How to Find New Friends
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How to Find New Friends
Having relocated to the Bay Area from Eastern Europe 8 years ago,
my wife and I have found it very difficult to find and make
lasting friendships with people in this area who share our values
and preferences. We are not religious but also NOT interested in
US liberal politics. Instead our passion runs toward the
traditional European high culture-- music, art, literature,
science-- and conversations on these topics rather than about
prices of real estate, prices of technology company stocks,
prices of things generally.
We're wondering where and how to find married people with
children who share our values-- high educational standards for
the kids are core for us-- and are interested in the world beyond
California real estate, tech company politics,
Bush-the-Great-Satan, US culture wars and Sharks vs Jets
foodfights etc. Any thoughts on where (outside of churches and
church groups) we can find families like us, esp
European-American traditionalists, would be welcome.
I'm an American and I feel the same way. If I have another
conversation about real estate or schools, I think I'll lose my
mind. If it's not already lost. OK, but here are some
suggestions. If you are affiliated with the University, you
can investigate the disciplines you are interested in (Romance
Language and Literature? Anthropology? Philosophy?) and contact
the departments to get on the departmental mailing lists for
events so that you can go to lectures, film screenings, etc.
The Townsend Center on campus has excellent lectures and events
in the Humanities. When you attend lectures, there are often
receptions afterwards, and if you are not too shy, you can
engage people in conversation. Be ready to suggest coffee
dates, etc. with people you meet; if you go as a couple it will
be clear that you're not trying to find a mate! If you
regularly attend the lectures of a single department, people
will start to know you a little. I found a couple of good
intellectual partners through my son's school -- some of the
moms and dads who bring cupcakes to parties and help out at the
science fair are amazing intellectuals, and if you meet one of
them, you can suggest an outing to a museum or to a concert or
even a film (it had better be the PFA or the Albany Twin for
you) or a DVD night at home so that you can discuss what you
have experienced. Often Americans remain on superficial topics
(real estate) because they are unsure of the interests and
knowledge of the people they encounter. Introduce the things
that interest you passionately, even if it's a conversation at
the playground with the kids roaring around. Be a little
aggressive about courting people, put yourselves out there as
who you are, take initiative in inviting people, structure
meetings around something that interests you (I once was part
of a group that read Musil's The Man Without Qualities out loud
in German in small doses and then talked about it over wine).
I'm wondering if this post is a prank. However, assuming that it
is real I have a pretty good idea why you and your wife are
having such a hard time making friends. If my wife and I came
across the two of you, we would definitely be turned off by your
selfishness and narcissism. That might be difficult for you to
understand. Imagine this: my wife and I move to another country
and then tell everyone we meet we don't care about their values,
their politics, culture, etc. However, we don't know why we don't
have any friends. Ring a bell?
I suggest you and your wife put an ad in the personals on
Craigslist looking for couples who don't care much about anything
other than self gratification. Perhaps your conversations should
center around gourmet cooking or the latest fashion, maybe the
symphony or which play to see? There are people out there who are
truly self-centered and with the right ad and a little luck, you
just might find them.
In the meantime, I'd think seriously about your attitude towards
others. Otherwise, it may be a very long lonely winter for both
My initial reaction to your letter was sympathy - it can indeed
be hard to get to know people here and find your niche - but upon
closer reading, I have to wonder if you are making things harder
for yourself with your attitude.
By giving a long list of things you're not interested in, and
then emphasizing your ''high educational standards for the kids''
and focus on ''European-American traditionalists'' you frankly come
across as a bit of a snob, unwilling to get to know the locals.
Perhaps others are picking up on this vibe.
Try focusing more on what you ARE interested in than looking down
at others for their interests, and you might have an easier time.
Now as for the practicalities of finding people with similar
interests to yours, I can give you an example from my family. My
in-laws love classical music, and they do things like attend
lectures and workshops on the topic, as well as play in a small
ensemble, attend retreats and performances, etc. Indulging their
passion has also provided them with a social network. You could
probably find some music appreciation groups or courses - or join
an amateur ensemble if you are interested in playing instruments
There are tons of bookgroups in the Bay Area - you could check
with the public library, or look on Meetup or Craigslist. You
could even start one yourself by advertising in those same places.
I have similar advice for finding people interested in art or
science too. I just tried searching Meetup.com for ''science''
groups, and while there was some junk there, there were also the
following groups: Bay Area Physics and Astronomy Society, Science
Writing Meetup, Picnicking Plus Visiting Science and Nature
Places, and more.
You are probably not making friends here because you are so
judgmental. I would never move to another country and then begrudge
those people for discussing political topics and issues that affected
their communities. You should worry less about your high standards
and bring your ego back down to earth a little. Get a grip.
Bay Area Mom
Maybe examine your tone? Are you perhaps generalizing us all a
little? Maybe being a little pompous? Sometimes we need to take a
big cue from others reaction towards us, especially if it's been
8 years and you still haven't found anyone who wants to be
friends. I am ''American'' as all get out. But our best friends are
from other countries, and we all find lots of things to talk
about besides George Bush! I have found that our family always
makes friends when we move to new places because we genuinely
care about getting to know others. We are open to new ideas, and
like laughing and having fun. More than anything--we don't judge
(or at least try REALLY hard not to!). Americans are a funny lot.
As individualistic and ambitious and competitive we may seem, we
really are super-friendly, warm, and honest. Maybe you need to
loosen up a bit!
