Ah, maternity leave! Those long, sunny days (they were always sunny when you recall them now, right?) of lazing in the park with your happy, cooing baby by your side. Bliss.
But it’s not like that, is it? Chances are you’ve found yourself bored, lonely and desperate for the company of someone who can string whole sentences together and shares your love of a good sauvignon.
Finding friends when you have a new baby isn’t easy, but it’s possible. So whether it’s your first child or you’re back in baby-land for the second, third or fourth time (or more!), follow these tips for how to make friends.
1Get yourself out there
As lovely as it would be (imagine being able to stay in your pyjamas), it’s unlikely any new friends are about to come knocking on your door. Resist the urge to watch another episode of Sesame Street and go find them instead.
2Become a social butterfly
Find as many baby & toddler groups as you can. Get online, visit your library, look at the noticeboard in the doctor’s surgery. Then get out your diary – or use a scrap of paper if you have to – and plan your week. Try as many as possible (without exhausting yourself or your baby). You’ll be amazed at what you find – a whole army of women just like you, craving the company of someone whose conversation amounts to more than “Da-da-da, ga-ga-ga.” Forget the housework. Your sanity is more important.
Accepted advice is to try each group at least three times before giving up on it. Rubbish. You know what you like and the kind of people you prefer to be around. If you don’t enjoy a particular group or nobody so much as smiles at you, don’t go back. There’ll be others. And don’t be disheartened, either. It’s their loss.
4But not too choosy
Be prepared to strike up unlikely friendships with people you might never have imagined spending time with before baby came along. You may have nothing in common on the face of it, but it’s surprising how much there is to discuss when your kids are teething at the same time. (CLUE: It’s rarely about teething.)
You might want to run for the hills (or at least hide in the toilet) but it really is down to you to do the talking. If the gang of mums chatting and laughing over slices of cake is too intimidating, look for another on her own. Chances are she’s feeling the same and will be grateful you made the first move. What’s the worst that could be happen? If she’s rude and unfriendly, that’s why she’s on her own – you wouldn’t want to be friends with her anyway!
Admitting you’re sad and lonely may not seem like the best conversation starter, but showing your vulnerable side is a winner when it comes to making friends. Just as the best parenting blogs and podcasts are the ones blowing away the myth that parenting is always a joy, so fellow parents appreciate good old-fashioned honesty. You do need a friend. And it did take all the courage you could muster just to walk through the front door. Say so. Just try to laugh instead of bursting into tears when you do.
7Get their number
If you make a connection with someone, don’t let them leave without swapping numbers, or at least planning to meet again. Suggest seeing them at the same place next week, getting together for coffee or trying another group. It won’t seem desperate, we promise. Ok, maybe a bit. But they’re in need of company too and will completely understand. Oh look – you’ve made a new mum friend. How easy was that?