By Yusur Al-Salman, Redefining Traditional Project Lead
If socializing has become something you equally dread and look forward to, you’re not alone. Many people are having mixed-feelings about return to in-person settings and interacting more frequently with large number of people – whether for work or pleasure. Psychologists refer to this as ‘re-entry anxiety’ (Lombardi, 2021) – an uneasiness about returning to social life without the restrictions we’ve grown accustomed to during the pandemic.
Juggling our professional life demands with an irregular caregiving schedule has depleted our emotional bank in the past years. But that same emotional bank balance won’t grow regular deposits of love and support from both family and friends. With the little energy left for us, how can we maintain or cultivate new friendships?
How to approach new friendships?
If you’ve managed to keep your friendships afloat, kudos to you! As for parents seeking to make friends at this juncture, it can be more daunting than dating. So here are some of the top tips we came across to help you make friends with other parents.
- Meet the parents of your children’s friends. Whether they met on a sports field or a park, making friends with other parents will be easier knowing your children are getting along as well.
- Approach other parents without expectations – they may or may not be emotionally ready to pursue a friendship at the time, or just have too much on their plate. If they do not respond to your invitations, do not take it personally. Accept that not every relationship is necessarily built to last and keep looking for your tribe.
- Seek friends who have similar values, interests or experiences, and not necessarily positive ones. We came across an article that cited a mother who wanted not only a friend who experienced motherhood, but one who understood what it feels to be a mother to a sick child. Hence, she said she “recently been trying to get friendly with some of the moms in the doctor’s waiting room because on these specific visits we are all there for our children with the same medical problem.”
Where to start looking for friends?
You may start your friendship virtually and then meet in real life, or you may run into your friends in frequently visited places. Depending on your comfort level, here are some guiding pins you can check out along your journey
1. Start looking in familiar places
Look for family-friendly spaces and resources within your workplace or where you live. For student-parents specifically, keep an eye out if your departments might be going back to hosting social events, including family-friendly ones. Check if your university has a center/office dedicated to supporting student-parents and are consistently advertising activities and opportunities for engagement (for example Concordia University Student Parents Center – CUSP or Family Care Office at U of T) or if there are other child friendly facilities around the campus (such as libraries, e.g. Robarts Library, Ryerson Library and Brock Library). Also check if your local Students Union’ has a club for student parents which may or may not have an online presence.
2. Return to Facebook groups and Reddit forums
Reddit and Facebook groups remain a site where so much support and self-organization between parents takes place. You can find local parent groups. Even for student-parents, there are university-specific groups beside Parents in Post-Secondary (which is open for student-parents everywhere). Such as Parents-étudiants de l’UdeM (Student-parents of University of Montreal) and UCLA Students with Dependents. These groups consistently provide resources for student-parents and a space for them to share their concerns and context-specific questions.
3. Pull up your phone and download these apps.
Peanut is a women-centric application that allows you ask questions regarding all aspects of your womanhood or motherhood journey, join groups and expert-led live audio-sessions.
Whether you seek support during the isolating first months of parenthood, during divorce or single parenthood, or you’re looking for local parent-child activities, Meetup is a great spot to find parents who are in the same boat as you are or who share similar interests and hobbies.
Bumble is a dating application, yes, but it has two other modes: Bumble Bizz and Bumble BFF. Bumble BFF functions similarly to how you would build a dating profile, but the aim is platonic.
Whatever pin you choose to visit on your journey, don’t be discouraged if you are met with hurdles. Unlike when we were younger, friendships during adulthood (and especially parenthood) means more demands need to be accounted for before an in-person, or even virtual, meeting takes place. Try being flexible and understanding if changes of plans happen a few times; this will signal your dedication in maintaining the friendship and will only be reciprocated when recognized.
Take Baby Steps
Wherever you are in your journey of overcoming re-entry anxiety and learning to socialize once again, know that you are not alone, and we all come from different experiences with the pandemic. Like your children, give yourself extra support as you take these baby steps towards opening up and making friends. Take time, even if little, to invest in your relationships, even if it’s awkward and limited at first, much like the approach of spring, it will soon get warmer and easier.
Coffee and Carpool: Intentionally Raising Kind Kids. 2022. 10 Easy Steps For Introverts to Find New Mom Friends. [online] Available at: https://coffeeandcarpool.com/10-easy-steps-to-find-new-mom-friends-and-a-mom-tribe [Accessed 28 February 2022].
Day, S. (2021, September 27). Tips and suggestions for how to make friends as a parent. Verywell Family. Available at https://www.verywellfamily.com/how-to-make-friends-as-a-parent-5198351 [Accessed 28 February 2022].
Lenz, L., 2020. Making Friends With Other Parents Is Like Dating. [online] New York Times. Available at: https://www.nytimes.com/article/making-parent-friends-guide.html [Accessed 28 February 2022].
Lombardi, L., 2021. How Parents Can Decide Which Friends to Keep and Which to Cut Off. [online] Parents. Available at: https://www.parents.com/parenting/relationships/friendship/how-parents-can-decide-which-friends-to-keep-and-which-to-cut-off/ [Accessed 28 February 2022].