Thirty years preparing. Nine months pregnant. A day and a half laboring. The baby’s here…now experience firsthand why all your friends, family, and relatives said “Oh, things are going to change BIGTIME!”
Least of all, your social life is going to have an entirely new character. You might lose track of single non-parenting friends. You might not have time for much socializing at all depending on the health and temperment of your baby. But there are also opportunities to meet an entirely new group of people because you’re in the parenting club now. But how exactly will this happen?
I wasn’t really down with the idea of joining a PEPS group. I think the parent support group model is great, but it just didn’t feel right for me. I felt like we were supported from our existing community. I was interested in meeting parents in a more dynamic and naturally social way.
When my firstborn was six months old or so, I started taking her to storytimes at a local library. I wanted to be around other parents because they really were the only ones who understood why I wanted to talk about poops, boobs, naps, and mashed up carrots. My daughter and I were shyer than shy, and it was a success if I could start a conversation about anything. “No really, it’s okay that he threw that block at my head. Again.” So imagine my surprise when a mom came over to me with her name scribbled next to her daughter’s name in crayon on the back of a scrap of paper. This bared an uncanny resemblance to being hit on! And I liked it. I waited a few days – couldn’t be too eager. Then I called with the non-committal offer of meeting at the same storytime again. Her daughter was the same age and it should have worked out just perfectly, but it didn’t. After two or three dates, we just stopped calling. No “It’s not you, it’s me” conversation – we just drifted apart.
I started going to the indoor toddler gym times at the local community center. A new playground had just been built there, so we could stay outside if the weather permitted. This was promising! I ante’ed up the $2 for us to go inside and no one was in there. I wasn’t socializing but I quickly discovered that the bouncy castle could hold my postpartum weight. $12 later, I met a plucky energetic mom Liz whose son was a few months younger than my daughter. We laughed at our kids rolling around on the mats and had an immediate rapport. I was a little hesitant to make the first move and before I knew it, she had packed up and left with her son. A few minutes later, she came running back in and was missing her phone. I offered her my phone to call hers and we found it sitting in the Radio Flyer wagon. She had my number, called my phone right back, and said “Now you have mine.” B-bam! I was back in the saddle again. (And Liz and I have weathered many ups and downs of parenting together since.)
My point is simple. Meeting parents is like meeting anyone new – that is either exciting, daunting, or in my case both. There is no rhyme or reason to determining who exactly I will develop the closest connections to. Sometimes location determines it – as with Dora. We walked past one another with our strollers several times on neighborhood walks before we exchanged numbers. I couldn’t have dreamed up a better neighbor mama friend. The first time we went to the library together, my son fell against a book shelf and split his eyebrow open. I dashed out and went home to get him cleaned up. By time I calmed down and checked back in with Dora, she had called the nurseline to see what I should be checking for. The tragedy/remedy of this happenstance cemented us together as friends.
I’ve stopped trying so hard to build up my social links in the parenting community. More longtime friends are having children now, and the less I look for friendships the more they come around from out of the blue. I don’t need to subscribe to any newsletters, or join any clubs. My kids (and charm?) are the only parent bait I need.