I can mingle and party with the best of them, but when it comes to recharging my batteries, I’m a classic introvert. Give me a quiet house, a cup of tea, and a good book – I’m as happy as a toddler in a Tupperware drawer. For this reason, I figured that quitting my office job and staying home with my newborn baby was going to be pure nirvana, right?
Ummm… partially right.
While there were certainly heavenly slices, there were also incredibly lonely moments, and I noticed a new wave of extroversion taking over my personality.
After a few weeks at home with baby, I yearned for new-parent pals who could answer my infant-care questions and empathize with my parenting struggles. I found myself scanning the playground or bookstore for other new moms and babies, ready to pounce with an invitation for friendship. Gone were the days of scoping out the scene for hot guys – instead I spent my time sizing up other parents, trying to determine if they would be compatible with my little family of three. My standard pick-up line: “Oh, your little one is so cute. How old? Well, he/she seems to get along really well with my little guy.” (Translation: Can we exchange numbers and hang out again? Please? Please?)
Most new parents experience what I call the Baby Paradox: Yes, you are in the constant company of a precious and fascinating little human. But it is also common and normal to struggle with feelings of extreme loneliness and mind-numbing boredom. The cure for this post-baby isolation? Reach out and connect as much as you can.
Here are some ideas for staying connected and making new friendships in the midst of baby-land:
Utilize Social Media: Although some of us are bit burned out, social media can be an amazing resource when you’re home with a new little one. Consider starting a Facebook group for expecting and new parents in your community, and then advertise it in the neighborhood newsletter or bulletin board. Scan MeetUp.com for New Parent Meet and Greets (if you can’t find one, consider creating your own).
Seek Out Existing Groups: Many cities, community centers and churches offer support and educational groups for expecting and new parents. Do an Internet search to see what’s available in your area. A great option, available in Austin and other metropolitan areas, is Bump Club and Beyond, an über-cool networking and informational group for expecting and new parents. Another Austin option for post-baby connection is the wonderful support group, Mothers Unfolding.
Give Family and Friends the Green Light: Your loved ones might be trying to give you and your new little one space, thinking that you need time to rest and bond. Let them know that you are very open to visits – give them the best times and set up regular dates.
Make Out-Of-The-Nest Time for Both Parents: When baby is old enough to take a bottle or survive a couple hours without mom, make plans with a friend and get OUT (yes, out of the house, into the fresh air, into the world). Dads and parenting partners can also struggle with symptoms of social-withdrawal, so encourage your partner to take some time on the weekend to connect with pals. And whenever you can, load up the Ergo, Baby Bjorn or Moby and get the whole family out on an adventure, even if it only lasts an hour.
Three years after becoming a mom, I was taking my second baby for a walk when a woman came flying out of her house in sweat pants, a t-shirt and noticeably un-washed hair. “Hi!! Hi!” she exclaimed, “Is that a baby in your stroller? I have a newborn in the house. Do you live in the neighborhood? Hi…”
I just nodded knowingly and handed her my phone number. “Let’s hang out soon!” I said as I walked away, happy that I could offer another new mom a brief escape from the sometimes lonely land of newborns.
BPP Sanity Savers: