Making friends after you have kids, it's sort of like dating all over again (only harder)
You’re at the playground; you meet a fellow mom; her kids are playing well with your kids; the ages match up; you are cracking a few jokes; she seems to totally think you’re funny and interesting. She even compliments your yoga pants. You smile and thank the Good Lord that lululemon invented the reversible yoga pant as these babies made a similar debut to the playground yesterday. You are getting up the courage to ask to swap digits or at least Instagram handles when snack time rolls around. You pull out some baggies of Goldfish and juice while new potential mom friend hands her child a curious egg-shaped thing wrapped in tin foil. The child squeals happily and begins to eat her snack with glee. (# WTH?) Of course you don’t say that; instead, you play it cool and nonchalantly inquire about the snack. “Oh,” says new potential mom friend…”It’s just an organic sweet potato I heated up in the oven”….in a tone that suggests it’s the most normal kid snack in the world. And there it is…the writing is on the wall, She’s too good for you...there will be no exchanges of handles or digits…sigh, you scan the playground for a more compatible friend, paying careful attention to the non-organic or whole food content of their snack selections. Come on, people. I consider myself on the crunchy side but an ORGANIC SWEET POTATO? Can we just get some good old fashioned cheese puffs over here?
Perhaps you have been blessed to live in the same town your entire life and have those close buddies you went from grade school to parenthood with. Your bond is solidified through thick and thin; you have those inside jokes about that crazy girl in high school or what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas or something else “insidey” like that. Obviously, I envy you. You are Known. You have your people, your village, your support. Or you could be like our family and have moved around a lot and had to start over again, busting into a friend network every time. It is a lot easier to gain friends pre-kid. You have more time to talk and do stuff together. It’s like a long romance where you can sit and talk for hours while slowly sipping fine wine. Post-kid, it’s like speed dating. You have a very small window of time to interview another family for compatibility before you have to respond to the needs of…"I have to potty, I’m hungry, I’m hungry AGAIN, he hit me, she’s copying me, I’M REALLY HUNGRY NOW…can we leave? Sometimes I feel like I should just be like George Costanza in Seinfeld when he decided to just confess his unemployment and all his other flaws and hope someone would go out with him strictly because his honesty was refreshing.
“Hi…look we don’t have a lot of time here so I’m going to cut to the chase: we are the Holmes; we do not cloth diaper, breastfeed past two, attachment parent, passionately debate politics or home school. Our kids occasionally watch too much TV, eat non-organic and are up to date on vaccinations. We are not pro-sports people or even college sports people for that matter; it’s not that we don’t enjoy games; it’s just that we have no idea what’s going on so we are not going to pretend. On a good day we live in controlled chaos; we are constantly trying to figure this parenting thing out so expect us to be honest about this. We have no desire to present to you the facade of a perfect family. We do not own a boat, have a pool or anything else that would make us those desirable friends with toys. But we are fun; we have a desire to know you well and be known well. We are loyal people. We are also pretty amazing cooks and make a margarita that will knock you on your butt so there is a payoff if you can handle our crazy.”
One night Matt and I were on a walk around our new neighborhood. We saw a cute family and we ended up exchanging numbers. Matt and I played it cool till they were out of sight and then high-fived and screamed in unison, ”YESSSSSS! WE got their digits!” (happy dance was in full swing when we caught a look from our kids that let us know they thought we just descended from the moon. Look, kids, the struggle is real; Mom and Dad are just trying to make some friends because as much as we love to play legos with you for four hours, adult interaction at some point is necessary for our mental health.)
Most of us have been there, relocated to a new town, taken our children to a foreign playground, made efforts at small talk with strangers. Community is good and we need it as parents as much as our children do. It really does feel difficult like dating, only it’s actually harder. So much comes into play like the ages of your children, your lines of work, parenting styles, etc. It can take time and be discouraging.
Perhaps this post will serve as a reminder to those of us who have been through it and can make an effort to welcome that new family to the neighborhood or that new mom on the playground, to include new Dads on your guys’ nights or invite their kids over. Now that we are officially plugged into our new town, I have a heart to specifically target these people. I get sad when people talk about cliques and trying to break in or even just giving up. Parenting is difficult; we need our villages; the struggle to find them is real. Perhaps we strive too much to find families that are “compatible” with us when we just need to jump in and cultivate community. Some of us married someone that wasn't nescesarly our "type" and discovered it makes for a beautiful relationship. If those die-hard sports-loving families want to invite us Holmes to their Super Bowl party and can keep it down during the commercials, we are in. Or if that extra-crunchy-organic-sweet potato-mom will dare let her kid come over to our house which is a veritable shrine to gluten, she would be welcomed with open arms. Parenthood in itself is relatable; let’s make an extra effort to be inclusive.