Today’s question wasn’t submitted by a specific reader but is rather an aggregate of many conversations I’ve had recently with other parents of young kids. The theme keeps coming up over and over, and some of the specific threads are as follows: How do parents make connections with other parents? How do you turn conversations about sleep-training and poop into actual friendships? When do you make the move to stop talking about your kids and start talking about yourselves?
Let me start by saying that before I had kids, it didn’t seem like this would be such a big deal. I thought, “I have a lot of friends already. Why does it matter if they’re parents or not?” Most of the time that’s still true, but when my non-parent friends talk about going out past 7:00 p.m., my eyes start to glaze over. Sometimes it’s really important to talk to other people who understand the struggle to be fully functioning adults while walking around with burp cloths on their shoulders and who know the difference between a Boppy and a Bumbo.
Here are a few specific suggestions, especially applicable if you live in Philly, but translatable to other cities as well:
When you meet a family at the park, introduce yourself to the parent as well as the child. I do this almost never, and as a result, I know all the kids’ names and none of the parents’. I should listen to my own advice.
- Like “JKidPhilly” on facebook and come to their events. You can start with the playdate I’m organizing on July 15 at 10:00 a.m. for parents of infants 0-6 months.
- Check out the variety of mommy and me classes around town, including Stroller Strides, Mamalates, and too many others to name. Daddy and me classes are few and far between, but they do exist. Again, Facebook is great for this stuff.
- Get in touch with the Moms Night Out group that meets on the last Thursday of every month at Ten Stone in Grad Hospital. There is a comparable Dads Night Out group. You can email me for details.
- Browse the blog on Kveller.com, and join other online networking sites for parents.
- Talk to friends, co-workers and neighbors and try to find out who knows anyone with kids around the same age as yours. Organize a casual get-together and see who you click with.
I realize none of this is the magic solution to turn acquaintances into friends, but, just like I always say about dating, you have to meet people first before you can form lasting relationships. Don’t be afraid to make the first move because, from what I can tell, most new parents have these questions, which means the person on the receiving end of your advances is likely to be receptive, or at least pleasantly surprised.
Also, after just over two years of parenthood, some of the people who were once my childless friends are beginning to have kids, and it's wonderful to be able to turn the real friendships I already had into parent friendships.
What's even more wonderful? Childless friends who are eager to play with your kids and give you free babysitting! So don't despair; there's a positive spin to every arrangement and lots of meaningful ways to have friends.