After my Home Days post, we got this great question:
I was reading Emily’s post about staying home and now I’m wondering if one of you could address the opposite problems. How do I make friends, find other moms and kids to do things with, and decide what activities to get involved in? I’m a pretty serious introvert so I don’t usually miss having friends, but it would be nice to have some. I’m also very limited by not having a car and lacking much (read:any) money for lessons/activities/classes. We have done some swimming lessons (I didn’t do a good job at connecting with other mothers), story time at the library (didn’t actually involve much story time, so I stopped), and a mom’s group (sitting around a table listening to a speaker wasn’t very helpful for meeting people, either).
My experience with swimming lessons, library story time, and mom’s groups is actually very similar–very rarely have they paid off in real friendships. And I remember the one-car days that made outings more complicated. Most places we’ve lived, it takes me at least a year to make real friends. Here are some of my ideas for making new friends in a new place, but I hope our readers can pitch in with some other ideas for a follow-up post!
- Try to utilize friend-of-friend connections. If an old friend has given you the contact info for another family who lives in your area, get in touch with them, even if it feels awkward at first. In a couple cases, those have become real friends for me, and in other cases, they’ve introduced me to their friends who become my friends. At the very least, a mom already established in the area can tell you what activities her kids enjoy.
- If your husband has coworkers with kids, invite the family over for dinner. They might not end up as your BFFs, but they can help you with connections.
- Think outside of the young-stay-at-home-mom-with-kids box. The hardest thing about coming into a mom’s group as a newbie is that we young moms are often as stretched and committed as we can be. Especially when you’re both at the multiple-naps-a-day stage, it can just be really hard to schedule get-togethers. Moms of one or two might not have a car, either. Moms with several kids might not have the car space to pick you and your kids up anymore. So I actually recommend pursuing friendships with women who don’t have kids yet or whose kids are grown up. They are often more flexible and can come to you. And they can stay over naptime.
- Along the same lines, I’ve had much more success with multi-generational Bible studies than at designated young moms groups like MOPS. For one thing, a small group discussion of a passage of scripture facilitates building friendships more than listening to a speaker. For another, I have found that older women have often had more life experiences and can relate to me better than the table full of younger women who still live in their hometown and don’t know how hard it is to uproot and move. If you’ve found a church, do they have a Wednesday morning Bible study that women of all ages attend? At my church, there’s just a fee for the book, and you might even be able to raid your mom’s bookshelves for that. If you don’t have a church home yet, Community Bible Study (CBS) and Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) are both interdenominational Bible Study programs with great children’s programs and scholarships for women with tight budgets. There are always ladies willing to give you a ride if you need it, too.
- Practice hospitality. A lot. When I didn’t have a car, I had to ask acquaintances to come to me. In some parts of the country (particularly out here in SoCal!), I’ve found that I have to do 90% of the asking when building a new friendship. Ask, ask, ask again. When the weather is nice, you can offer to meet at a park within walking distance, but if that’s not an option, ask people into your home. If they have kids older than yours, suggest that they bring a toy or two so that they don’t get bored. If they have a baby who naps, offer to put your pack-n-play up in your bedroom so that they can stay over naptime. Make it clear that you would love to provide lunch–sandwiches and fruit is cheap and easy–so that there’s no awkwardness about mealtime. Sometimes it takes two or three get-togethers for me to decide whether I’m going to click with someone.
In closing, I’d like to encourage those of you who are already established and have friends to keep an eye out for newbies. Making a new friend is always a time commitment, but sometimes it can happen by inviting a new mom along to activities you already do. Those of us who’ve moved a lot always appreciate the gateway friend (like my friend Jenny in the picture at the top of this post) who not only has us over right away, but introduces us to the church play group, the ballet class, the community pool.
So what about you, readers? How have you had success in making friends with small kids in tow? Any tips from one-car families?