Thursday, June 21, 2012

adventures in motherhood: why is it so hard to make friends as an adult?

Though this weekly post series is ostensibly about my life as a mom, I could very easily be writing this one just from my perspective as someone past the college years. Why doesn't anyone ever tell you how hard it will be to make friends once you're not in school anymore?

Jason and I were reflecting -- enviously -- on my brother's social life the other day. Granted, he has no children, but he's only 2 years younger than we are and he seems to be "out with friends" any time we try to get ahold of him. "How does he know that many people, let alone know them well enough to call them friends?" my husband was saying grumpily. And then it hit us: my brother lives and works in the city where he graduated from college -- so most of his friends are his old college buddies! (No fair.)

When I taught in Colorado for five years, I was lucky enough to work at a school full of kindred spirits, so I made strong connections with my coworkers. Most of us were in similar "life situations" (late 20s or early 30s, transplanted from all sorts of places across the country, married or in long-term relationships, pursuing a career in education out of passion for it rather than necessity, invested in working for progressive social change), so it was easy to bond over our commonalities.

(some of my favorite people from Colorado)

And then I moved to Illinois and started working at a very traditional public school where the teachers all grew up around here, went to two or three schools within easy driving distance of here, married someone from here... it's not that they weren't friendly, but the message was fairly clear from most of them: "I already have an established life and circle of friends, and I don't really have room for someone new who doesn't fit the mold." And the few people I did connect with? Well, it's not easy to stay in touch now that I'm at home during the hours we used to spend together.

There are three main moms groups in town, and one of them isn't  accepting new members. I have tried to go to events hosted by one of the groups, but I always end up feeling out of my element. And the final group -- where there are definitely kindred spirits, which is so, so lovely -- tends to be moms of older toddlers, so they often meet at times when I have to be home with a sleeping baby. I enjoy my time with them when I get to see them, but I don't feel like I've made any super close friendships (yet). It'd be nice to be able to hang out with other moms and kiddos close in age to Lorelei during the daytime rather than having to sacrifice my few sacred hours of time to myself at night, too...

I think that's part of the reason blogging has become such a big part of my life. When I check in on blogs from people like Emily, Margaux, Jennifer, Amber, Nicolle, Manda, D., Leah, and Megan, it feels like a virtual playdate: they all have babies who are a very similar age to mine so we can commiserate, swap tips, lend a sympathetic ear, and feel in general like we're not alone in these parenting struggles. Wish we could do it in real life, too! I'm so jealous of Libby and her group of friends who are all soon-to-be mamas -- how wonderful would it be to go through something like that together?

(some of my girlfriends from back home in MN at my baby shower -- wish we lived closer!)

Do you have any tips for finding adult friends, especially if you live far away from where you grew up or went to school? Have you tried using cards like the ones PJ is offering up in her giveaway?  I'd love to hear your insights!


  1. Meeting new friends was the thing I was dreading the most about moving to London, but thankfully I have stepped out of my comfort zone and met lots of cool mums hanging out at local playgrounds, libraries, playgroups, classes, and with other mums! Obviously, it is WAY different than your little town, but if you keep being your amazing self and strike up conversations with other moms with kids around L's age, I am sure you will find friends! If I didn't have J and moved here, I would have no friends, I am pretty sure. Well, that's not all true, they would all be old British men who walk their dogs in the park. ;)

    1. I try so hard! You'd think in a town of 43000 + another town of 16000 right up the road that there would be more people needing new friends, but it is amazing how many people who live here have family five minutes away and friends they've known since grade school. Suck. Skype soon please!

  2. Leah and I were just emailing about this very thing! I live in a very small rural town, away from where I grew up, and the people I do find don't have very much in common with myself or have moved on (the fall back of a college town atmosphere). My husband has caught me staring at small groups of moms in public places with their children. I ask him "how do I find mom friends like that?!" He tells me to stop watching them like a stalker haha.

