I was invited by the team behind the brand new social app, Pal, to consider how a brand new, up and coming way to make new friends n your area, to consider how something like this might be useful to new parents.
One of the things that strikes new Mums and Dads down isn’t the sleep deprivation, the constant questioning of how to ‘do’ having a baby, but the sudden feeling of isolation from life as you knew it. The vast amounts of time you suddenly have to fill with your new baby can be quite life changing, and it’s completely normal to have feelings of loneliness and crave some friendship with a common bond.
If you are one of the first of your friends to have a baby, you can feel catapulted into the abyss of parenthood, left behind from the conversations about weekends away and Friday night drinks, and in desperate need of someone to talk nappy rash with.
Thankfully, just because you haven’t found your tribe yet, it doesn’t mean you should give up hope. There are loads of ways you can take simple steps to meeting other parents, and begin your journey to nailing those much sought after but often elusive ‘Mummy friends’.
Step out in your community
There are LOADS of hidden gems in your area, probably right under your nose and where you least expected them. Toddler groups run stealth in village halls, community centres and church halls, and once you find the one that suits you, you are well on your way. That first time is often daunting, but I bet you there are at least half a dozen other Mums and the odd Dad) just like you, just waiting to meet you. All you need to remember is that golden Mum pick up line: “Ah, he/she is gorgeous, how old is he/she?”. You can totally do it!
Hang out at the Sure Start centre
As well as toddler groups, there are plenty of health clinics and government funded sessions at your nearest Sure Start centre. A bit less daunting than a straight toddler group, you can head there with a purpose (to get baby weighed, learn about weaning etc) and sometimes you might just gain more than you bargained for by becoming a regular face and meeting the locals.
You may think parenting blogs are a place to read and not to make real connections, but I kid you not I’ve seen with my own eyes real friendships blossom online and turn into actual physical friendships which share coffee and chats over park playdates and home visits. Some online Mum bloggers run meet-ups in central locations, so maybe have a mooch and see who is online in your area. It’s just a matter of geography and chemistry…
If you are prepared to put your hand in your pocket, the National Childbirth Trust is an almost guaranteed way of connecting with like minded folk in your area. There’s a reason ‘The NCT lot’ are keeping Centre Parcs running and that’s because of the sheer number of Mums and Dads who have become life-long buddies as their kids grow up, cementing long term friendships.
Now as you know, I don’t do facebook, but I’m pretty sure if you look, you can find local groups connecting parents in the community. There are also social networking sites JUST for Mums, or the brand new friendship seeking app called ‘Pal‘ which allows you to search for individuals and their activities / interests in your local area. You can switch on a gender specific filter so you could specifically seek other Mums, and the area specific and activity interest filters mean you could find a running buddy, coffee shop partner or summer park play date friend to keep you sane in no time. You can manage your friend requests, tap into activities arranged by others, or even create your own. What have you got to lose?
Join an activity group
If a more direct approach to making friends is just too ‘aargh’, how about a more subtle technique. By joining a sports club, art group, volunteer for a charity…whatever floats your boat that gets you out into the mix. Let nature run its course with the people you click with, but get yourself out of the house and into an environment where things could happen for you. Don’t let having small kids stop you – look for things that can include them if needs be, what better conversation starter than when your kids hit it off with theirs…
Regardless of all the physical elements of connecting people, you are really only ever going to make headway if you are emotionally open. Wear that on your face with a smile, eye contact and friendly small talk. Say hello, chat about the weather, ask someone if they know of any good hairdressers / indian restaurants / primary schools in the area. It’s never easy being the only stranger in the room, but with each conversation you are further away from the quiet stranger and closer to being one of the group.
Go forth and Mum-tiply! And when you find those Mum friends, make sure No Mum is left behind…