Mishaps with Making New Friends as a Mother to Young Children
Making New Friends at the Park: "It's Like a Weird Form of Dating"
Before becoming a mom, I used to hang out in parks sometimes (that line sounds kinda weird to me, but please stick with me, haha!) I would pull up to the park in my car, grab my bible and maybe a journal, and stroll over to the benches to have some quiet time with the Lord. Maybe I'd lay down on a bench for a while and just observe nature and pray. I might even bring a friend along to the park and we'd walk around or hang out on the swings.
That was in my early 20's. Now that I'm in my early 30's and I'm a new mommy (I have a 3-year-old and a 6-month-old, both boys) I go to the park for different reasons (obviously!) My older son loves to play on the swings and the jungle gym, and go down the slide. He thinks the kids at the park are all his "friends" and if there's no one there when we arrive, he asks in a very matter-of-fact manner where are all "friends" are. Of course, I think it's adorable how friendly he is and how much he loves to meet new kids and play with them on our outings. For me, on the other hand, making friends at the park is not that simple.
There's a whole Mom Culture that no one ever told me about, prior to becoming a mommy myself. Moms will stroll up to the park with their fancy, $500 double strollers (Bob City Select, I think?) with their superbly dressed toddler and organic snacks in tow. Sometimes I feel like the "ghetto mom" with my used stroller off craigslist that's falling apart, now that its being used again for the second baby. I'm lucky sometimes if I remembered to grab a kids cliff bar and a sippy cup for my son, but hey, there's always the drinking fountain! Making friends with other moms who looks so pristine and put-together can feel intimidating sometimes. As one of my friends who lives out of state put it, "It's like a weird form of dating". So totally true! For example, if you hit it off with another mom, and your kids seem to like playing together, too, what's next? Do you exchange numbers, in hopes of getting together again sometime? Or do you just hope to see them again next time you happen to be at the park together? It's very awkward. Almost as awkward as dating. If you ask, "Should we exchange numbers?" the other mom can't very well say no, because that would come across as rude. On the other hand, the person might say yes, and you may never hear from them again (it's already happened to me a couple of times, and I definitely feel like I'm back in college waiting for the guy I like to call me and realizing he's not going to call. Or text). On the rare occasion where you do exchange numbers with a new mommy "friend", you never want to seem too over-eager, just like in dating. "So... should we, like, exchange numbers? I mean, not that I don't already have friends of my own... because I totally do... I know I'm here by myself with my kids, but... I DO have friends.... " OK, if you SAY all the above, that might sound desperate. But that's probably what you're thinking sometimes, right?
I have had success with making a couple of sweet friends at the park. I saw a gal there who we had seen previously, and then another gal walked up at the three of us started chatting. Our boys played together and had a great time. So, we exchanged numbers, and we've texted each other a few times on group texts to see if we could all get together at the park. But you know what? Our schedules have never lined up since then. Me and my boys have always been busy doing something else, or sick at home that week, or the other two ladies weren't free, or... you name it. Making new mommy friends sure is hard sometimes!
When You're the Loner Mom.... Next to a Clique of Mommy Friends
Being what I'll call the "loner mom" at the park with your kids can be kind of awkward. Today, I took my kiddos to the park because it was such a nice day out, and we hadn't been there in a long time due to getting a cold and being stuck at home for the past week. Instantly, when we got there, we saw a group of mommy friends gathered at the picnic tables in the shade. Now, when you're by yourself with your kids and you walk by, it feels suddenly like you're back in high school... You're alone... walking by this clique and they all know each other.. you feel the eyes on you and your kids. Do you say hi, or just ignore them? Ignoring feels awkward, but trying to strike up a conversation sometimes does as well. Does it seem desperate, like you're trying to get into their clique and be friends with them? Or do they realize you're just making friendly conversation? Maybe this mommy over-analyzes just a little too much!
One time, I did successfully infiltrate a mommy clique. I did not really intend to, but it happened. I was struggling with my baby carrier (an Ergo) as my younger son played on the slide. I made a comment about how I feel like a ghetto mom because I can't figure out these baby carriers very easily. One of the moms laughed, and told me she never used a baby carrier with either of her twins. One of the other gals sympathized about how it's hard to be by yourself with your infant and toddler at the park. Before I knew it, they invited me over to their picnic blanket, they were letting my son play with their basket of toys and try their snacks (which were organic and very cool, of course) and they were super sweet and kind to us (no, we did not exchange phone numbers).
"I'll Text You"
However, that day I also gave my phone number to another young mommy who has boys the same age as mine, who asked me if we go to that park often. I gave her my number and she said she would call (or text) me. I have yet to hear anything from her (and I'm not holding my breath!)
Joining MOPS - Like Speed Dating?
People say I should join MOPS (Mothers of Pre-Schoolers). I am thinking about doing that soon. It does kind of irk me that it costs $100 to join the MOPS group in my area. I mean, I know they make a craft every week, but how much could craft supplies possibly cost (OK, now that I think about it I guess they can get pretty pricey). My hubby and I are on one income and it's not a huge amount, so paying $100 for something not totally necessary is kind of a big deal for us. My mom offered to pay for it though, so maybe I'll be showing up to my local MOPS soon to see what all the fuss is about. I'll just think of it like going to a singles group or doing speed dating (neither of which I've ever done). Is the class that awkward, in the beginning? "Hi, I'm new to this whole mommying thing, and I promise I'm not a weirdo and that maybe you might enjoy hanging out with me and my kid??" OK, I get it that saying that would probably, once again, make things ultra awkward! Maybe I'll just go back inside my shell now.
When You Show Up to the Park or Beach... With Your Mommy Friend(s)
Showing up to the park or the beach with your mommy friends is so liberating. It's like, "Yes, what's up world? I'm here with my mommy friends. We're together. We're cool. We have each other. That's right, go ahead and stare.. We're going to go share our organic snacks now!"