It's odd that you keep running into people who are interested in
high tech and real estate--are these connected to your field of
work, for example, or the kind of neighborhood you live in? The
Bay Area has a unique concentration of people interested in ''high
culture''--if anything, we suffer from an over-saturation of
cultural events. You don't say what country you are from, but if
you attend public lectures or cultural events related to your
home country, you will tend to find others like yourself, as well
as Americans with an interest in your part of the world. If you
sign up with any Eastern European departments on campus or on
campuses around the Bay Area, they will send you announcements
for things going on. Many people become members of centers for
poetry or music, and go regularly to readings and concerts--and
book events with the authors present are free, and many include
events for children. Museums often have free and discounted days.
The Pacific Film Archive shows rare films for children
periodically--they had a stunning series on Czech animation for
young people, for example. Take your children (you don't say how
old they are) to hear music at the music schools and any of the
many fantastic children's choruses in the area. Your children can
also introduce their classmates to their interests and culture.
You say you aren't interested in liberal politics--does it mean
you are interested in conservative politics? That is a different
challenge. But if you are looking for like-minded people
culturally, I think you're lucky to be here--look into the
listings in the free papers for marvelous goings-ons of every
kind. Making longtime friends, though, is the luck of the draw
anywhere in the world. Remember how long it took you to make
your best friends at home.
Wishing You Luck Making Friends
I lived in the Netherlands for three years. What impressed me
was the ability of the population to talk about such a wide range
of topics in ENGLISH. Often, we discussed politics. People were
just as informed on US politics as they were on Dutch or Spanish.
It was truly amazing -- and because of the selection for
university there (university hasn't become a replacement for a
high school degree such as it has here), most of these people had
only a high school diploma. In the US, we aren't going to talk
about foreign politics, because we have no clue. The papers tell
us about the economy and the housing market, so that is about
what we talk. I have recently begun having weekly coffees with a
Swiss-expat and have been forced to really dig to get current on
European politics. It has been enjoyable for me, but takes an
effort on my part (which I gladly undertake as I remember the
effort made to make me comfortable as an ex-pat
As an aside, it took me about 2-years before I truly felt at home
in the Netherlands (I've moved a handful of times as an adult and
find two years is about normal for me to feel like I truly belong
in a place...) Give it time and try to understand why we talk
about what we do...you WILL find someone whose eyes don't glaze
over when discussing the political situation in Austria.
I am 32, married with a 4-year old. And somehow I have managed
to stop having friends. Sure, some friendships atrophied during
the I-have-kids and I-am-single phase, but I am at a loss and
could use some girl-support.
I started a mom's group that has also puttered out. Joined a
neighborhood group where I have been a member of for 4 years
and have yet to meet anyone. They are all Martha Stewart-types
who wear make-up for the morning drop-off and do not work
outside the home. All of their events are during the week when
I am at work. I am more suburban-hippy. Sorta ''Old Adventures
of New Christine'' type while toting my canvas bags to the
store. :) But no make-up. ;) I thought it would be important
to get to know these people since they are the ones who rule
the school, so to speak, where my son will be attending next
year. But zilch has come of it. Not a phone call. Nada. And
yes, I have volunteered where I could. I even threw some
parties, inviting them, other people I sorta knew, etc. Not one
All of my coworkers have grandkids and think I am some quaint
object that reminds them of their kids -- so that is no good
for friend support. I hate that job actually. But that is
another post altogether....
What do friendless people do? I can't go try new sports or
evening things as my husband works a different schedule than I,
so I have to be the one-mom show in the evening.
I am not mean. Honestly. I am goofy beyond comprehension, make
a mean plate of brownies and am a great shopping buddy. I
almost considered a craigslist posting...Wanted: Friend. How
pathethic is that? 'Cause it reeks pathetic to me.
In college? Friendless. I lived off campus to save money so I
never met any dorm folks. And in high school, I was well-liked,
but that was 15 years ago and who knows where those friend are.
Am I doomed to be a friendless loser?
Freak and Geek.
My mother complained to a friend about being friendless in Chicago
after a move there with a toddler and a baby. Her friend asked what
she'd done politically, and was aghast that mom hadn't done
anything. Mom went to a meeting, and met friends for life.
Find what you like to do, volunteer or visit, hang out at the park and
talk to the person next to you, do something with your kids (and then
without). You'll be fine. It just takes noticing that you want more.
My vote is politics. When I first moved to Berkeley, I found my
lifelong friends in Loni Hancock's first campaign for Berkeley City
i don,t have any advice to give ,just to say that you are not
alone out there without friends.it is just very difficult to
make friends as a grown up.many people still have friends from
school and college and so on.i have moved a lot and so i have
not been able to make friends and yes also i joined momsgroups
but as it mostly goes those slowly dissolve when the kids start
preschool or the moms start working and everyone is on a
diffrent schedule.i am a SAHM with two kids and i am not the
make-up type of person,my husband works long hours and weekends
and what do i do without friends?well there are days when i
don,t talk to any grown-up at all(now how sad is that)i have my
kids enrolled in classes but haven,t clicked with anyone sofar,i
try and read a lot which kind of provides me with company,but
what i really miss is someone to be able to call over for a
coffe and to laugh and joke with.
yes life can be lonely
Honestly, it sounds like YOU are really judgmental of the women you
were trying to make friends with. You mention that they are martha
stewart types...what is wrong with that? Its great to be friends with
people who bake! They wear makeup. Who cares? I don't wear makeup and
I am friends with plenty of people who do. Why would that make a
difference to you? Wearing makeup or not doesn't mean anything about a
person. I work full time and I LOVE being friends with stay at home
moms. They can be really helpful and great. If they volunteer in your
kid's class, they can update you on how he's doing. I always have my
SAHM friends spy on my kids for me.
