15 Ways Lonely Parents Can Find Connection
At some point or another, most busy parents feel the tug of loneliness. In part, it’s because modern parents do a lot of parenting behind closed doors. We don’t live communally or share in parenting duties, and sometimes, it’s far too easy to become isolated as a result.
The village, as we call it, has become exceedingly hard to locate. It’s why many modern parents, especially stay-at-home parents, who don’t have the opportunity to interact with other adults as much, often cite loneliness as one of the most difficult parenting struggles. The truth is, we have to work harder to connect with one another these days, in the hustle and bustle of modern-day life. But while it’s undoubtedly a challenge, it’s important for every parent's overall well-being.
Even though you are a mother or a father, you still have many important needs outside of parenting, which is why you should strive to make the time and space in your life to find human connection (and not just with your children). Here are 15 simple ways to connect with other parents when you’re feeling alone.
Get to Know Your Neighbors
In a culture of building high fences and often avoiding one another in an effort to maintain privacy, we’ve lost one of the most basic and simplistic kinds of friends: our neighbors. It may be uncomfortable at first, but there is nothing quite like having friends that are just a stone’s throw away. If there are other families in your neighborhood, strike up a conversation and get to know them. You might be surprised how often it comes in handy to know your neighbors, too.
Jillian Pinkard, a Baltimore mother of two, says her close neighbor relationships are invaluable. “It’s so great to have such a diverse group of mothers with different parenting styles, who are almost always available with a stick of butter, emergency diaper or a glass of wine,” she says.
Host a Potluck
Whether you invite the new parents at your child’s preschool, a family who just moved in down the block or your kid’s new BFF’s family, hosting a laid-back gathering can be a great way to make fast friends. So make a pot of chili and play host/hostess.
Inviting others into your home is a simple gesture, but it will not only help build bonds between parents, it’s also a great way to kick off a friendship between kids in a trusting atmosphere. Actually knowing and liking the parents of your children’s friends can help keep you connected to what’s going on in their lives, while also giving you a couple of new parent friends, too.
Bring a Gift to New Parents
Do you remember the random stranger who left a lasagna on your doorstep when you were two weeks postpartum? I know I do. That’s because she’s now a close personal friend. There is no better way to reach out and possibly make a new friend or acquaintance then to offer help or support in a time of need.
New parents need lots of help, so whether it’s offering to drop off some groceries, run an errand or walk their dog, helping in any way you can is a great way to foster a new connection. It might just go a long way.
Throw a Craft Party
Getting kids and parents together to do an organized activity can take the pressure off the awkwardness of meeting new people. It can be tricky and uncomfortable to make new friends (especially as adults), so having something to do.
Activities like making holiday cards, putting together bags for the homeless or writing postcards to local politicians can help ease the tension and help connections form.
Join a Club
Clubs aren’t just for kids! While we may be more isolated in some ways, these days, there is not shortage of things to join. Whether you’re a bookworm or knitting fanatic, it’s easy to find local gatherings in your area with the help of the internet.
Search Facebook or local websites to find groups that interest you, and sign up. It can be a great way to meet parents and other friends with similar interests. Bonus: With your new venture underway, you’ll have more to talk about than just your kids, too (though undoubtedly, potty-training is always a riveting conversation at its best).
Go to Local Spots Where Parents Hang Out
Some of the best friends are made when you aren’t even looking for them. But you can’t make them while sitting inside your house. Get out and about, and frequent places where parents usually hang out. Check out your local library, parks, playgrounds or nature centers. There are bound to be other parents lurking who would do just about anything for an adult conversation.
New Jersey mother of two, Elly Lonon says she found her local library to be one of the most low-pressure and organic ways to meet other parents. “It felt more like everyone was in the same boat. There were no snacks for judging, no TV or toys people didn’t approve of, no money to spend. And I was able to sometimes keep the kid quiet enough to walk through the adult stacks afterwards," she points out.
Seek Out a Parents' Group
Whether you’re a brand-new parent or a seasoned one, a divorced mom or dad, a minority parent or member of the LBGTQ community, there is likely a parenting group that’s right for you. Find a group that makes you feel the most comfortable and commit to it. Finding like-minded folks, or others going through your same life challenges, is not only a great way to meet friends and avoid the dreaded parental loneliness, it’s also a great way to grow as a person and engage in meaningful discussions about life, parenting and everything in between.
