3 Ways to Find and Make Friends (Who Understand Parent Life)
If you're browsing this website, you're probably painfully aware of at least two things:
1.) Raising kids is full of minor health symptoms that your brain will IMMEDIATELY turn into a worse case scenario — it's nice to have a parent-friendly medical website to calm you down.
2.) Raising kids is HARD.
It's entirely likely that 1 could be lumped in as a section of 2, but we're going to keep it the way it is because that's where my brain ALWAYS goes first.
For me, one of the hardest parts of raising a kid was feeling alone… especially when my oldest was a baby. I read 8 million blog posts about diapers and feeding and feelings and that was helpful, but it was no replacement for actual, in-person interaction and understanding.
This is why I am imploring you to go out and find some parent friends.
The first two years of my son's life were very lonely for me. I loved having a little buddy, but my anxiety was palpable, and I was constantly worried about each and every little thing that came up. I had no idea how much a friend — who was also a parent — would have helped. When we moved to Omaha my son was older, and I couldn't get away with sitting alone in our apartment any longer. Eventually, through both effort and luck, I was able to enjoy new friendships that turned into some of the most influential of my entire life.
Sounds great — but how do you actually find these people?
Before I get too far, I want to recognize that I'm a fairly extroverted person, so a lot of the in-person socialization comes easily to me… and I know it doesn't for everyone. I'm going to do my best to offer tips for those who aren't comfortable walking up to someone brand spankin' new and saying "Hello. I am lonely. Let's be friends."
1. Go to the park… frequently.
A neighborhood park can be a great place to meet like-minded parent friends, but it likely won't happen right away. In my experience, visiting the same park multiple times is a great way to bump into the same people over and over again. After three or four times of chatting while watching your kids eat sand, it's a great opportunity to say, "Hey, you know, we keep seeing you! Would you want to meet here next week?"
2. Sign up for classes.
Music, art, gym, dance… while these might sound like opportunities to enrich your child's experience through arts education, the truth (for me anyway) is that they are opportunities to have someone ELSE engage your child for a while so that you can take a break. These are great atmospheres to meet parent friends because it's likely that the classes are divided into age groups. Any kind of parent friend is awesome, but it's especially great when that parent has a kid that is roughly the same age as yours. You'll both likely be experiencing the same things as parents, and your kids will be able to grow together.
3. Look for parenting groups.
The cool thing about finding a parenting group (think MOPS or similar) is that they're often grouped by interest or location. Whether it's a neighborhood hipster dad group or a regular church playdate at a park, there's a good chance you'll be able to find some like-minded parents that you feel comfortable hanging with. You can inquire in your local city exchange group on Facebook, talk to a librarian, or check with someone at a community center in your area to see if there are any groups meeting regularly.
Go ahead, ask them if they want to drink coffee while the kids toddle around the living room.
It's important to remember that, while you might feel alone, you're actually the opposite of that when it comes to wanting friends who understand what you're going through as you navigate parenting. Getting out and about even one extra time a week can put you in the path of someone who's also searching for a friend.
Once you've found someone who makes you smile, feel comfortable, and who helps you realize you're not alone in this parenting world, go ahead — ask them to hang out. I promise, the social risk is more than worth the reward.