When you’re a parent, finding time for friends can be hard. But even a couple of hours with a friend can really recharge your battery. Here are some ideas about how to make new friends and keep up with old ones.
How to keep up with old friends
Even though you might feel your life has changed dramatically since having a baby, your friends are still part of who you are. They offer shared experiences and understanding. They can help maintain balance in your life, providing encouragement and sometimes a much needed reality check.
That’s why it’s important to make time for your old friends. Here are some tips.
It’s easier to make time if you plan to do something rather than hoping it will happen by itself. Set a date to catch up with friends but don’t be worried if you have to change your plans – having a new baby can make things unpredictable!
Encourage friends to join in
Friends are interested in your life, no matter what’s going on, so you can encourage them to join in your new life as a parent.
If your friends have children, they’re likely to be understanding and supportive. Even if your friends don’t have children, they might enjoy hearing what it’s like to be a parent – delighting in the positives and sympathising with the negatives. They might even have a fresh take on things that could help you.
Choose the right activities
Friends who don’t have children can still have fun on outings with you and your family. It’s a matter of picking the right activity, whether it’s feeding ducks at the park, going to a matinee movie screening or heading to the pool. Why not take the pram for a walk and talk with a friend?
Keep it simple
Gatherings that are easy to organise can take the stress out of getting together.
For example, a dinner where everybody brings a dish is a great way to have people over without having to worry about cooking and organising. Another advantage is that your baby can go to bed without having his routine disrupted.
Find a babysitter
A regular babysitter and ‘date night’ can give you the chance to go out, see a movie or have dinner together. Grandparents and extended family and friends might be happy to help with this. You could also organise babysitting ‘swaps’ with friends who have children.
Talk about old and new interests
You might feel like your only identity is as a parent, but to your old friends – especially those without children – you’re just you. So in addition to your baby and life right now, talk about a broad range of things that are of interest to you and your friends.
Making time for old friends helps you stay in touch with those things you and your friends have in common – music, food, sports, gossip, your old workplace and other personal interests you probably have less time for now.
How to make new friends
Now that you have a child, another group of friends will open up for you – other parents. Here are some good ways to meet parents:
- Join a new parents group at your neighbourhood clinic or community centre.
- Make the effort to chat at your local playgroup, kindergarten or play centre.
- Try to stay in touch with new parents you meet at the hospital.
- Go to the park so you can chat while your children play together.
- Go to ‘parents and babies’ sessions at your local cinema.
- Join a reputable online forum where you can chat with other parents.
Video Mothers groups: why they’re good
In this short video on parent support groups, Australian mothers discuss the benefits of going to a mothers group. You can connect with others sharing similar experiences. You can find support in tough times. And you can also talk about your child’s development and see that there’s a big range of normal when it comes to child development.
Building and maintaining a solid support network is really important for single parents
. These friendships give you a break from your busy caring role.
Sometimes new fathers find it difficult to keep up with old friends and make new friends. The friends they had when they were single or childless tend to drop away as fathers’ social lives become more about family and children.
It’s important for both fathers and mothers to have time to themselves. Dads could organise catch-ups with their friends from before baby came along. Another option for dads is to look into new activities and social interests – for example, local sports clubs or hobby groups with a family focus.
Stay-at-home dads can be more isolated than mothers because they’re generally less likely to join new parent groups – often because they feel out of place. But playgroups – even traditional mothers groups – can be good places for dads to meet other dads.
Fathers say that talking to their friends about their children and their new parenting experiences is one of the few personal things they feel comfortable about sharing. Talking about children and experiences of being a dad can be a way to cement new friendships or maintain old ones.
What other parents say about their friendships
- ‘My son was the first born in my circle of friends, and their reactions were great. Then later the visits decreased because their lives continued in their own direction and I had taken a new path.’
- ‘We decided to be proactive about seeing our friends. We would have everyone over at our house a lot. Friday night was pizza and footy night, and we would have BBQs in the nice weather on the weekends. It was great everyone coming to us, and that way, James could sleep in his bed and we got to catch up with all of our friends.’
- ‘A lot of my friendships have fallen to the wayside. I’m in such a different headspace now that I’m a mother and my priorities have changed so much. I’ve just let the friendships go and will wait and see what happens in the meantime. I’ve just made some really lovely friends with some of my playgroup mothers which is great and I don’t feel so alone in my motherhood now.’
- ‘We were the first among our friends to have a baby. They all thought it was great at first, a novelty I guess. Always dropping in to see us ... Then they started organising dinners at restaurants and doing things that just weren’t baby friendly. So we stopped seeing them so much.’
This short video features parent stories about playgroups, child care and preschool. These settings can be great for children – but also a good chance for you to meet other parents and make new friends and contacts.
Mums and dads talk about strategies they used to settle their children into play and care outside the home. They also share their feelings about their children going to care and preschool.