Originally published at Mommy Connections East Toronto on March 11, 2016.
I have a theory about adult friendships. Unlike when you are a child, I think there are only certain windows of time when it is socially acceptable to actively look for new friends without appearing desperate. I’m going to call these “friendship windows”.
Some friendship windows include attending college or university, starting a new job, and of course having a baby.
Living in a larger city means it is socially unacceptable to strike up conversations with strangers pretty much anywhere, let alone ask them to hang out with you. As a well-adjusted adult, you are supposed to have your own friends, and therefore be too busy to need any new friends.
Even when you do.
When you have a baby, not only does it become socially acceptable for you to make new friends, it is encouraged! And thank goodness! It is hard to make friends as an adult. To be honest, after so many years of agonizing over whether I will look like a weird loser if I ask someone I just met to hang out, it is liberating to be allowed to make friends again.
And if your existing friends don’t have kids, you will need someone who understands your new life. Many of my closest friends have children, but they live far away. Not really an option to call them up for a quick coffee. So I go out to a lot of mom and baby activities and I talk to everyone.
I never would have done this before. I would have been polite and chatty, but not too eager. It was a façade that I have been working on for years. Now I talk to people. I smile at people on the street and say hello to strangers. I grew up in a small town where this was normal, but since I moved to Toronto, I do not do this anymore.
But guess what? It’s awesome! Okay, so occasionally you get stuck in an awkward conversation, but this is when you blame the baby’s nap time and leave. I have made a ton of great new friends. We meet up regularly to talk about all kinds of things and get a dose of adult interaction while our babies play.
Our hospital set up post-natal groups where they match you with moms with similar aged babies. Public health also holds new mom groups, and I’ve been to several workshops and classes geared towards new moms. (Including Mommy Connections!) Then of course, there are Facebook groups, Meetups and other social media. In short, having a baby means it is open season on new friends.
If I had one piece of advice for new moms, it would be this: take advantage of this friendship window. It is wide open and just waiting for you to look through. Inside, it is demanding, tiring and desperately lonely at times. Outside, there are great people waiting to meet you. Being at home with a baby is the best and worst thing you will do, all wrapped up into one drooly, beautiful, sleep-deprived package. You will need someone to talk to, and people to make you feel like you are not alone. These people may already be in your life, but they may also be sitting next to you on the subway.
This is why I am taking full advantage of the friendship window my son as brought me. I have learned that there are not many of these windows in life and that they swing shut rapidly, leaving you wishing that you had said yes to more invites. So, I will continue to ask people to hang out, to go to mom and baby activities and to have conversations with strangers, because I forgot how nice it is to make new friends.
Plus, if you have a baby, people chalk most of the stupid stuff you say up to sleep-deprivation. And I don’t know about you, but I need that! (I say a LOT of dumb stuff.)
I can’t believe I let myself miss it out of fear of looking desperate or being judged. My son has allowed me to be vulnerable and honest in a way I never have before. Someday I will thank him for this beautiful and unexpected gift. Until then, I am opening that friendship window as wide as it will go and leaning out to have a conversation, because I may not always have the chance.