Making New Friends Is Easy, Right?
Having children changes friendships. It changes your friendships with people who don’t have children, your friendships with people who have slightly older children than yours and even with those who have children the same age. These aren’t always negative changes though. Some of my friends without children have become as close to my kids as they are to me. In fact, I reckon one or two actually like my kids more. Other people who I already considered to be in my group of closest friends have had children at the same time as me and become a whole other level of close. It’s true though that sometimes, these huge changes in lifestyle mean that some people inevitably start drifting away.
Me with my lovely friend Rhiannon. I’ve been friends with her for 15 years so I already knew she was good, but I literally cannot do motherhood without her.
When I had my daughter, I was a bit sad about this. I felt a bit isolated from my “old” life and it felt like a shame that some of my friends weren’t such a big part of my “new life”. But as time has passed, I’ve realised that these things happen and it can sometimes be an opportunity to extend my social circle to include people who are more local, more available when I’m available (9am Monday anyone?) and more understanding of why I’m so ridiculously rigid about my kids napping at home (the meltdowns, oh the meltdowns!)
When our daughter was born, we’d just moved to a new area and I found pregnancy gave me the opportunity to seek out some local friends. My husband and I signed up for a course of “buy some friends for just under £100” (NCT) classes, I joined pregnancy aquarobics and yoga groups, and there I had it, a ready-made group of people who had children the same age and who lived nearby. Two-and-a-half years on, some of those people have become regular playdate, coffee-drinking, weekday buddies and I love having them in my life. My daughter also really benefits from having friends her age outside of nursery so it’s a good thing all round.
The Little Food Critic with one of her NCT buddies. This was taken almost two years ago and they’re still firm friends now:
However, when I was pregnant with my son I was EXHAUSTED, so I only made about 5 of the aquarobics classes. We didn’t do the NCT refresher course (surely we hadn’t forgotten how to look after a newborn baby in under 2 years?) and I went to yoga but I found the group didn’t quite gel as well as first time around. So, even though I have a good group of friends, I feel like it’s important to find some people locally who have children my son’s age.
So why, oh why, haven’t I taken my chances when they’ve presented themselves? Because it’s scary stuff, actually APPROACHING people with the aim of making friends with them. Today was a case in point. I got chatting with a woman in Pret a Manger in Woking – she asked to sit at our table just as we were leaving and as she sat down I said “sorry about the mess”. She replied that she has three children so it didn’t worry her and the conversation went from there. Turns out she has two older children (9 and 7) but her youngest is the same age as The Little Restaurant Inspector. She made me laugh too, an important quality in potential friends. As I walked away to find my husband and my toddler (who was just at the beginning of an epic pre-nap overtired meltdown – see above), I thought “I liked her”. Now I’m home, I’m kicking myself that I didn’t think to say “Oh, our babies are the same age, do you fancy getting together for a coffee one day?”.
So why didn’t I? Well, firstly because I didn’t think of it in the moment but also because that sh*t is scary! It’s kind of like dating, and who wants to risk rejection? I’ve actually given someone my email address in the past and she looked all enthusiastic about meeting up then I never heard from her so perhaps I’m a bit scarred from that experience too. WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME? I’M FUN! Aren’t I?
So today I walked away, and I’ll never know whether I could have made a new friend. Unless, of course, the power of social media means she reads this. I live in hope.