You need to recognize that people can pick up on your judgments of
them. I think you will be a lot more likely to make friends if you
meet people with a clean slate and don't assume you know something
about them based on their outward appearance or what job they
have. People will surprise you. It is easy to make friends if you are
genuinely interested in them as people. Try to learn as much as you
can about a person. I find that people have the most unexpected lives
and interesting stories. You just have to give them a chance. Be open
and interested in them and they will respond. In some ways it sounds
like you maybe are not really interested in having friends. Or you
have put up a lot of boundaries around yourself. If you are fixated
on being friends only with people exactly like you, you aren't going
to have much luck. You'll always find something different. Plus, its
boring to be friends with people exactly like you. I work in an office
all day...I love to be friends with people who have different
experiences and who can share those with me. And I tell them my funny
work stories. So open you own mind a little and see what happens.
You reap what you sow...I read your posting, and my best guess is
that your less than kind assessment of the stay-at-home-moms who
you are trying to befriend has been noticed. Martha Stewart
types who rule the school and put on make-up...um, when did it
become a bad thing to care about your appearance and volunteer at
your kids school? And the Martha Stewart jab? Huh? I don't
know anyone what actually gets that magazine.
I am a stay-at-home-mom who makes plenty of after hours time for
folks who work -- and, I'll find a babysitter so that I can meet
a friend who wants to leave her desk for a lunch date. I don't
harshly judge them for abandoning their children to be raised by
someone else so that they can selfishly pursue their own
interests and they don't harshly judge me as some Stepford
wife/Martha Stewart caricature whose singular ambition is to get
elected president of the PTA and get my daughter on the cheer
squad. Neither stereotype could be further from the truth.
So, my advice for making friends? Be kind, not condescending.
-I like nice people
I had a similar question years ago.
Although this is probably no comfort, I think you are at a stage
of life when it is hard to retain old friends and to make new
ones. I sympathize with how your efforts have yield few results.
My only advice is to keep trying whatever you can to find
friends. For me, persistence did help. I barked up many wrong
trees, but I have now found more friends. No one thing was the
magic answer; just reaching out to everyone I could think of. I
hope the same happens to you.
some friends now
boy I related to your words. After a divorce. I experienced similar
disappointment while trying to ''fit in'' to my kids' public school
scene here in the Bay Area. I was not a sahm like the majority of the
moms and I had not ''been in the system since preK''- I tried for a
few years and came up with not one friend. I am quite extroverted and
likeable, I volunteered like you did for most things, field trips etc.
But you know, I just did not click and it was an already established
''scene'' when I arrived. It was a real shocker for me, I am really
friendly and tried the whole playdate scene etc. You know I finally
realized that square peg round hole is not personal. I did not really
like the moms who clearly were not into me- and I have since made a
few friends through other avenues- don't waste your time on those who
won't spend it on you. I encourage you to continue to find new avenues
where you can-start frequenting other parks in other towns and maybe
be bolder about Following up with a potential new friend. Go to local
bookstore talks with the author, stretch to find other places besides
the ones you have tried. it may take more time than you thought but
you'll find a few folks who appreciate you for YOU - and honestly, the
craig's list is not a bad idea. There are actually others just like
you! I saw a sign for citygirls at a doctor's office -that is just
that- a site to meet other women to connect with. You are not alone,
there are others of us who are great people but have not found a group
with whom we identify in our geographic region. Don't give up and
don't feel alone! good luck!
I know that through my single parenthood I have lost many, many
friends. To date I have very few. And now my only kid is all
grown up, wow! But I do have friends with toddlers who might be
very interested in meeting/connecting with a no make-up chick who
wants to connect. Everyone needs connections. Send me an email,
and I'll forward it to my dynamic granola-crunchy, but very, way
cool best friend who will happily send you her input.
Please believe me when I tell you that you are NOT alone!!!! I
have often felt alone, like I didn't fit in with the other
parents. I still often feel that way. I've always had friends,
but I always floated from group to group, so I don't have too
many long-term friends. I had good friends in high school (who
I still keep in contact with). I was part of a sorority in
college. I was a nanny in a small town and part of a great
Mom's group there. I thought that I would really bond with
other Moms when I moved here and had my child, but it took a
long time to make good friends. What I've learned is that the
Bay Area is a place where people move in and out a lot; when
they are here, they work a lot. Most of my friendships seem to
last as long as my involvement in the activity/group where I
met them. For example.....Work friends disappear after you
leave a job. Co-op friends drift apart when the kids change
As for asking for friends on the internet....why not? People
look for spouses that way, so why not friends? There were 2
times in my parenting life when I was lonely enough to ask BPN
for friends. I met a lot of nice people who feel just like you
do, and I now have 2 good friends who were also feeling
disconnected from other Moms. Not everyone clicks, but you'll
find friends if you keep trying. Some of us have a harder time
(for many different reasons), so we have to find unique ways to
find kindred souls! If you'd like, we can meet for coffee some
time. If we don't click, at least we'll have a decent
I thought your post was HILARIOUS and I'm surprised you don't
have friends coming out your ears. Maybe project some of your
humor more (not everyone will respond, but the ones who 'get' you
will). Don't try to fit in with everyone - just let your
personality shine, and the right people will be drawn to you.
