How to Win Friends at The Playground

 photo courtesy of Hakan Dahlstrom http://picasaweb.google.ca/hakansfotografiI'm not talking about teaching your child to make friends. I'm talking about making mom friends. Because let's face it, when you have young children your single and childless friends somehow seep away - whether because they're tired of your stories of where Jr has smeared his poo now or you're tired of their stories of which corner of the pub they've throw up in last.

So of course, your only option is to make new friends. This is somewhat harder as an adult. And it's incredibly hard if, like me, you've moved to a cliquish city where nobody really wants a new friend as their social plate is full.

In Newfoundland, one of the first things people ask you upon meeting you is "where are you from?" This is not meant to judge you. Rather they just want to figure out if they "know" you. Perhaps they'll decide they do:
I know you! Your father is from Botwood and my father's uncle is from Millertown. Your grandmother ran a ballet school, didn't she? Yes I know you!
In Corner Brook, on the other hand, instead of being asked where you're from in a nice friendly way, I've learned that more commonly you'll be accused: "You're not from here are you?!"

I don't know how they figure it out. But once they've established you're not, they often just walk away. Don't ask me why; I don't understand it either.

So, in such a challenging environment, you have to grab any opportunity you can find to actually make a friend. If you live somewhere similar, here are my secrets:

1. Go where people are desperate. New mom groups and playgroups are great. The people there are usually new parents who are just discovering that their childless friends have abandoned them or people, like you, that "aren't from here."

2. Come prepared. Now some people will tell you that the essentials for your diaper bag are wipes and diapers. I beg to differ. Number one priority is a pen and paper. You don't want to lose the chance on making a new friend because you have no way to give them your phone number. Playdate cards are cute and all, but you risk the chance of looking foolish and snobby. Business cards, again, could be a good idea but you risk the chance of looking braggy and snobby.
You should also have extras of everything. Again, you're looking for desperation - some Moms actually forget stuff and there's nothing like coming to their rescue in their time of need to make them feel friendly towards you. Pack: tampons and pads; breast pads; diapers in a variety of sizes; extra bottles of cream and small packs of wipes that you can hand to them and say "no, that's okay, keep it;" snacks and drinks for everyone; tissues; bandages; a well-stocked first aid kit; changes of clothing for everyone; blankets; rain hoods; the latest, greatest parenting book with your name and number on the inside cover  - loan it out and you'll be sure to get a call when they want to return it.
This may sound like a lot to carry, but really isn't a sore shoulder a reasonable cost of friendship?

3. Don't be an idiot. Really, this one is supremely important. Sometimes Moms and Dads get tired of talking about their children. I know it's rare for that to happen, but you must be ready for it. Like a geisha catches a sponsor by appearing charming and knowledgable, you can catch friends! Read up on current affairs or listen to the radio news on the way to playgroups. Have an opinion on the latest parenting book or local controversy. Do not. I repeat DO NOT blather on about something you know nothing about. If the topic discussed is one you can't discuss, blame it on the children - "Jr. has taken to shredding the newspaper" or "The Baby cries everytime she hears the newscaster's voice." are good excuses.

4. Dress the children appropriately. It's a fine line, really. You want the other parents to not think you neglect the children and leave their faces unwashed while you spend your morning blogging. But you also don't want them so well turned out that they put other people's children to shame. The balance between neglect and overbearing is essential. Grass stains on the knees are okay as long as the outfit matches. Non-matching outfits are okay as long as they're clean and you're ready to say the child dressed him/herself. Grass stains on the face are never okay, but a dirty face from snacks that were obviously eaten in the car is okay (i.e. encrusted oatmeal is not good, cracker crumbs is acceptable)

5. Love your children. Okay, everyone likes having a good moan and complain about how the kids kept them up or they miss working at the office, but you must always end such a statement with a huge smile and "but they're worth it aren't they?" or "I can't imagine life without them." If the only reason you're at the playground is because you figured the only way to prevent yourself from beating the children is taking them out in public, don't let this on! You're hoping to present yourself in such a way that they would feel comfortable leaving their own children with you  . . .

That's about it. You, of course, don't want to be judgmental when you offer advice or talk about your sex-life at the first meeting. Those are pretty obvious. Smiling is important. Appearances are important: harried mother who can still find a clean pair of pants even if her hair is in a ponytail is a good look.

Appearing too desperate is dangerous, though, so if you print off this list for reference make sure no one sees you referring to it!

And if all else fails, just start a blog, hit facebook and twitter, you'll find all kinds of people that want to be your friend!

Have you had to make new friends since having children? How do you do it?


  1. I have tears in my eyes after reading that! Brilliant! Can't stop laughing. At least I'll be able to pick you out in a crowd if we meet - you'll be the one with the full rucksack of changes of clothes for entire village and picnic hamper in one hand trying to smile in a none to desperate manner and not look like you want to kill your children!

    I love you, have i told you that recently?

  2. Nice one. Another tip: be nice to people about their children. Its relatively easy to strike up a conversation about with mothers if you admire their offspring. They will automatically like you!

  3. Great list, for sure! I have actually found it so much easier to meet people since my daughters birth, but making them in to friends has been substantially harder! i'll def be keeping your hints in mind!

  4. I'm feeling the love Heather! Glad you enjoyed it. Sadly I am usually the mom "borrowing" things from other moms. Unless I am prepared in which case I do pathetically pack lots of snacks and juice boxes in the hopes of bribing young children to make their mommies my friends.

  5. Bee, yes that's an essential one too isn't it? Everyone loves hearing how bright, kind, or good looking their child is.

  6. Luschka, just make sure they don't catch you with this list in hand - they might think you're desperate then!
    I agree, though, meeting people is easier when you have children in common, it's getting to friendship's second base that's hard.

  7. This is just brilliant! So funny, yet so true... Awesome.

  8. Thanks Dara-can also count on you to make me laugh!

    I will be your friend! :-) oh-I already am. :-) But pack extra snacks for me anyways!

  9. @Adrenalynn - Thanks! Glad you can relate.
    @Susie - I've always got spare snacks, but lately they've been awfully healthy ones! Figure that'll get me in good on the mommy's sides too!
    Glad I could make you laugh. Figured it was time for a lighthearted post again.

  10. I'm just now catching up on your blog and this is the best one yet! So funny... but so true! And I'll admit... I'm guilty of packing extra snacks for other children in hopes to meet their moms! *embrassed*
    Awesome blog post - keep it up!

    Sarah :)


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