If your social skills are rusty since laboriously inviting new humans into this sometimes inhospitable world, you might be having a hard time making new friends at the playground. I am finally putting an end to a long dry spell and have a bit of advice to share on what to say when you’re trying to move in on a cool new mom friend you actually want to hang out with.
After countless hours at school and community gatherings with other parents, I have learned that if you don’t come prepared, you will end up having eye-gouging conversations about:
b) local corruption/potholes or
c) the achievements or pitfalls of other children that don’t concern you.
Not that I’m apathetic towards my child’s peers, but there IS a peak level of information you want about other people’s kids. So many parents cross that line, usually unwillingly and in the heat of an awkward silence. I know I’ve clamored on about my son’s “thoughtfulness” or “flexibility” and literally felt sorry for my audience, trapped and cornered in a Chuck E. Cheese. So, yeah … rusty at best.
Recently, my situation has changed and I have learned how to whittle the crowd down to the ones I might have a genuinely interesting conversation with, rather than both of us secretly planning escape routes in our minds. This might sound a little judgmental, but I have found that what people are wearing is the first helpful clue. If they are well-put together with perfect hair and make-up and you are the type to wear thrift store clothing for environmental reasons, it is likely you will end up talking about Sally’s never-ending nasal congestion.
However, just because I am wearing activewear does not mean I am active! A good first topic for an initial feeling-out conversation is asking about hobbies outside of children. It’s nice to be recognized as more than mom occasionally and should you have any hobbies in common, it’s an instant bond. My favorite new mom friend and I are trading succulents on the regular now. Besides being something you’re already invested in, sharing hobbies motivates you to dig deeper into those side passions which make you remember who you are besides first chair nose-wiper (you can love both).
Trading stress busting techniques is also a worthwhile conversation to have with new mom friends in this delicate but frenzied stage of life. For instance, I use podcasts for a meditation-like experience, while learning something new or listening to inspirational stories. Television shows are another obvious bonding tool. TV is cheap, requires no extra energy and there is only so much you can do without spending money or energy between you and your children’s bedtimes. Most parents are too busy to research what’s truly good to watch and it’s really helpful to have someone summarize what a show is about before wasting precious time scrolling through Netflix.
Another thing to share if you are ready to begin a mutually beneficial, potentially life-saving friendship is a big slice of humble pie. In this world of continual one-upmanship, it feels so good to let your guard down and share how you are actually feeling underneath that arduously applied mask of anti-aging concealer and eye-brightening emulsion. It’s common for moms to be sensitive about other people’s judgment because we are likely doing our best but consistently being reminded that our best isn’t good enough. Our best isn’t politically correct enough, up to date enough or we aren’t being pretty enough while doing our best. Laughing about the very things that made you want to cry yesterday with someone who has felt those exact sentiments is mommy magic.
Good luck on your mom best friend hunt … and if you are one of those lucky ladies who just can’t fit another girl in your circle but are always being approached at the park … reach out to me, because I also *happen* to know all the wrong things to say.