Do keep an open mind, though. Cautionary tale: the first time
I met them, I HATED the two women who are now my two best friends.
I thought they were pushy and overbearing (and one was waaay too
pretty!) Fortunately, circumstances put us in greater contact
and I came to see how wrong I was about them. It is really easy to be
judgmental about superficial stuff - our culture encourages this,
with all the messages about how the things we buy "express our
personality." Believe me, the style of my cell phone is NOT who
I am - it's the one that came free with our service plan. Oh, and
Martha Stewart is porn for the working mom, just so you know.
I'd sign my name but I don't want my friends to see this!
I feel for you! If you reread your posting it comes across as very
negative, self- loathing and also judgemental. Perhaps these qualities
are leaking into your social interactions and turning off potential
friends. I also experience negativity and lack of optimism. I've found
that daily exercise and talk therapy helps me to keep my perspective
on life. Not that you have to be fake or sun-shiney but people don't
want to hang around someone who will drag them down. You might also be
suffering from depression. Your resentment of the Martha Stewart types
and the lipstick wearing moms makes me think that you are a bit close
minded to new friendships. Some days the lipstick is all I've got
going for me! Good luck with your search.
In response to this and the other poster who feels they aren't making
friends at their kid's pre-school: It will come! You have a long way
to go in school (12+ years!) and eventually you will run into
different people who you click with. It's hard now, but will get
better. Maybe that's one thing to think about when choosing the next
school for your child, does this place feel like we will fit in as a
family? Are there people like me? Is it a diverse place as far as
class, race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, whatever? I had
a hard time making friends at one of my daughter's private preschools,
lots of SAHM's, wealthier, conservative, when I was working and in the
middle of a divorce. Then when she entered public school it was a
whole new world! I felt like I fit in finally and made some friends
through getting involved in the classroom, school events, my
daughter's friend's parents, etc.
I guess this a plug for public school in a way because you get a
larger range of people for all of you to choose your friends from! But
really, I think those early years can be very lonely and when your
single friends without children start to bail out it's a hard
transition. It will get better.
not lonely anymore
I wish I had the magic bullet for your problem,I do have a few
ideas to help and I really can sympathize. I too felt the same
way when I became pregnant(last year at 33) all my friends were
single and as my life was changing, theirs was not, so I really
saw myself not fitting in. All my longtime friends are scattered
across the country, so no real help there. But I did find that
joining a moms group helped some and having the chance to do
things with my Daughter like afternoon baby boot camp has been
fun, meeting other moms etc. Also signing up for a neighborhood
list serve has been good too, my husband has been part of a
photography group, just another place to find friends. No one
place will be the perfect fit, but find something you like to do
and starting a group could do it, make it kid friendly but adult
centered, like a book club or a knitting group, etc. By far one
of the best and bravest things you have done is reached out. So
if your interested in art, movies,music and outdoors type of
stuff, or really anything email me I would totally up for making
a new friend.
I read your e-mail with empathy and admiration that you do seem
to be actively trying to get new friends. I don't have advice
for you but I did want to share one observation from your
There is quite a difference between the way you describe
yourself (lots of affectionate references to how you see
yourself) and the dismissive way you describe others. Does the
fact that ''all'' your coworkers have grandkids make them
unworthy of being your friends? And why does it matter that
other moms ''wear makeup at dropoff'' and don't (apparently) work?
Perhaps you are being too quick to judge others and dismiss
them as potential friends?
Hi Freak & Geek.
You sound like a lot of fun. I'm a boho goofball too, with a
bright 2-1/2 year old son. Email me if you want to meet up for a
playdate. We're in Oakland.
It could have written your post.
We moved to Berkeley almost 8 years ago and it's been really
hard for me to make any new friends. We met a lot of people who
seemed very nice at my son school/soccer/swim classes. And I
made so many efforts.....
Normally it would go like this: we invite them over, for
dinner or party or play date and after that we never hear from
them. If I call again to invite for another dinner or play
date, they would be happy to come but never making any kids of
efforts to reciprocate or initiate any kind of contact.
We had several families that were in our house 3-4 times for
dinners but never invited us back!
I was making a lot of efforts for the first couple of years
since we don't have any family living here and my son is a
single child who is always asking for a play dates but now I
stopped. I don't really care any more. I decided not to waste
my time and energy on that.
We have 2 families that we see all the time and our kids play
really well together, but they are all European. I think people
are more gregarious in Europe. We lived in Midwest, Europe,
Mexico and Russia and never had this issue before.
I personally think it's only in Bay area people are so busy,
self absorbed and rather spent time with a psychoanalyst than a
Anyway, I have very sociable and fun 5 year old son, we love to
have people over. Here is my e-mail, let's get together.
You can email me - I have a 4 yo son and I'm not a make-up in the
If you didn't meet any friends through the preschool, you might
want to hold out for those you meet through school. And you could
start by setting up playdates for kids who are going to your
school in the fall. I'm a little baffled why you wouldn't meet
friends, as I seem to meet people wherever I go. But some of it
is being around people who you have things in common with (like
kids). The only thing I'd try to tone down a little bit is your
judgement of people who wear makeup. I don't either, but some of
my best friends do. I'm a hippy-ish, geek, bag lady, sometimes
disorganized, work-outside-the-house people lover. I have friends
who don't work. Friends who work full time. Friends who are
Martha Stewart clones. Friends who don't really know how to cook
dinner. Friends who devote all their time to their kids. Friends
at work (it may help if you like your job a little better too).
