November 25, 2015
Moving is a big deal. I don’t think it matters if you move three blocks or across the country, it unsettles your routine and upends your life in a way that only new adventures can. Because we only moved 30 minutes down the road (and because I’m an eternal optimist) I assumed, though, moving wasn’t going to affect me at all; I’d still see my friends most days and do all the same things we used to do in the same neighborhood, because what’s a little half hour drive? We’d basically have our house in San Rafael, but live our life in our old San Francisco neighborhood so we’d have a lovely new home and NOTHING WOULD CHANGE.
Which, surprise, surprise, is not at all how it has turned out. Thirty minutes is not a big drive, but not one you want to do multiple times a day. Plus, we moved to San Rafael for actual reasons that include liking the town and weather so some days it’s nice to stay put and enjoy it. This new revelation (we moved and that means WE LIVE SOMEWHERE ELSE) means I’ve also had to come to terms with the fact that, yes, in fact our preschool has changed, our friends aren’t around the corner to drop by for an impromptu playdate, our new baristas don’t automatically know my coffee drink, and I’m going to have to put some effort into building a new community and making San Rafael home.
Which, in theory, is fine. I love meeting new people and consider it one of my strengths that I can talk to anyone about anything, but it still takes effort and motivation, two things that have been in short supply with all unpacking and readjusting that’s been going on around here. So, I am going to lean on my tried and true method for meeting new people and get out there, because my current method of relying on a 2- and 4-year old for adult stimulation is not working.
Six Simple Steps for Making New Friends as a Parent:
1. Get out of the house. I know this seems obvious, but you have to leave your house in order to meet people. I mean, there’s probably not anyone hiding in your closet, and, if there is, are you sure they’re the person you want to be friends with?
Here’s the thing, it’s easy to use getting the house together or organizing your bills or settling in as an excuse to not leave (and I’m not undermining the importance of having a lovely space to come home to), but if you want to make friends you’re going to have to leave the confines of your home.
2. Go where the moms hang out. Listen, if you’re a parent, you’ve got it made. I can pretty much guarantee that most of the other adults at the playground/play space/coffee shop are dying to talk to someone taller than three feet about anything other than Minions (I mean, aren’t you?). Put yourself in their literal space and start talking. I know, but, Kara, how do I start a conversation?!?! Well…
3. Use your kids. The hardest part of having a conversation with a stranger is the opener. So, use the fact you both have kids to create common ground – comment on how cute their baby is, ask how old their kiddo is, see where they got their shoes. Be as genuine as possible (don’t say you like their hat if you hate it!), but don’t overthink this. Just ask a question and then listen to their answer and then ask another one (how long have you lived in the neighborhood?) and before you know it, you’ll be having a conversation.
4. Grow a pair. Once you’ve connected with someone and spent a few minutes chatting, take the leap and ask for their number. This is going to feel weird, and remind you of your years dating that you were certain were behind you, and THAT’S OKAY. Just say, “This was so fun chatting! We should meet up again sometime.” (Why yes it was fun!) “Can I get your number?” I promise, it’s as easy as that.
5. Text them right away. You guys, texting is the greatest invention ever for building new friendships. It’s low maintenance, easy to do, and every mom I know loves it because you can feel connected while still watching your kids. So, use it. As you’re leaving the playground send a quick text about how great it was to meet and how you’re looking forward to hanging out again soon.
6. Follow up. You’ve done the hard part of making the connection, now don’t let it wither on the vine. Within the next day or two, send a text asking your new friend if they want to meet you at the playground or join you for an excursion or, heaven forbid, grab a glass of wine. And then they’ll say yes and before you know it, you’ll have a new friend.
A caveat: Putting yourself out there is a vulnerable, risky business. There’s a chance, you’ll try and talk to someone and they won’t engage or you’ll text someone and they won’t ever get back to you or even that you’ll meet up again and find you actually don’t connect the way you hoped. THAT’S OKAY. It doesn’t say anything about you, I promise, even though it can feel dangerously personal, especially when you’re in a more exposed state like when you’ve just moved. Don’t let this stop you. I promise, there are plenty of people out there who want more friends and want to be friends with you – like any other thing worth doing, it takes time and love and energy (jeez, could I make it sound anymore fun?). If you keep putting yourself out there, you will meet people and build a community of people who support you and know your favorite coffee drink.