So I think we can all relate to the struggles of being a parent and feeling a bit isolated. Personally I really struggled with the distinct lack of adult conversation after having a baby. In subsequent years, I guess I started feeling like I didn’t really have anything worthwhile to contribute to conversations, so stopped trying to instigate them.
That said, I’ve really been trying to make a more positive shift into being brave and starting up those conversations, especially when I’d prefer to blend into the wallpaper.
I was recently at an event which was predominately woman, and as none of my friends were keen/could get a night off…I ended up there by myself. Now ordinarily I would simply slink into a corner and try to pass the time away. However, I’ve been challenging myself lately to be more social, so stepped up to a few lovely ladies not already engaged deep in conversation with friends and introduced myself.
Having a common interest is always a great start – be it coffee/lack of sleep/children/work/insert potential interest here and share a little bit about why you’re there and ask them what interested them in coming to said event/park/coffee shop etc. Although it was surprising to my self-esteem, the ladies were actually really lovely (no reason to believe they wouldn’t have been) but that social anxiety I think we all feel about approaching new people/the unknown is really hard to overcome.
Now in this instance I got to stand next to some lovely woman and chit chat about our shared experiences at the event which certainly helped to pass the time. By the time we got to the front, I even took a few pictures for them and we all went on our merry ways.
Unfortunately people aren’t always so inclusive, and it’s often a lot harder to join into new social circles when most of the people there already know someone. Attending new mums groups almost feels like speed dating except all the women seem to know each other and the men (or in this instance children) are constantly interrupting every train of thought you can imagine. Trying to get to know someone whilst we are all standing around intermittently screeching at your kids, whilst trying to drink coffee, talk about our husbands/partners (don’t forget about trying to look like you’ve got it all together) oh yes and make friends at the same time. Insert hysterical laughter here, no really…if you’ve tried this you’ll know where I’m coming from, it’s like a comedy sketch after the cameras have stopped rolling and no-one told the cast!
Throw a good dosage of sleep deprivation into the mix and the fantastic ability to forget almost everyone’s names you just met, and it’s easy to fumble and lose track of your conversation one too many times and feel quite embarrassed that you’re a bit lost.
Now we all know that good friends don’t care if we repeat ourselves, turn up a bit late, looking a bit flustered or even notice that our kids don’t have matching socks on today. However the pressure to look presentable and have your kids matchy-matchy and dressed to perfection is enough to stop any anxious mums from even getting out of their pj’s that day.
It’s all too easy to throw the invitation into the too hard basket. However if you do manage to turn up at a reasonable hour, in some vaguely clean clothes sporting your favourite mum bun and semi-clean kid(s) – you know what…you’re doing great!!!
Finding the mums at group events that don’t have a circle of friends to sit with, or chatting to the mum next to you whilst your kids run around on the play equipment… might actually make someone’s day.
I went to a group event the other week I’ve been to a number of times before. I’ve always found it tough as it seems many mums/parents go there with their pre-established groups of friends and their energy is mainly focused on catching up with their existing friends. Not that there is anything wrong with that – any catch ups with your friends is great, so keep doing those great things!
How wonderful would it be thought if you we all saw a fellow mumma/parent standing by the play equipment sipping her coffee and watching her kids play – say hi, ask how old the kids are, maybe even introduce your own kids. Making the effort for a few minutes of idle chit chat really has the opportunity to make some else’s day shine so much brighter than it did before. You don’t have to fix anything, become their best friend or swap numbers – it’s just so good to be kind, be friendly and just say hello.
It’s hard to make friends as a mum, especially if you work full time – or even if you’re a SAHM your social circles most certainly shrink to people going through or being super understanding of what it’s like to have a family with young kids.
Moral of this story is sometimes it doesn’t matter how hard you try, it’s not the right social environment for you to make new friends, and as disappointing as that is – it’s ok too. Not everyone has to like you, and you’re not out trying to convert everyone into your inner friendship circle, but sometimes when you least expect it, you’ll meet someone brilliant! Better yet, their kids might be a similar age and with a bit of luck they all love playing together, and you’ve found yourself a new coffee/wine/play date friend.
Wishing you all much bravery for your next mums group play date, I absolutely know it’s the hardest thing to keep putting yourself out there…but it’s worth it, so worth it! Just like Dory from Finding Nemo always says – Just keep swimming, just keep swimming – and you know what, eventually you get there!
I’d love to hear your experiences in finding mum friends, hunting down new mums groups and rebuilding your social circles after having kids…we’re all in this together! Love HRM