Ask Kat: Parent Tribe
As the mum of three small boys, an expert in baby products and a no-nonsense parent, resident blogger Kat Armstrong always seems to be called upon by friends, family and strangers to answer tough parenting questions. We thought it was high time she shared this knowledge with you, and her series Ask Kat was born. If you have questions for Kat, you can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
How do you find your parent tribe? How can first time parents find like-minded people without falling into the online parenting one-upmanship trap?
This is a great question! When we had Henry 5 years ago (eep!) I was so worried about what would happen to my friendships as at that time, we were the first of our coupled friends to have babies. This was a pre-Facebook group time where new mums had to talk to each other in public before becoming online friends! Where we live, we were constantly surrounded by young families, and between going for walks with the babe, going to playgroups and drop in centres, we started meeting more and more parents. This lead to parent dates for coffee and lunch. Some of these friendships stuck, others did not, much like most new friendships.
I think that for new parents, there is a silly expectation that if someone has a baby the same age as yours, that you should be friends, but don’t follow that line of thinking! If you are the first of your friends with kids, start looking into meetups and groups locally. If you aren’t, reach out to your friends who have already had kids and invite them for dates. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and talk about things that interest you. If you feel like your new friends are only interested in discussing why their methods are right/better or they are into some sort of parenting contest, you don’t have to hang out with them!
But you do have to go out and try. It’s easy for new mums to get caught up in the “stay at home with baby” trap which is detrimental to your health, both physical and mental.
Dads tend to have a harder time as they often don’t get the opportunity to stay at home and be the primary caregiver (which makes meeting other parents pretty easy), but the same ideas apply – get out there and say hi! Take the baby for a coffee on Saturday morning at your local coffee shop and see all the other dads with the strollers/carriers. Say hi, engage in conversation. You may be surprised at how much you have in common with the investment banker dad or the mechanic dad.
Parenting is like starting at a new school – you have to put yourself out there to find new friends and integrate yourself. Leave anything behind that makes you feel uncomfortable and icky but never be discouraged!