Friends from grad school (I did lose touch w/ college friends,
and I was a bit shy then). And I just got in contact w/ some
high school friends. (You can check if your high school is on one
of the ''reunion'' websites, and maybe you can hook up with old
friends.) Don't expect anything from anybody. Just go forth and
enthusiastically (and nonjudgementally) find people who laugh at
the same jokes and will put the same effort into friendships.
Better still, find somebody w/ a similar kid going to your
school! That will make the next year all that much more fun.
I totally could have written your post, except I am 33 with a 3.5
year-old. Maybe we should get together! I have not clicked with
any of the moms at preschool or in a mom's group I was part of.
We have a lot of younger friends(=no kids) because my husband is
in a band, but I don't feel like I could call up any of them and
hang out one on one. Ask the moderator for my email if you want
to chat or meet up at a park sometime with the kids.
In the same boat
I don't have any advice but can empathize completely! I am 39,
married, with a 2yo and a 4 mo old. Old girl friends have moved
away and new friends are harder and harder to make as life gets
increasingly busy and complicated. But I do keep trying with the
hope that eventually something will stick. I like your idea of a
craigslist ad! Feel free to email me, at the very least we can
In The Same Boat
Your post struck a nerve. It's been an issue for me (and MANY
others): How do we make friends as an adult?
To make friends we do have to ''get out there in the real world''.
We have to have shared experiences, common interests, similar
point of view.
So, to find them takes time. As adults and parents we are more
reluctant, we don't have the time, the flexibility. We're shy,
wary of rejection, wary of extremes. Too quick to make excuses
(too tired, house too messy/small to invite people over).
But there are still ways to find people.
You mentioned your son's school - I wouldn't give up!! Unless the
school itself is very small, surely there are other parents you
have yet to meet. It may even be the parent of an older child, or
even a teacher you click with. There will be many more
opportunities in September.
But before then - what about weekend time? Any chance of getting
a two hour block to pursue an interest, a hobby, volunteer
somewhere where you can meet other like-minded people?
Or hiring an evening sitter once a week, or every two weeks for
the same purpose?
Or if that's cost prohibitive, can you find someone to trade
sitting duties with?
Start your own after work playgroup - advertise for other working
parents to join you at the park before sunset, or any other early
evening child friendly activities you can do - some libraries
have reading hours at 7:30 pm, and many parks do summer evening
Once you get out there, to places you like to go to on a regular
basis, you should start seeing the same faces.
All it takes is a ''Hi'' to start with.
And friends do come in varieties other than ourselves - those
nice grandmas at your office might be really good listeners,
might have some great advice, might have been in your situation.
Please don't give up. Take a deep breath, smile and say ''hi''.
Same as You
Wow, I could have written your post, especially a few years ago
when I lived somewhere that sounds scarily similar to your
You are not alone, not a bit. It just takes time to find your
niche. Drop those people who didn't come to your event and be
more specific--search out people you REALLY like. It's okay to be
picky, and in fact you'll have a higher chance of finding friends
you really, really like. There are other working women with four
year olds out there--I know--I'm one!
I'm doing much better than I was. I changed jobs and now have
made some really nice acquaintances through work (not really
close enough to do much more than have lunch together from time
to time, but it really helps!). I moved away from Stepford Wife
and Stepford Children suburbia and now am in Richmond, of all
places--and I love it!
My neighbor and I swap spiritual books and I have a favorite
coffeehouse (Catahoula on San Pablo Avenue) where everyone is SO
friendly. I'm planning to attend our neighborhood association one
day, and am excited about all the different things they do. I
made a couple of friends through my ''house of worship''--a Hindu
fellowship in fact. (This is America--whatever spiritual belief
you hold, there's a group out there that you'll enjoy hanging out
with.) So I'm slowly building a network of like-minded people
You sound really fun and totally entertaining and I'm sure it's
just a matter of time. If you live anywhere between in between
Berkeley-El Sobrante, I know I would love to be your friend! Why
don't you post your e-mail address next time?
I am writing to see if somebody has any advice for me. I have
been in the bay area for around three years. I am divorced and
live with my preschooler. I have never, ever, ever had
problems meeting people and making friends. My ex, in fact,
was surprised because every time we moved, I would immediately
find people to make friends with. We lived in several cities
in the US, by the way. However, since I have my son and moved
to this area (the Danville area) it seems impossible for me to
find people I could have a long term friendship with. It's
like here it's too different worlds: I have one single friend
and one married friend. My married friend is open-minded and
has no problem with the fact that I am divorced. My single
friend is very nice but wants to meet only when I don't have my
So, I have met many singles that just stop calling if I'm
not available immediately to go out with them (I have my son).
When they did things during the day I have taken my son but
still it's as if for them I were from another species bc. I
have a child. And then, with the many married people I have
met, they also stop calling after a while because they end up
doing things with other couples, even when they take their
When I was single, and no child, I had all kinds of
friends: married, single, young, older. However, here in this
area it's seems as if people didn't mingle with those of a
different marital status. I have tried to meet other 'moms' in
the area but then I am not the soccer mom type. Please, I don't
mean to offend anyone.
I don't want to go to those groups
of 'divorced people', 'single parents' and stuff like that. I
want to meet people I am compatible with regardless of their
marital/child status. I am very frustrated and TERRIBLY
lonely. I set up playdates for my son but I feel bad that he
never sees me socialize. I'm sure he feels his mom is not very
happy. And believe me, I try.
