We’d all love the Friends with a capital F situation – a tight-knit group of easy-going mates, free to grab coffee at a moment’s notice. Helping us out with life stuff, no questions asked. Busy schedules and demands not getting in the way of a good time. Adult life doesn’t always look so picture perfect though. Friends come and go. Schedules clash. And, “Sorry, I can’t. I’m real busy,” can become a catch phrase. It’s funny how when we were younger, friends were often our priority … but as we get older, no one really teaches us how to figure out all the weird social changes.
Being a parent does funny things to our social circles. We grow distant with some mates we had heaps in common with – like, if they’ve taken different paths to us. Or if we’ve got our hands full figuring out how to parent, let alone meeting a social calendar.
But connecting with others is important for our health. Having a few good friends improves our confidence, enjoyment of life, and can even give us the occasional reality-check when your head is spinning.
So, how do we make sure we’re still connecting with mates, and other people in general, when our number 1 focus is parenting?
First, knowing it’s okay, and even normal for our circles to change throughout life takes a lot of pressure off. It doesn’t mean it’s forever. If things are busy, spelling out to our mates that they mean a lot, but they have to be patient with us is sometimes a necessary step. Communication is key.
And if you’ve moved to somewhere new, or lost touch with friends or relatives, be patient with yourself. It takes time to build up social groups and support networks, especially as a busy parent. In the meantime, connecting with people in small ways can add a bit of cheer to your day. Simple things like giving the neighbour a wave, chatting to your local coffee shop owner, or making small talk with another parent at the park. Being open to different cultures, opinions, and ways of life can also enrich your life and widen your network. If you get a bit nervous meeting new people, keep in mind that they are often more like us than we realise!
And if you’ve already got a bunch of mates but find it hard to make time – bite size connections are a lot easier than big events. Asking a neighbour to drop by so you can duck to the loo or have a shower (heaven with a new-born!), then using the time to have a quick chat. Calling a mate for ten minutes during lunch if you’ve been out of touch. You could even chat with someone at Parentline. Or maybe it’s about doing stuff with your mates that the kids will enjoy too – like a movie, or family-friendly cafes. Joining a Dads group or Mums group with people who are flexible because they’re juggling kids too. Or simply organising a chat over a cup of tea instead of a big outing. As your life changes – find new ways to connect with people that work for you.