Monday, August 13, 2012

Making Friends as an Adult

 Since moving to Austin more than six months ago, I've put forth a concerted effort to make new friends. Although I was eager to move to Austin to work on my big dream of starting Austin's first public Montessori school, I was simultaneously devastated to leave behind the dear friendships I had cultivated over the years. 

While I'm trying to maintain those friendships, I'm also trying to make new friends. Spending time with friends is an important part of life for me. I want to host dinner parties and play board games and have picnics and go out for sushi have people over to swim (when we can afford to build a swimming pool). 

When Kelsey wrote about the book MWF Seeks BFF: My Yearlong Search for a New Best Friend, I immediately ordered it from the library. The title describes my predicament exactly! I feel like I've been going on a lot of friend dates in search of some new close friends who live nearby.

Making friends as an adult is hard. It was easy in college and in Teach For America because everyone is thrust into a new and uncomfortable situation at the same time. It's easy to connect. It's much harder now that I'm a grown-up. And it's even harder now that I'm a mother! 

Yes, it's easier to strike up conversations with strangers now that I have a little guy by my side. I have quickly become the master of making the first move at the park. My pick up line is, "How old is your son/daughter?" We've had a couple over to our house that I picked up at the park, and I'm Facebook friends with another mother that I met at the pool. But it's hard to find friendships that stick now that I'm a mother because the threshold for compatibility has increased. 

Before I was a mother, I was looking for someone who liked to have analytical conversations, liked to do crafts, and enjoyed dinner parties and board games. Now that I'm a mother, I'm also looking for someone who tries to cultivate independence in their children, doesn't feel compelled to always chase their children around, and can set and adhere to boundaries and consequences. It's a whole different ball game. 

I've even gone to quite desperate measures in my search, such as e-mailing a blogger and inviting myself over to her house. Yes, I did exactly that, and yes, it was super lovely. Nichole made me pizza and sun tea and gave me a tour of her exquisitely decorated bungalow. I had the best time watching our little ones play together (Henry climbed onto a bike, and B pulled him around the driveway because his feet couldn't reach the pedals). It was amazingly sweet.

In the book I mentioned above, the author cites research about friendship. She explained that psychologists have described four major types of friendships and also recommend a certain number in each group:
  1. Acquaintance (10-100): Someone you'd cat with on the street or at a local cafe
  2. Casual Friend (10-50): A "grab lunch" pal who often serves a specific purpose, such as a tennis or running partner
  3. Close Friend (5-12): An intimate, trustworthy comrade you can say anything to
  4. Lifer (3-5): Someone who is as deep and forever as family
When I explained this list to Matt, he started to get worried that he didn't have enough friends either. He recommended that we make a list on our whiteboard (sometimes he's as dorky as I am). The list made me realize that I do have several people in the "Casual Friend" category who might move up to "Close Friend" if I invest more time in seeing them. I also realized that I have a "Close Friend" in Houston that I need to maintain contact with so she can become a "Lifer." 

At the start of each week, when I sit down to plan out my time, I'm going to make a concerted effort to make plans with friends. Also, when I sit down to set my monthly goals, I'll make sure I intentionally carve out time to make new friends.

Today on 2000 Dollar Wedding: More planning for the pop-up dinner party!

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Katie B. said...

Something tells me Kant wouldn't be very happy with a friend who "serves a specific purpose." ;)

Lene said...

That sounds like an awful lot of Acquaintances and friends! I think it would stress me out more than bring me joy to be up to date on all these people. I once wanted to be that person who had a really large crowd of friends and acquaintances, but I have realised that that is not who I am.
I do think I know how you feel from personal experience, though. Moving to Houston was quite stressful for that very reason, not having friends to relate to and hang out with. And not being a very extrovert person, it took me quite a while to make
friends, but I think it was also more a question of where to find them than anything else. Becoming a mama has help tremendously in that respect and I am so very grateful for having the playgroup mamas in my life!
Also, you are such an inspiration and a great person to be around, that I have no doubt that you will be surrounded by great people to hang out with no matter where you are :)

Carrie said...

Wow, what a timely post! My husband and I were discussing this on Saturday following a play date from hell at someone else's house. We and those parents are night and day re: material objects (those kids had EVERY TOY IMAGINABLE and two Mercedes Benz cars in the garage) and discipline (there were zero consequences for rude behavior, not sharing, etc.--my poor older son was literally in tears when his buddy wouldn't share), among other things.

I think the greater question for us is HOW to "find" friends (like real friends, not just aquaintenances) who are "like us". Unfortunately, it's not just about geography and number of children of similar ages (ours are 3.5 and 16 months), but greater issues such as parenting philosophy, work schedules (we both work full time), etc. For example, the SAHM thing is difficult for me. Schedules don't work, and I'm finding the philosophies of many SAHM/working dad combos on raising kids to be too disparate for us.

For now, we've decided to frequent the local playgrounds (exercise/outdoor time are key for us) and chat up the parents, like you do. Formal parent/child groups usually meet on weekdays (SAHMs), so those aren't really working for us, and we don't believe in signing young children up for 4000 formal classes.

It's an ongoing learning process, I guess.

nichole said...

