Let’s be real, making new friends as an adult can be hard and making new friends as a parent is even harder. Adding in isolating factors like the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and having a fresh newborn, it can feel damn-near impossible and have you longing for a sense of community. And that’s normal! Parenthood, historically, has always been a community-based activity and most of us function far better when we have a support system in place—whether they be family, friends, colleagues or even internet buddies. Here are some tips to help find your parenting tribe:
Take it virtual!
Even if you were a total social butterfly pre-children, the fact is that having a kiddo can put a damper on your social life and outings. Whether it’s finding and securing a good sitter, dealing with non-stop daycare colds or just getting plain steamrolled by all of your new-found responsibilities—you probably don’t have the time to hang out at your local coffee shop or Gymboree and stumble upon new pals. Thankfully, it’s 2022, and we’re no stranger to the internet! Places like Facebook, Slack, WhatsApp and Peanut can be invaluable tools when looking to connect to other parents.
Joining a digital community (like our own Is This Normal group on Facebook or even a local town page) is the perfect way to ask questions, read insights from parents or experts and interact with other parents when you may not have the time or ability to do so in-person. Apps like Peanut (think Tinder for parents) also strive to connect parents to one another based on geographic location, child or gestational age and interests! You can also check in with your employer, building, or daycare to see if they have their own networks—many have Slack channels or WhatsApp chat groups dedicated to all things new parenthood.
One of the most valuable lessons having kids teaches you is to roll with the punches, so try to remember this when it comes to meet ups. Planned a park play date only to have it rained out? Take it to a local cafe or communal play space! Music class canceled? Bundle your little ones up and have a walk-and-talk instead! Afternoon a battleground with nap schedules? Grab coffee earlier in the morning and head for the swings! Get creative so you can find ways to socialize and keep the most important parts of your babe’s schedule intact.
Find similarities where you can.
Just like any other friendship, it’s important to find things in common—and not just the fact that you have children. I’ve found there are a couple of helpful questions to ask when seeking out friends to build your community like…Are your children the same age? Do you both have multiples? Is your employment situation or work industry similar? Ex-pats of the same country or other community? Following particular parenting guidelines like attachment parenting or gentle parenting?
Facebook groups (and other virtual forums) can be a great way to connect with others and gather like-minded buddies to relate to along this wild ride!
Be open and honest.
In the age of social media, we all know what it’s like to see that squeaky-clean, picture perfect ‘momstagrammer’. She’s got a full face of makeup, a clean house and a babe with even pigtails who is playing silently and joyously in the corner with blocks. And it makes you feel…awful! Totally normal. One of the best pieces of advice I can share is to be brutally honest with your new-found parenting community. Ask the hard questions that only other caregivers can help answer, vent about your partner or your little one’s latest regression and lean on people that can relate to your struggles. Stay away from unsolicited advice, bragging + comparison and focus on how you can use + assist others in this same crazy stage of life.
The first few trips out in the stroller, solo in the car or on the subway can be anxiety-inducing. Same goes for the fear of a meltdown at a class, a blowout at the library or breastfeeding in public. Try your best to make plans with your community when you and your babe are up for it and stick to them. Whether it’s a virtual book club or coffee break during nap time, a walk or an in-home playdate—you’ll be glad you gave yourself that time to connect!