I can empathize with your situation, though, I am not a single
mom. I can only imagine how challenging that is. I think a lot
of folks out there feel lonely and isolated in our fast-paced,
self-absorbed, competitive Bay Area culture. I recently read an
article in Newsweek about the lack of ''community'' in the US these
days, relative to the generation prior. Attendance in churches
and civic organizations - where many ''communities'' formed - are
at an all-time low. Of course, I'm not advocating go join a
church, unless you feel so inclined, but an interesting
historical point. My only insight is what seems to work for me
when I feel lonely - try to get out there and do what makes YOU
feel good - interests, hobbies, activities, clubs for your son
that you enjoy. You'll meet like-minded people that way through
shared interests or values - and it just may be one or two people
that turn out to be good friends. Good luck to you!
Hello, I am sorry you are having a hard time. My husband and I
have been wrestling with friendship issues as well since we
have had our boy 18 months ago. After he as born some of our
single friends disapeared, some of our married with no kids
friends stayed around but less. We were going out a lot before
he was born and so our friends still wanted to do that and we
did not. We still have some of our same good friends and have
met more people. But now, when we meet people it does seem to
be couples and i would say that it's because we want to be able
to hang out as a family with another similar familie so that
eveyrone gets to socialize. Time we have together is limited so
we want to be together but my husband like to have a guy around
and i like to have a girlfriend around...which doesn't happent
with single parent. I am not saying we make a point of this, we
wouldn't discriminate someone because they are a single
parent..it has simply not come up. But these were my thoughts
as to why...
I suggest you join a church or synagogue. Get involved in a
few groups that make you feel like you are a part of the
community. For example, I have a strong church connection that
is not just about my spiritual growth, but about my growth in
learning about how to connect with others in a community.
A book club has been great for me! 8 women get together once a
month to discuss literature, eat a good dessert, and talk
occasionally online about this and that. Sometimes we go to
other events that we learn about from each other together or in
The point is, you need to get some support in a big city. Work
on finding some small groups that you can contribute to and
also feel a sense of belonging to. After a while, you will get
to the point where you will appreciate solitude, if it is
balanced with social activities.
I invite you to my east bay book club, if you'd like to try it.
Just email me! Susanne
Hi ''lonely'' mom,
I can relate to where you are coming from..When we moved to
marin from the city I was a first time mom and suddenly went
from constant socialization to nothing..I was miserable..
The good news is that when I moved to the East Bay I put myself
out there and have quickly met some amazing mothers and
friends!! The socialization has been wonderful for my son and
we have been going to playcafes, parks etc. daily- but it's all
been just as great for me as we also do shopping trips, lunch,
mommies nights out( we just had one last night, FUN!!!) I feel
so lucky to have met such an amazing group of women! Please let
me know if you'd like to join us sometime..We are out and about
daily...Hope to hear from you soon! KP
Dear Lonely Mom,
I've got some good news and not so good news about making friends
in the Bay Area. I'll give you the bad news first. The Bay Area
is a tough place to make new friends. I've been through some of
what you've been through. It's pretty common that married people
or coupled people quickly lose interest in single friends. Maybe
it's that the people in a relationship are afraid that they would
alienate their partner by exhibiting independance from them.
Maybe it's because they're just blissfully lost in the
relationship. It's a fast paced lifestyle out here. The Bay
Area is very much different than other parts of the US, in the
sense that everyone is always on the go. We have places to be,
people to see, and things to do...and we cram it into the span of
24 hours, and repeat it again the next day.
I have friends who are single with kids. I do try to spend time
with them when they also have their kids, not just when they are
free from them. Here's my impression of that. Sometimes it's a
drag to deal with the kid, sometimes its not. Sometimes it feels
like I can't have an adult conversation with the friend because
the kid is around. Sometimes the kid gets demanding. Sometimes
it's a drag to see the friend have to reprimand the kid because
he/she is acting out.
Here's some good news though. It's not impossible to find good
friends in the Bay Area. You just have to look beyond your
initial comfort zone, stretch out and make friends with folks
farther away, or of a different social status.
Go and join some activity groups, take some classes etc. And,
you may really need to look beyond Danville, home of the soccer
moms, and not too socially promising for single/divorced people.
Also, keep in mind that you may not make a ton of new good/close
friends out here, but that you may make 1 or 2.
I've got 2 really good friends that do things with, everyone else
is pretty much an acquaintance in my book. But that is ok,
because I've learned that striking out on my own to do new things
helps to open the possibility of meeting more new friends.
I don't have to have a giant collection of friends, just a few
really good ones. And, when the good friends aren't available, I
do things on my own.
Single, independent and happy
I am so glad you wrote about this! I have felt exactly the same
way. I never had a hard time making friends until I had a kid.
I don't know why this has happend either. I have exactly the
same experience with married/parent/single friends as you. I am
basically a single parent in many ways as my husband works and
goes to grad school full time. We sometimes go for days without
seeing him. So to be social I have tried many things. I go to
my parent friends' house that I met in a mothers group. You can
try to do the initiating of the activities, or be proactive and
set actual dates for another meeting before you leave.
I also invite people to my house for dinner a lot. My child is
pretty easy then and I don't need a babysitter. I might cook a
cassarole or stew the day before and spend the day paying
attention to my girl and not letting her nap, then when 7:30
comes, she is asleep in her room, and I am socialising in
the living room and since I don't have to drive, I can even have
a glass of wine! Meeting friends for lunch on my work
days has worked well, too.
