Today, I want to simplify something that I feel in my own life as a parent… UGH, how to make friends with other parents! You guys, I know, I know… it feels like dating all over again. Some of you guys have messaged me on Instagram recently, asking me to simplify this topic on the podcast. So, here we go…
Keeping the names and identities 100% confidential… you’ve shared that this is “painful, awkward” and one person even said, “Mary, I’m more inclined to have a root canal than have to talk to other parents at the morning school run.”
GIRL, I feel ya.
But how do we make friends with other parents in our community, so that we can build our village and support network? I mean, an article in the the Independent newspaper recently states “loneliness is on its way to becoming Britain’s most lethal condition”. The Office for National Statistics published that 2.4 million adult British residents (of all ages) suffer from chronic loneliness.
Bottomline… isolation is killing us. And I’m willing to bet, it’s having an affect on you right now. First and foremost, it all starts with you.
Here are 5 simple things you can do today to make a change.
- Tips to build a parent community
- And just one final whisper, just from me to you, dear friend… come in closer.
- If this thought of the day inspired you…
- Join us and become a Simplifier!
- Watch the video version of this episode
Tips to build a parent community
1. Make eye contact
Make eye contact and say good morning on the AM school run. Focus first on the parents that are smiling back; spark up conversations, ask them what they’ve got planned for the rest of the day, or how their weekend went. Ask them if they know about anything fun happening in your neighborhood or city.
At first, people might seem totally shocked that you’re talking to them… don’t be discouraged by this. Simply smile, make eye contact, be friendly and build up your conversations over time to help break down their walls.
2. Arrange an informal gathering
Ask your kid(s) if they want to have a pre-trick-or-treat gathering at your house this year and invite their friends (and parents). Nothing fancy, just some nibbles and a chance to get the parents (of your kid’s friends) together in an easy, informal way. Remember, it’s not about impressing people with your Pinterest-perfect party planning skills (unless that’s really your jam). Other parents will appreciate how laidback and imperfect you are. Less Stepford wives, more Lorelai Gilmore. Just be yourself… don’t try so hard.
3. Be helpful, do favors
Do your kids’ friends go to after school club? Offer to take all of them home afterwards, so the other mom or dad don’t have to rush back to the school to pick them up after work. We’ve started to do this in our household and it’s a bonus for our kids. They get to see their friends longer, and the parents get a little bit of a break. With unpredictable rush hour traffic, anxiety levels are reduced for other parents as can forget about getting fined by the school for late pickup. It’s a win-win for everyone.
Have you just moved in to a new neighborhood? At the risk of seeming like a total dweeb, I baked bread at a local “Eat, Bake, Sing!” bread-baking workshop here in Nottingham, and placed the goodies in little gift bags with a handwritten letter that said something like this… “hello, we just moved in next door and I wanted to pass along a few treats! If you ever need an egg or a cup of sugar, don’t be shy, come on by.”
My kids said, “CRINGE, mum!! That’s not how British people do things,” to which I retorted back, “yeah but, I’m a TEXAN and this is how I do things!”
And do you know what… the next day, we got a lovely letter back from one of our neighbors that said, “welcome to the neighborhood! Here are some sweets!” This proves the point, you have to be BRAVE and courageous and make the first move to show people how to model love, connection and friendliness.
5. Brunch it!
Invite people to ‘messy brunch’.
Again, this is not about projecting some false sense of perfection in your household. It’s about showing people the REAL you. Hello, being a parent is TOTALLY MESSY. So invite one family over at a time to what I like to call ‘messy brunch.’
Don’t clean the house (okay, maybe wipe down the first layer of grime), cook a good mix of tasty hot and cold foods, ask people to bring a dish to share, put on the coffee and just gather around the dining table. Kids and parents alike. Good ol’ fashioned hospitality.
If the kids want to have a picnic on a blanket in the back garden, go for it. Invite your kids’ friends and their parents over first. Make it super laid back and have fun with it.
And just one final whisper, just from me to you, dear friend… come in closer.
You know, the funny thing about parenting is this… either you LOVE your kid’s friends but the parents are a bit MEH or you LOVE the parents at the schoolyard but their kids are NOT friends with your littles.
UGH – the struggle is real!
However, when you get those unicorn moments where the kids are awesome and they’re friends with your kids… AND their parents are awesome… you’ve hit the HOLY GRAIL of parent friendships!
Nurture those relationships in your life.
Ask them how you can help them more. It may involve shuttling the kids to and from football practice, or babysitting so they can arrange date night this weekend.
It’ll feel jittery and scary to put yourself out there. Trust me, I know. But I also know that we were never meant to do this whole parenting thing ALONE.
Let’s get back to parenting as if we are in a village, doing life together. Multiple families, helping each other carry the load.
That’s the kind of life that I want to lead.
That’s the kind of life I think we’re made for.
Less lone wolf, more pack of awesomeness.
And remember, it’s not about being perfect.
Be messy, be you, be real and offer to help lessen their load. Model what it’s like to live in community to show that it’s possible.
To gain a friend, you’ve got to be a friend first.
But don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Just take the leap and see who smiles back on the school run today.
You can do this, I believe in you.
It’s time to SIMPLIFY.
If this thought of the day inspired you…
Snap a photo of you doing the thing and send it to me via Instagram, privately or publicly… just tag @thesimplifiers – I’ll be your virtual accountability buddy in your quest to simplify your life.
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As always friends, keep things simple.
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