Whether you’re a new stay-at-home parent with a partner, or whether you’re a new single parent, you need this.
Because believe me, there will come a time, probably soon, when you realise that you don’t know what to do. Something completely unexpected happens. The books are no help.
Now’s the time a sympathetic, understanding friend might come in handy, don’t you think?
The great disconnect
We live in a world very different to the one our parents grew up in – even different to the one many of us grew up in.
Nowadays, we don’t live near our families. We don’t have aunts, uncles, cousins, great aunts, grandparents, brothers, sisters, nieces and nephews within a few minutes drive. We probably don’t know many of our neighbours.
Imagine if I gave you an awesome job – “Congratulations, you can start tomorrow!” – but when you started, you realised there was no time off, no training, no manual, no compulsory professional development, no coaching or experienced staff on hand to guide you and no way of quitting, ever?
How good a job would you do?
That’s modern parenting.
Of course, you do have the option of reading parenting books, magazines and blogs. You can listen to podcasts and visit child health nurses. There are even formal parenting training courses on various topics.
But after a while, all of these voices start to blend into one another.
Now, instead of a few, trustworthy, familiar examples to follow, we are inundated with a million parenting methods, styles, advisers from all over the world. How can we possibly know what to trust?
If we all lived in villages, we would experience parenting from the moment of birth. We would see our parents bringing up our younger siblings. We’d see local families and relatives bringing up their children and we would see our older siblings going through the new parent experience. When it was our turn, we would not be starting with a clean slate, but with a wealth of knowledge under our belts. Not to mention several willing, loving helpers to see us through the tough times.
In modern Australia there are few people who are lucky enough to have this experience.
Most of us have few if any siblings. We are distanced from our neighbours or extended family, either by location or emotion. And we don’t know the first thing about parenting until we learn it the hard way.
Filling a need
You can have all the parenting books you like on your shelf, but when the chips are down and you don’t know what to do or how to cope, the best tool in your kit is a friend.
A friend who is living your life – a parent.
They can be older or younger, experienced or not. The details don’t matter. What matters is that they care about you and your life. They want to help.
They won’t judge you because they are going through the same things. They are there for you.
That’s all very well, but how?
How do I make these friends? I mean, here I am, surrounded by nappies, dirty clothes and a screaming infant and you want me to go out and make friends? Are you kidding?
Nope. If you want parent friends, you’ve got to go out there and find them. That means putting on some semblance of daytime wear, throwing a few spare nappies and changes of clothes into a bag, locating your purse and keys, oh yes and your infant, and leaving the house. It’ll do you both good.
Potential friends are everywhere. You just have to know where to look.
In fact, parents have it pretty easy. Children are the common denominator – you know that as soon as you walk into a child-centric place, the adults around you have at least one thing in common. I made more friends in a new city in the ten months after the birth of my first child than in the ten or so years before.
Where to look
Try these out:
- The pool or dance class – any formal lesson is a great place to meet parents. Chat with the parents of the kids in your child’s class. See which child seems to be making friends with yours and invite him and his parent to your place or the park for a play date.
- The new mother’s group – this is a great place to meet other new mums, even if you don’t end up as friends with them all. Just because you all had a baby at the same time doesn’t make you kindred spirits, but the chances are you’ll get to know and like one or two, who might become good friends.
- Playgroup – go to your local playgroup. Your child will meet other kids who may end up being at school with them and you will get to know parents in a relaxed atmosphere while your children are distracted with craft and toys.
- The park or an indoor play centre – this is a tricky one, as often parents are distracted or already with a friend. But you never know. At least your children will be entertained, leaving you to divert some attention away from them and towards other adults.
Don’t forget that to make a friend, you need to be a friend.
Listen, celebrate their kids and commiserate with their problems. If they ask for your help in a pinch, help them, even if it’s inconvenient for you. It’s a two-way street, so if you both give and receive you’re more likely to maintain the friendship. If it’s all one way, the friendship will fizzle out before it begins.
Finally, remember: if it seems too hard to make the effort for yourself, and you can’t see the benefits, think of your child.
If you are friends with other parents, your child will get the chance to make friends of their own. Great for building social skills!
Have you made some great friends since you’ve had kids? How did you form the friendships? Please SHARE below.