I have also had sucess with doing on-line book clubs with my
relatives and friends from back east. I get them a magazine
subscription (Science News, the New Yorker-something with
stories) or a book for a gift, then I get the same one and we
discuss it. I tried to go to several churches (First Unitarian
in Oakland had a lot of friendly people and a kid friendly
service/activities), but since Sunday morning is when we actually
see my husband, I stopped going.
I figure it's hard to be free for friends when my kid is little,
so I started socializing in a way with her, too. We go to a
museum and out to lunch sometimes. To the zoo, to kid movies or
to a mall then out for pizza. We go on nature walks and collect
leaves for collages. A lot of the stuff I would like to do
socially (just not very grown up topics). My friend volunteers
at a senior high rise with her 3-year-old. It's really social and
easy for her. I think it's a good idea to try to contact people
you normally wouldn't meet.
I think that when my daughter is older and has her own life, I
will have mine again too. I do see other moms at the park, zoo,
etc. but I haven't been quite brave enough to go up and start
talking to them. That would probably work eventually. We need a
mother's club for parents of older kids,don't we? I'll be
interested in the other ideas people give you.
If your schedule permits, volunteering at at organization that
reflects your values can be a good way to meet people who are
like-minded. If you are religiously inclined, many churches,
synagogues etc. have ample opportunity for meeting people and
i wasn't clear whether or not you were looking only for
women friends or would be open to a man. i am the latter and
have an 8 year old daughter and live in alamo, fairly close to
danville. i have been single for 5+ years and have exactly your
problems, possibly worse, because i am 63. most women my age
recoil at my having such a young child (i have half custody of
her, but am very involved with her and her life), since they
feel they have ''been there, done that''. they want to travel,
etc. not my scene and i have my work, my daughter hence no time
for travelling in any case.
and of course women a generation or so younger, probably
such as yourself, who had their children at a more ''sensible''
age, aren't interested in me either; they want someone more
their own age. while i actually am more comfortable with folks
younger than myself (my life style has never been consistent
with my own demographics), i can understand how younger women
feel about someone my age.
bottom line: like you i am hungry for adult companionship
(especially female, especially one with a small child or
children who can understand and live the same life style) and
have none whatsoever.
if you think we might have something in common, please drop
me a line. by the way, my daughter loves small kids and would
enjoy (initially at least) playing with your son.
I can empathize with your situation. I am also a divorced
single mom of a toddler... I find myself surrounded by single
people which is great sometimes, but difficult at other
times.... Those that are married are either significantly older
than me or are enmeshed in relationships with other married
couples as you pointed out. I know that part of my problem is my
perception of being a divorced/single mom. It may be holding you
back from creating the friendships you desire. Perhaps you
could make a posting to create a playgroup for your son on
here? I haven't tried it yet (I've been so busy with work and
school)... Where do you live? What are your interests?
single divorced mom
I'm coming to the realization that I have a lot of
acquaintances and no really close friends. I'm plenty social.
I want a best friend like the ones I read about or see in the
movies. One I can call at all hours of the night or day and
who will give me advice about everything and anything. I
don't know how to make the leap, though. How do you
approach someone you like? I tend to stick to shallow
conversations naturally - it'll take some real effort to get
more personal. Should I make offers, just share things
about myself, or hope someone approaches me?
Open your heart to me
Making close friends is not easy for anyone. Usually, those folks who have that ''best
friend'' have probably had her for many years. As adults, I think friendships work
differently. We are busier, have kids, have our own lives and things to focus on. But
friendships are so important to help us avoid feeling isolated, especially as parents.
I've found that the more open I am myself, the more others are with me. Trust is not
easy for any of us. Don't expect too much opening up and sharing all at once, but it
will come if you are open to it. If you're not in one, it's a good idea to join a mom's
group, or meet other parents at the park, Gymboree, etc. Or you can suggest
starting one with some of your neighbors. Eventually, you get past that layer of
conversation that is all about your child(ren) and on to adult stuff that goes beyond
that (not that kid talk isn't importan, too.) Good luck!
Your message hit close to home. I have been feeling
increasingly alienated from my friends for numerous reasons,
family, kids, careers, move from bay area etc. But regardless I
feel I never had friends that I could call anytime or go watch
a matinee movie with or grab coffee.
I think a lot has to do with urban living.
I think if you do find someone you really connect with , you
should make the effort to see if you can elevate it to a higher
Easier said than done as I thnk we all struggle with our
I am not sure what you are interested in or how old you are
etc. but feel free to drop me emails.
I have found for me, and my friends, that we tend to have a *few* very close (or
''best'') friends--as opposed to one, single best buddy--and then ever
widening circles of less close friends (maybe ''good friends'', close
acquaintances, and casual acquaintances, or whatever).
I think getting close to people is about learning how to:
1) Open YOUR heart to people. You might ask yourself if perhaps there are
some trust issues that hold you back from doing this? Opening up to people
allows them to feel trusted by and important to you. They often feel special,
that you would share of yourself with them. This contributes to a feeling of
2) Give give give. ALL relationships require give and take. Make the first move.
When you give of yourself (time-wise, energetically, emotionally, financially,
whatever) people feel that you care about them and will want to be closer to
you, AND they'll want to reciprocate.
3) RECEIVE! When people make offers to help you, support you or otherwise ''be
there'' for you, learn how to graciously and appreciatively receive what they are
offering! This can be one of the hardest things to do (I've really had to work on
it!). It can be challenging to overcome feeling undeserving, or that we would be
imposing on people to accept. People like to feel that they have something to
offer, too, and that you trust and appreciate them. So, when you accept *their*
overtures, you allow them to matter to you, and to get close to you.
