Early in my first pregnancy, my husband was offered a new job in another country.
At the time, we were living in my hometown – a spot that’s kind of perfect for raising kids and is round the corner from family and friends. But, excited by the adventure of moving to a place we didn’t know, and completely in the dark about what lay ahead as new parents, we took all of 30 seconds to decide to take the job and make the move…
The saying ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ was thrown my way a lot in response to the relocation, but I didn’t take much notice of the concern. As well as being desperate to prove people wrong – it was all going to be “FINE” – I couldn’t have imagined how much life was about to change. It was only after I moved away from my village and had my baby, did I really start to understand the importance of a support network to help with all that baby baggage. Hypothetical parenting was so much easier.
It took me a while to admit I needed to make some new friends as I had a lovely bunch back in England. But therein lay the problem – my tribe was in another country. During the first year of motherhood, I spent a lot of time sitting in the house or walking the local beach, with only my new baby for company. It was really hard and I was really lonely. This amazing little person was the centre of my universe, but she couldn’t stick the kettle on yet.
So, after greeting my husband from work with big, ugly, shoulder-shaking, snotty cries on a number of occasions, I set about overcoming the isolation by trying to make some new mates. As an introvert, however, putting myself out there (CRINGE!) filled me with terror and, needless to say, I haven’t found it easy. Making mum friends is hard!
Four years and two kids later, I wouldn’t say I’ve found my tribe, but I’m definitely getting better at looking. Mainly because as I get older I give less f*cks, which makes making friends a little less awkward. Just a little… Am I the only one who thinks it’s like dating?
In the process, I’ve managed to forage a few like-minded mums, even if it’s just a conversation at one of the many groups I’ve dragged myself to. This is no mean feat (as any introvert will know) and has made the world of difference to a day that has begun deep in the trenches. The power of a cuppa and a chat will never cease to amaze me.
For anyone in the same boat, I can’t guarantee success, but here are a few alternative (and not too desperate) befriending techniques that have worked for me …
- Dressing to impress. In a sea of Breton striped tops, I try to mix things up with a slogan tee or quirky print, both of which have attracted attention from mums and infants on a few occasions. Like the time I got chatting to a lady at the local breastfeeding group after she thanked me for hypnotizing her screaming baby with my bright pink leopard print sweatshirt. (I took it as a compliment.)
- Keeping them sweet. Carrying around snacks to entice potential new friends might feel a little creepy, but offering a sugar hit to a tired parent works a treat – tried and tested. Brownie points if the snacks are also baby / toddler friendly.
- Lending a hand. Waiting rooms, shops, car parks and cafes are all places swarming with baggage-laden parents trying to navigate awkward spaces. Open the door, hold the lift, lend a hand and (possibly) make a friend.
- Catching (or offering) lifts. A couple of months into motherhood, a mum in the baby massage class I was attending offered me a lift to a sling meet the following week. I declined because I didn’t see the point – why would I go to the trouble of transferring the baby seat from my own car to hers? Now I can see it was probably an attempt to make friends.
- Poaching pals. I’ve found making friends with parents who know other parents in the area a simple and effective befriending technique. Because they can introduce you to a wider circle of potential new mates, and are usually the type to approach you in the first instance, a lot of the legwork has already been covered. A winner for anyone as socially awkward as me!