Rachel Bertsche, author of “MWF Seeking BFF,” encourages new parents stuck at home with a baby to sign up for a music class or baby yoga. These classes are really for the parents, she explained: “No 1-month-old is going to turn into a concert pianist. It’s just a fun way to get out of the house and meet other parents.”
Find an online parenting group that’s right for you.
Online parenting groups can be miserable, with in-fighting and passive aggressive comments, but they can also be an amazing way to find your tribe. Bertsche recommends trying Facebook Groups, Meetup or apps like Peanut and Bumble’s friend feature to find your perfect parent match. You can search Facebook Groups for parent groups in your neighborhood. Even in my small Iowa town, there are hundreds of groups organized by interests ranging from yoga to a favorite TV show to cloth diapering. Meetup also has meetings organized for parents filtered out by interests. My local baby store has a Facebook group for parents in the area and regularly hosts meetups at the store. Most online groups will come with scheduled events and playdates that make it easier for you to take initiative.
It’s hard to know what groups suit you until you spend some time in them, learn their rules and see how they handle controversy. Try to find groups that reflect your personality. If you are low-key and jokey, filter through groups for that tone. Bertsche met a mom friend by swiping through Bumble’s friend feature and swiping right on a woman who said she wanted to do things without her kids. “That’s how I knew we’d get along,” she explained.
Let your kids do the talking.
As the wife of a pastor, Lisa Cooper, based in Michigan, has moved quite a bit, so she relies on her children’s friendliness to make friends. “It helps when you have kids who will talk to other kids. My youngest toddled over to another toddler, and they started playing. So I talked to the mom of the other kid. Now we’re best friends!”
Host a playdate outside your house.
When kids are little, before the blessed drop-off playdates begin, Bertsche recommends meeting at a neutral third-party location, where kids can play and parents can talk. Go to a playground and then to coffee. Or the zoo and then lunch. Or pack a picnic and go to a concert in the park.
Bertsche suggests finding a place where you won’t always be chasing your kids and hosting more than one parent at a time. “It takes the pressure off, and there are fewer awkward silences when there are more parents around,” she said. It also makes it easier to leave if the interaction is going south.
Accept that not every relationship is built to last.
Dale breaks down the stages of parent friendships into “bases.” No, you don’t have to kiss anyone. For Dale, first base is the awkward small talk at the park. Second base is the initial playdate at a neutral location. Third base is a playdate at home. And a home run is when you hit it off and start meeting without children around. “Some friends come into our lives just for a season, sometimes literally a baseball season or a soccer season, and then you change teams, your kid quits the sport, and you never see each other again and that’s O.K. But once in a while, you find a lifelong friend,” Dale said.