But not everyone wants to meet in person or has time, too. Crystal Ponti, a Maine-based mom of five, says she’s found a way to connect with other local parents in online groups. “I shied away from meeting neighbors in our community because I’ve never been much of a people person," she says. "Joining our community Facebook group has been enlightening. I now trade stories with other parents and feel better connected to the world outside my door.”
Use Apps to Make Friends
While busy lives make it tough to make new friends, you better believe there’s an app for that. No longer is it all dating apps. There are actually apps to make parent friends.
Case in point: Peanut App works just like a dating app but is specific to making mom friends. You can choose your area, your interests and let others know what kind of mom category you fall into. That way, you’ll be sure to connect with others whether it’s hot-mess moms, helicopter moms or free-rangers.
Don’t Be Afraid to Open Up
One of the most difficult parts of making friends as an adult is the ability to open up and be vulnerable. While, as parents, most of us want to act like we have it all together, the truth is, that’s rarely the case. Letting your guard down and allowing others to know your struggles creates a safe space for them to open up to you as well.
You can’t make parent friends if you’re trying to put on an act or pretend like you’re the perfect parent all the time. Not to mention, no one wants to be friends with that person. So, let your guard down and just be real. You’ll make more friends the more open and honest you are.
Find a Workout Buddy
A great way to get active and connect to others is to find yourself a workout buddy. Not only can it be motivating to get you moving by having an accountability partner, carving out that time in your day serves another purpose: human connection.
Whether it’s going for an early morning walk or meeting at the gym for a sweat session, finding a friend to exercise with is a great opportunity for parents to chat, stay healthy together and bond over a shared interest.
Invite Others to a Parents' Night Out
As moms and dads, we all need a break once in a while. That’s why it’s safe to say a parent’s night out is almost always a good suggestion. I mean, who can say no to a night of kid-free fun? Not anyone I know.
While the opportunity might not come along too often (we parents are in high demand, you know), a parents' night out can be a great opportunity to forge connections away from the kids. That way, you can have adult conversations, get a break from the kids and have fun while you’re at it.
Revisit Old Friendships
When you’re a parent, you will likely want to invest time and energy into those people who are in your same stage of life. But don’t count out your friends without kids too quickly. While they may not understand exactly what you’re going through, they still care about you and can help support you in other ways.
Try revisiting long lost friendships and finding new ways to bond. It might not mean pulling all-nighters and partying until the sun comes up. Friendships shift and change, and that’s OK. But it doesn’t mean you have to say goodbye forever. Sometimes your old friends are some of the best ones you’ll ever have.
Talk About Your Kids
There is no better ice-breaker than talking about your kids. “Oh, Tommy won’t sleep through the night? I know all about that!” When it comes to parent friends, new ages and stages means there is no shortage of things to talk about.
So, open your ears, be sympathetic and don’t be afraid to share. You’ve likely gone through some variation of the same thing your fellow parent friends have. While sometimes the chit-chat borders on downright gross (boogers, catching flying vomit, etc.), parents are the perfect people to spill your guts to (but not literally).
Stop Talking About Your Kids
On the other hand, know when to draw the line. It’s wonderful to have people in your life that you can talk or vent to about your children. But at a certain point, talking about kids gets boring! Remember, you once were a person with tons of interests outside of parenting. Embrace those and change the subject once in a while.
It can certainly be hard to navigate away from the topics that take up so much of your mental space, but honestly, it feels good to talk about things other than nap schedules and diaper blowouts. Give it a try. Your old or new friends will thank you.
Keep at It
Part of making new connections is maintaining them. While the busyness of life can easily get in the way, don’t let it. Keep up with your new friends whether it’s through a simple text message, a monthly plan to hang out or a comment online.
You don’t have to spend hours on the phone to keep up. These days, most people are happy just to receive an emoji via text. So once you make friends, make sure to hang onto them. It’s a bit of effort, but it’s totally worth it.