Ah parenthood! How can it be so full of love, yet so incredibly isolating at times?
Parenting has inspired the happiest and loneliest of times for me.
I had my babies before my friends even started to think about this whole 'settle down' and procreate business. In my mind, while I dealt with the crazy, often ridiculous encounters that come with two under age two, there were my friends, all connected, laughing and together, while I was far removed mostly sunk into the couch feeding a baby with a bed head and some serious eye baggage. The moments I could escape it was always too impromptu for meet ups and I had nothing coherent or interesting to contribute to my beautiful non parent friends anyway!
Research shows that some of darkest times of a women's life (and probably men's too although the research didn't acknowledge this), come after having had the first and then second child.
What keeps us sane, is knowing we are not alone.
What keeps us sane, is knowing that mums and dads around you are experiencing this insanity too.
What keeps us sane is knowing that at 7 months old, someone else's baby has regressed back into terrible sleeping too, or is also refusing solids or also won't take the bottle. We need to not feel alone in this.
Feeling connected to other like minded parents, at similar stages to you is critical to parenting happiness and your emotional well being.
So how the hell do we find and make friends nicely with these like minded parents? Especially if we have recently moved into a new area? Especially when our ability to string sentences together is severely hampered by sleep deprivation!?
Here are some Illawarra based ways to find local mum and parent friends, although they transfer to anywhere of course.
1. Find your local Early Childhood Centre and connect with Mothers Groups (my local one allowed me to join after the birth of my second child as I was new to the area - so it's worth asking!). Here is Parents Guide comprehensive listing of local Illawara based Early Childhood Centres.
2. Hunt down your local playgroups! Many are not for profit, so are inexpensive and a wonderful way to find other parents and get out of the house. Here is Parents Guide comprehensive listing of local Illawarra based playgroups.
3. Find and join your local Mums Group / parents group on Facebook (although a word of advice here, find one that is a closed group and is moderated well by a local parent, otherwise some groups descend into judgemental chaos and you can feel even more isolated). Click to join Illawarra Mums - North for all mums in Wollongong and Northern Illawarra Suburbs, or click to join for Illawarra Mums - South (Figtree to Kiama).
4. Local parks and cafe's. Go regularly enough and you'll start to see the same faces and can strike up conversation (ha easier said than done!) In any way that feels genuine for you, but when your brain is fried you can always try the question approach, 'ah so what age is/are your kid/s? Oh, I see you have that <brand> baby carrier, what do you think of it?' Or ask where the best local coffee is to be found, or if you feeling a bit sparkly then tell them how gorgeous their child is! That will melt most defences down pretty quickly!
5. Find baby and toddler or other kids classes. Great for you to hang with the same group week on week, great for your little one to sing, dance, be read to, try martial arts, get comfortable with swimming - whatever you fancy! Click to search Parents Guide huge list of classes for all ages across the Illawarra!
6. Go easy on yourself when friendships don't happen straight away, or connections don't evolve as you would like them to. That is more of a reflection that realistically, it can take years to find 'your people' and if you are naturally shy, introverted or reserved then it will feel more challenging. Developing new friendships really does take time and requires ongoing and little busts of sustained effort, so keep at it and don't let any sabotaging self talk in! There could be 101 reasons why someone didn't quite respond to you today, or hasn't texted back and it's likely nothing to do with what you did or didn't do! Nor does it mean all locals are closed or locked into tight friendship circles. Stay open and you will in time, find your people...
We hope you find our Parents Guide Illawarra collated childhood centres, kids classes, Facebook groups and ideas a helpful start.
At Parents Guide, we believe we are all in this parenting thing together. It takes a village after all...
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