Thank you for reaching out because obviously, I have difficulties! :) I love forward people because I'm not. We had a blast hanging with you and H. I hope we get to do it again soon! And I think I need to look for the book you mentioned and give it a read.

Kristy said...

I'm dying to read that book. I'm lucky I have been living back in the same area where I grew up so I'm lucky I have a fairly large circle here but I am always looking to expand. I find it interesting that you feel that friends need to have similar parenting styles to you and Matt. I have so many friends that I love who parent quite differently from my husband and I but I wouldn't give them up or say that they were any lesser of a friend because of it. I think what is really important for me in a friend is that they understand and respect, as we do, different parenting styles. I don't believe that there is one best way to raise children. Every child is different. Some might need more boundaries and some less. Most people's parenting styles reflect the unique temperament etc. of the child(ren) they have. Someone told me something awhile back that really resonated with me with regard to judging other people's parenting styles. For the most part, kids turn out to be decent people. You can follow all the "rules" as a parent and your child can still go in the opposite direction or you can break all the rules as a parent and still churn out a pretty good kid.

Meghan said...

I just started reading this book too after Kelsey suggested it. It's making me feel pretty much the same way, and I've also thought about starting some lists so I can be more proactive.

Anonymous said...

I will admit that your post did rub me the wrong way a little bit. I suppose I do understand the idea that you want to be able to enjoy playdates in a certain way and I probably do the same on some level. But I also couldn't help but feel like, wow, I really am being judged by whether I still stand near the open ladder side of the playground equipment while my 21 month old plays on top or by the fact that she doesn't dress herself yet or because she uses sippy cups half the time. I guess we all make similar judgements, but laying it out there like your post does makes it seems sort of harsh. Food for thought.

Erin C. said...

On the issue of judgement, and I really do get that you don't mean to be harsh, but keep an open mind about what might be going on with the mother-child combo. My situation may not be all that common but I thought it is worth sharing. Our son was a micropreemie and now has pretty significant developmental delays. He looks like a completely normal kid - caught-up in size, happy, playful, curious, even quite independent - but he also struggles with understanding how to use verbal even gestural communication, how to process some sensory input, and as a result, he frequently tunes out the world. He is also delayed in play skills and engaging in social interaction. I was really gung ho about Montessori and still like the concepts but meeting the needs of my child has meant that I *intentionally* get involved with his play at the playground and at playdates - not because I can't let him be independent but because what he *needs* is not more independent free play (he's great at that!), rather he needs to learn to stay engaged with the world around him and to learn age-appropriate play skills. I'm so with you on your general goals alas, we have to parent the child we are blessed with and sometimes that means parenting needs to look a little different from how you thought it would. I've been educating some of my other "mom-friend/acquaintences" about what I'm doing because they too just want to sit back and relax (so do I actually!) and have made comments about not getting involved/helicoptering (which I totally get and agree with for typically-developing kids). Anyway, just keep that in mind when you think a mother is hovering. She *may* actually be doing something else entirely AND she may be feeling very vulernable (I sure have been lately!). Also, when it comes to behavior management, certainly there are times when people just aren't good about following through but for us, sometimes we really don't know how to handle things - with delays, issues with not being "available" to communicate and sometimes being sensory-overloaded, it can be a lot easier said then done to do the right thing/know what that would be. So I guess I'm just making a plea to not judge too quickly. There may be a mother out there like me who could really use a caring friend and for your typically-developing child to be a little playmate/model for my playful and delayed munchkin. Food for thought. :-D Oh, and one more thing, related to your main point... yes I do get wanting to have friends who "get you"... right now I'm trying to connect with other special needs parents. I think having a mix is nice as long as everybody is respectful and kind about differences.

Sara E. Cotner said...

Hi, Erin! Thank you for sharing insight into your family! Meeting your child's needs in the way you are makes perfect sense. I hope I didn't sound like I was saying I didn't have any room in my life for families that are different from my own or for children who need different things. It's like you said: I'm looking for close friends who "get" the choices we're making as a family. Parenting is such a complicated thing, and I'm just looking for connection.

Kelsey said...

I'm glad you liked the book!

Anita Trapp said...

Don't despair! You have really only recently moved to Austin.

You are going to meet a lot of people with the opening of the school, some of which are going to develop into casual friends. I haven't read the book, but from experience some of these casual friends will become close friends over time.

Drop by the Austin Eavesdropper blog. Tolly's posts about things happening in Austin make me wish I were there again. (My family is there and some "lifer" friends moved there last week... I have to schedule as visit!)

Mom E said...

Perfect timing of this post, as always. :) I have found that the people I have in certain "friend categories" has changed since adopting our daughter. It's funny how friends I thought I'd become closer to, a friend who had a baby at the same time, drifted further away, and friends whom I thought I'd lose, she is not a kid/baby person, have become closer. I have played with the notion of joining the local "Mom's Club," but it is so geared towards SAHM's and my friend who had the baby joined and from what I can tell it seems like there's lots of judging and gossiping. Just because we adopted doesn't mean our child is not OURS. People have asked me (yes, the friend who had the baby) if I can love her as much as a child I gave birth to...considering it took us 4 years to adopt, I think we're pretty damn invested and in love :)

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