When I think of all of the things I am grateful for, I always think of my amazing girlfriends.
I have definitely not been the perfect friend all my life, but somehow I have managed to accumulate the most amazing group of women in my 41 years.
I have deleted a few along the way and found some in the most unexpected places. Like in a blizzard at Penn State University. Or in the stands at the MCG. And of course, the sand pit. Not to mention a few beauties that are now my relatives.
I always think that if you have a couple of people (non family) who you could genuinely phone at 2am you have succeeded in the friendship stakes.
As you grow older you know the value of quality over quantity and losing friends whether on purpose on not, becomes part of your evolution. As we know, when motherhood strikes, we really need these true friends.
Australia is awesome for getting new Mums associated with their local Maternal Health Centre that arranges “Mother’s Groups”. However, I find that women are very polarised on Mother’s Group. It is either a definite “yes they are still my bestie’s after 8 years” or “no, I didn’t relate to ANY of them”. Personally I recommend persevering with them until the end as friends appear in the most unlikely packages sometimes. I loved my Mother’s Group but unfortunately for me we moved when our first born was very young. We did live in a transient area at the time, full of young couple’s that tended to move out to the suburbs once the babies came along.
Moving to a new suburb is hard enough, let alone interstate or even to a new country with a young child. It often results in even the most popular person suddenly becoming “friend-less”. This can be very isolating and just damn boring, so I know that life’s circumstances often result in the need to find a whole new girl gang.
Likewise, when the second child comes along and there is no Mothers Group offered, you often have a lot of time alone with that child.
The hardest time to meet new Mum friends seems to be when your babies are between 6 months to 3 years of age, ie, after the Mothers Group period, when you’ve come up for air and can actually leave the house fully dressed and coherent….but before kindergarten age when you’re all of a sudden faced with at least 20 sets of parents belonging to your children’s new friends.
So if you do not have this gaggle of giggling girlies by your side, where do you find them? There are a lot of articles written on this subject (just google it) so this is nothing new to discuss and yes, it is a bit like dating….so here are some tips:
Firstly, you need to give a little thought to the type of friend(s) you would like. Do you want someone who you can have a wine with (without kids) who you really relate to and have a good chat with one-on-one? Or do you need a daytime friend to hang out with amongst the chaos? Someone with kids of a similar age?
Do you want a “family friend” who also has a partner that will get along with your partner (hopefully) and you can do things as a big gang on weekends. If you’ve given this a bit of thought then you can narrow it down to where you may be able to best find these people. Sounds like stalking doesn’t it? I know some women who have made amazing friends by joining a book club. They talk less about the books and more about their life and love to have these confidants that are separate to their husband, family and other friends.
If you don’t know many people in your local area and have plenty of time to spare in the middle of the day with your children, you need a different approach. Once again, have a little think about what you want to get out of the activity. Eg; is it purely so your child can learn a skill or burn off some energy? Do you want to participate in the activity too, or do you want a “break” from your child while they play and you can have a chance to talk to the other parents?
Don’t expect to make a best friend if your child requires your 100% devoted attention in the swimming pool or at an activity where the other Mums use the opportunity to nip out for a coffee or open up their laptop.
If any of your children are interested in a specific hobby, if they have special needs or are say, a twin, there are groups for that too. Finding like-minded parents who are facing similar issues with their kids day after day is a huge support.
There is nothing worse than joining a group where perhaps the other parents don’t really “get it”.
Luckily I knew quite a few Mums of twins who I could ask advice and exchange knowing glances with when our twin boys arrived. It has been a life saver. I’m sure this is the same for other more ‘niche’ groups. Google and Facebook are awesome for finding these communities and they will do wonders for your mental health.
If you’re after something more general in your local neighbourhood, there are groups and activity centres everywhere. You don’t necessarily have to pay for classes as most Libraries have a regular “story-time” and local halls hold community Playgroups etc. These types of activities where the children can be a bit more independent (within eye contact) enable parents to have a good chat and develop relationships too.
Look for a class or activity where the parents can also interact and perhaps have an opportunity to continue the chatting after the class at the park/cafe nearby.
Likewise if you are a working Mum you may want to find a class on the weekends where you may be more likely to find people in a similar situation to you. If you work part-time and choose to do a class on your one week day that you don’t work, you might only find Mums who aren’t currently working. Therefore developing an ongoing relationship may be tricky as schedules are difficult to co-ordinate. Try to find Mums who are also juggling the daily obstacles that you are.
Exercise classes with your children are also a great idea. Kill two birds with the one stone by committing yourself to an exercise group, get your child out and about and hopefully meet some other lovely Mums. There is everything from the Mums with Prams sessions, Mums & Bubs pilates classes and even dance-athons for you all. Sweat it out and hopefully strike up some friendships over time.
Now you have found an activity that suits your needs, you will need to put a little effort in if you want to develop genuine relationships with these people. Firstly, don’t expect it to happen overnight and secondly, to discover anything new, including friends, you have to put yourself out there.
Yes I can feel you cringe from here but new friends are not just going to land in your lap, especially now that there is not usually alcohol involved.
So, find a club that interests you in your local area – book club, passionate Paleo’s anonymous, Mini Maestro’s Music or Mums who marathon. Whatever your interests, find a group and take the plunge by turning up to the first session. You probably won’t feel like going and no doubt every obstacle will seem to be in your way on the first ‘date’ but persevere. After all, if it is an absolute disaster all you can do is laugh and give yourself a pat on the back for trying. Just think of it as practice session for one that really counts.
Finally, here are some key success factors for developing some new friendships. Juggling life and kids and possibly work leaves limited time in your schedule for socialising so you need to ensure that your are meeting with compatible people. In my experience, if they have most of the following it is much easier to form a lasting friendship:
- You have children of a similar age
- Your children who get along/play well together (dah)
- They live nearby
- You have similar work/home lifestyles
- Your partners/husbands also want to make new friends and also get along
- The class/activity where you met is a genuine interest or hobby that you can continue together
So, put yourself out there…persevere and let us know how you go in the comments below.