    I love my blog friends though. It really has been wonderful meeting and following all of you! And for now I continue on my real life mom friends search!

  3. I think it is probably doubly hard to find IRL friends in this day and age when people are so plugged in. It's hard for me to gauge because of changing life stages. Do I hang out with people less because I'm past the "going out" phase, because I'm just a person that prefers my own company, or because I'm so connected to my computer and online presence? I am not a parent, but what comes to mind are women who bond after their children become friends. Once Lorelei is school age I'm sure you will be surrounded by an overabundance of women you call friends.
    On the other side, as a childless adult, I can feel that same way "where are my people?". Once a friend has a child, life changes, they have less time, different priorities and life experiences. I love children, and love to be around them, but friends who have become parents would naturally prefer to spend time as a family (or with other people who are going through their same experiences) than hang out with a single friend. This even applies online. I feel like bloggers in any and every category, once they cross over into motherhood, they have this HUGE amount of support from the mommy blogger community. Blogs I love to follow would suddenly change from showing the artwork or design they do to focusing on their children.

  4. I completely understand how you feel Courtney, ever since school ended I have found it so much harder to make friends and even more so since having Chloe. I also find myself wanting to make friends that also have children because I feel like they can understand me and my schedule so much more then people without kids. I have tried joining a few Mom meetup groups and I also have joined an attachment parenting group in my area but sometimes its difficult to make it to the playdates and meetings.

    This is why I also love blogging so much and feel so grateful for the wonderful community of Moms here!

  5. Will you just get out of my head already? ;)

    I have had such a hard time making friends since college was over. I definitely met some good ones that way, but unfortunately we've all either moved away or we're in such different "life stages" that we don't have the same schedules or a lot to talk about at the moment. I also made some good friends while working, but again, one moved away, and one died last year, so I'm sort of at a loss right now.

    I have a very hard time just introducing myself to moms I see out and about. And I'm very hesitant to join mom groups because they seem to be into "comparison" parenting and "competition" friendships. And I just don't care where their kids sleep or what they eat or the big one here - where they go to church.

    This is why the internet is so awesome, at least I know I'm not alone! But at the same time, there's pretty much no way I can just hang out with my mom friends since they all live a day's drive away!

    And those mom calling cards are really a great idea. Love it!

  6. Seriously, this has always been hard for me, even in school. Honestly, I'm painfully shy and pretty quiet with people I don't know. I actually get really REALLY anxious when I have to meet knew people. So it's really a struggle. But I'm getting better (sort of). : )

  7. I really struggle with this, too. I still consider the four girls I taught with my first year of teaching to be my closest friends even though we live in three different time zones now.

    I totally agree with you Stephanie. I know it sounds really crazy for an English teacher, but I'm also pretty shy and introverted. It's so hard for me to reach out to other moms.

    Virtual play date-- that's such a great description blogging. It is so nice to swap tips, commiserate, etc., even if it's just online.

  8. Even though I'm obviously not a mom yet, I feel the same way sometimes. Since we live in such a huge area, it's easy to meet someone once at some event or something and then never see them again. I don't really get to hang out with friends from work outside of work because everyone lives so far apart. We have been lucky to make several friends (mostly people we know from PSU!) down here in DC but I am definitely missing the days of college and being in our hometown sometimes when my friends were just right down the road.

  9. I get this and have thought this very thing more than once. I was just daydreaming the other day about all going to a blog conference and the fun we would have...maybe someday!

  10. My husband and I were just talking about this. At least it's easier online, right? ;)

  11. Virtual play date-that's a perfect way to describe it! I never realized how important it is to know people (virtually or in real life) who have kids that are close in age to mine. It's sad we can't get all of these little people together and comminserate in person!

  12. Reading through your Favorite Posts and this definitely struck a chord. Luckily I've met some good people through work, but I still don't have a good core of mom friends. I always feel like a burden if my kids are around with my no-kid friends. Thank God for the internet mamas though!