth, and the shock of having a new baby - I realized that it was entirely up to me to get out of the housebound rut and make some new friends.  I really am a shy person. It is not at all second nature to me to go out and meet people; it is a major effort to get over myself and stop being such a loner! Here’s how I overcame my shyness and made some mum friends that I have a lot in common with – because that was one of the hardest parts of having a baby, for me.

Here are some of the things I did that helped me make some great new friends.
  • Sign up for Baby and Me classes. Here are some places to try – your library, recreation center, fitness studio, Early Years centres (in Ontario – I’m not sure what the equivalent is elsewhere), and community centres. I joined Baby Goose at the library, which was a half-hour, once-a-week stories-and-songs program that went on for eight weeks and was quite inexpensive (I can’t recall, but I think it was around $40 at my library).  Most libraries offer programs for children.

    I also joined a Mother Goose program put on by Early Years, which was free (!), and that was amazing – mums’ chat time before and after, songs, stories, and lots of resources like guest speakers on topics like car seats, vaccinations, that sort of thing. I highly recommend that program if you have one in your area!

    A Mommy and Me Aquafit class at the local pool was also loads of fun. The babies sat in floating turtles, and us mums tugged or pushed them around the pool. We got a decent workout, the babies got to enjoy the water, as well as meeting some new friends.  There are loads of fitness programs for mums and babies; check your local rec centre, yoga studio, or look up a program like Salsa Babies. The fitness programs are generally a little more expensive, but it’s great for the self-esteem to start working out post-partum, and if you can take your baby with you, you don’t have to worry about arranging babysitting or sketchy gym childcare!

  • Do drop in at the drop-in play centres. I went to one in a local church basement that had loads of toys, lots of kids, and friendly people (again run by Early Years). They had a toddler and a bigger-kid room, and did circle time and snack time as well, for the once-weekly morning drop-in. That one was free; many of the drop-in play centres have a small fee, $2 or so. Check in your area – there are bound to be centres near you in community facilities or churches (often without a religious aspect, if that is holding you back). The parents are generally local and are often regular attendees, so you will definitely have a chance to get to know some new friends if you go back a few times 

  • Look online for mummy groups. I found one when we were in Calgary the first time on Meetup.com, just by searching my neighbourhood and interest. I managed to meet some really awesome people and have made at least one good friend that way – we kept in touch while I was back in Ontario and she is one reason I was not hating the idea of moving to Calgary for good – I knew I had a friend here!
  • Start your own group. Organized mums can post their groups on community forums or on the big sites like Meetup, Craigslist, Facebook, etcetera – and get a group of like-minded people together.

    After I had met a bunch of mums through the various classes in Ontario, I set up a Facebook group for mums of babies in the same age group in my town. I added some of the mums I’d met, and they added more. That group is still active and getting together for walks and playdates.  My group of mum friends here in Calgary also has a Facebook presence. That makes it so easy to keep up with what‘s going on, and to arrange outings and playdates.
  • Get out of the house and talk to people. You will find that just about everyone wants to look at and comment on your new baby – and many of those people have something to offer, whether it is advice (wanted or unwanted!), or community. Smile at other mums you see, and say hi – it just might open the door to a new friend. Nursing and baby changing rooms at malls are often full of mums just like you – getting out of the house in the daytime with their babies. In the summer, the park is a good place to meet parents of children the same age as yours, who usually live conveniently nearby. You can meet new friends anywhere that you can strike up a conversation.

    As an example, we just signed some papers at the lawyer’s office. I got to chatting with the receptionist about moving to a new neighbourhood, and not knowing where to get a child’s hair cut. It turned out she has a daughter close in age to mine, and was able to recommend a children’s salon. After our appointment, she gave me her email address and said she gets together with some other mums if I’d like to join them some time. How easy is that? All it takes is being friendly.
  • Ask for advice. Everyone LOVES to be asked their opinion or for advice. Really. Think of the last time you were able to help someone with something, even finding the right aisle in the grocery store – and you will remember the good feeling that helping someone out gives you. So give people the opportunity to have that feeling – ask a question of a likely stranger! See a mum perusing the baby aisle? Ask her which products her baby loves, or what she’d recommend. It’s such an easy opening to a conversation. 
One of my favourite things about being a parent is that Mia is an instant icebreaker, and I now have at least one obvious thing in common with a lot of the people I meet. Whether we like the same movies, books, music, whatever – it doesn’t really matter, as we always have something to talk about: our children.

Making friends has now become something I work at. Knowing people in the same phase of life makes such a HUGE difference. You can commiserate together, and celebrate the milestones.  Having friends with a baby the same age makes it easy to schedule playdates (with social benefits for mums and babies), talk over any troubles, get ideas for new things to try with your baby and get advice or resources when you need them.

I can’t tell you how much I appreciate the women I have met as a mother – they are funny, intelligent, friendly, and, perhaps best of all, are perfectly willing to talk about babies at length (as well as any other topic under the sun!).

I hope this inspires you to get out and make a new friend. It’s not as hard as you might think it is!

How have you expanded your social circle after children? I’d love to hear from my readers of experiences you’ve had meeting new friends – and any of your tips are welcome as well!

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting and true article. With my 1st child, Nicholas, now 13. I remember being so lonely, and housebound. But the 2nd, 3rd and 4th time around I up and got out there involved myself in events and baby and me things.... Nothing better than having the support of other mum friends..... Adult conversation is a must... And any friend who will let me randomly go on about baby poop/puke/sleep/feeding is a prerequisite for me to keep my sanity!


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