Level-up your friendship game. Ways parents can make new friends.
Modern parenting is a paradox.
On one hand, we are as plugged into each other as Neo in The Matrix — with approximately 1.47 billion people connecting (and sometimes oversharing) on Facebook daily, worldwide. On the other hand, 1 in 4 of us report feeling lonely at least once a week. With a lack of genuine connection, we can feel unseen and find ourselves mourning the loss of our pre-kids life when the seismic shift of parenthood occurs.
“It felt like I had no adults in my life to care about and no one to care about me,” Kylie says of the intense loneliness she felt after moving suburbs on the birth of her first child. “I didn’t have any hobbies or friends locally, I had no car, my family was busy and not readily available. I had some Mum friends online, but I felt so isolated. I had to really put myself out there to meet people.”
As Kylie puts it, “Loneliness doesn’t discriminate. It’s not only for the elderly. I’ve felt it as a teenager, as a young Mum and even now with older kids.”
If so many of us are craving friendship, how do you take the first step? Where can you go to meet new people? Let’s explore the obvious options first and then look at some alternative methods that might work for you.
Parenting, mothers and fathers groups are everywhere and probably the easiest way to get started if you’re adjusting to life with a new baby. You’ll instantly have a commonality in your tiny bundles of joy and they can work to help normalise the experience of parenthood. They’re not hard to find, either. Groups of bleary-eyed new Mums can be found online, at your local library, through your maternal health nurse or even your ob-gyn. As your children get older, play groups and play dates are another great option.
Once your kids are attending school, you generally find yourself coming across the same parents time and again. You’ll find yourself running in the same birthday party circles, seeing each other at school events and of course the school pick-up. If you’re feeling like you would like to connect but aren’t sure how to approach it, start with trying a simple hello at the school gate. Introduce yourself, chat about your kids, the teacher, the school. Or, if you’re feeling really brave, ask if they’d like to grab a coffee after drop-off one morning.
Volunteer groups (especially ones that you can get your kids involved in) can be a great way to meet like-minded people. Start by thinking local – organised groups that clean up parks and waterways, visiting nursing homes, serving meals or helping out at a local animal shelter. Check out Go Volunteer for options near you.
Learn a new skill or develop an existing one
Many of my parent friends met through a kid-friendly local writers group. But when it comes to hobbies, the options are endless. If you are limited with childcare, consider getting involved in an organisation like Scouts or Guides, coaching a sporting team or learning a skill you can do with your children such as horse riding, orienteering or hiking.
Parents of babies and toddlers can consider exercise classes at a local gym with creche facilities or ‘Mummy and me’ yoga classes.
Thinking beyond Facebook Groups, there are plenty of friends to be found online who can transition into real life friendships. The Mush app has proved extremely popular amongst new Mums who want to meet people in their area without the structure of a formal group. Sites like Meetup can also be a great way to meet others you have common interests with (everything from photography, meditation to divorced parents’ groups).
The next time you are feeling the urge to reach out and make a connection, remember that there’s a good chance the other person feels exactly the same way. Say hi. Be friendly. Patricia says it best in ‘PS I Love You’ when she tells her adult daughter:
The thing to remember is, if we’re all alone, then we’re all together in that too.