Of course, you will run into people who have emotional wounding in and
around intimacy/trust, and they may be reluctant to get close, even when you
make these overtures. Don't worry about it or take it personally (something
that has always been tough for me, but I've been learning), there are always
other people who will be more responsive.
Finally, I've found that the friendships that have lasted the longest are the ones
in which both people really ''made room'' for one another. In other words, we
were understanding if one of us had to cancel a get-together, if one person
became really busy for a while and fell out of touch, or was *occasionally*
difficult, insensitive or, (in other words) HUMAN. With my closest friends, we
can approach each other with hurt feelings and express our needs without
being judgmental, accusatory or vindictive. We can allow for one another's
humanness because we've come to trust each other and, therefore, not to take
things too personally.
Of course, if some one is consistently inconsiderate or selfish in some way, I
realize that they are not really being a friend to me and I simply move on, or
otherwise shift my relationsip with them. I don't try to GET them to be
different, if they are unresponsive to me when I express what I need to remain
I hope this helps. Best of luck to you!
Opening Up More Every Day
It's impossible to be close on a series of shallow conversations.
Time to open up with those acquaintances you've known for awhile,
or start to ask probing questions. Go easy at first and see if
your acquaintances seem open to sharing - not everyone does, and
some people are not comfortable with anything heavy.
For the last several years (since I've had kids), I've struggled
with both maintaining and establishing new friendships. (See my
2002 post archived at
Since 2002, I have made some friends, but like you, I would
really like more closeness. I feel that my relationships have
become more superficial. This is due to several reasons.
First, my friends and I just don't have the time we used to, and
intimacy takes time. We are all rushing to work, rushing our
kids to schools and activities, rushing to make some organic, low
glycemic index dinner, etc. I do have some free moments, and I
would love to use those to create more intimacy with my friends,
but my free moments are not necessarily theirs, etc.
Second, we're older, and in established relationships, which
wasn't the case when we were younger and just dating. I feel
there's a barrier to talking about our spouses/partners. I just
sense that it's somehow become not done. Maybe because we all
know each other, and are committed for the duration. It's more
pointless to talk about something that you know isn't going to
change. It's not that I am personally unwilling to listen to or
talk about relationships.
I don't know how to overcome these obstacles.
Still seeking friends
Your post sounds both hopeful and sad all at the same time. I know
what you mean about wanting a best friend. I have longed for that kind
of relationship many, many times, too. Once in a while I have a friend I
feel I can really open up to, only to have things change--someone
moves, a new boyfriend, a new baby, a new job. Usually, with those
friends, the love remains even if the daily contact does not, and we can
share through letters or emails or phone calls even if it's just once in a
while. That helps. It also helps to be affiliated with larger groups, like a
church or synagog or other organization where there are lots of people
who are sort of looking out for you. And how about a partner? Do you
have one you love and trust? It's different than a best friend, but it helps.
As for trying to turn an aquaintance into a deep friendship, well, ask that
person to go out for a walk, or for a movie, or for a mom's night out if you
both have kids. Lots of other women out there also feel the way you do,
and it's nice to be asked. Even if the friendship does not deepen the
way you hope it would, having buddies is a great thing.
And a caution: allow your growing frienships enough space as well as
enough contact. It can be devestating to pin your hopes one a
friendship only to see it unravel. And also do what you can to be your
own friend. That will help you weather the ups and downs that all
friendships go through.
Hi all -
I am looking for advice on making new friends. I seem to have a problem doing
this. It isn't easy for me.
I grew up in a very undemonstrative household with no hugs and no outward
displays of love at all. Over the years I have had various groups of friends (I
have moved a lot too) that have since fallen by the wayside for different
reasons (lifestyle changes, moving etc). When I was in college I had a group of
friends I loved very much. Unfortunately when I split up with my very likeable
and popular boyfriend, almost all of my ''friends'' didn't want anything to do
with me as my boyfriend took it very hard and I didn't handle the break up very
well due to my emotional immaturity. I felt very betrayed by these friends and
still have dreams to this day about being friendless and unloved.
As it stands now I have 2 young children and am a SAHM. I have very few
friends. Two close women friends locally is about it. I have tried making
connections with other women and don't seen to have the skills to really bond
with people well after the initial pleasantries. I have been told frequently over
the years that I am unapproachable and intimidating. I have tried pretty hard to
soften up and have succeeded to a certain extent I think. But I don't open up
easily and I just don;t seem to know how to make friends.
Does anyone have any words of wisdom? Am I a candidate for therapy? Can
anyone recommend any good books on the subject? I have been feeling that
this is a dark secret over the years. Basically that I am not likeable enough to
have friends. And I would really like to develop these skills.
Thanks a lot.
I would suggest to be the friend you would want to somebody
else. All of the characteristics you look for in people,
practice those to the people already in your life. Spark up
conversations with people in the grocery store, coffee shop,
etc. or in other words, network. You may find that you have
similar interests and then use that as an opportuity to build a
relationship by planning a meeting or get-together. I have met
a lot of new people that way.
I also found it difficult to make friends, especially
when I no longer had work or school as a venue for
meeting people. What worked for me was figuring
out what hobby I enjoyed doing and would like to do
with others. I loved reading, so I started a book
group and invited other moms I met or knew or wanted
to know better to join the book group. It gave us an
organized way to start to get to know one another
and I have made some long-term friends from that group.
One you get to know these moms better, it wouldn't hurt to
mention your concerns about how you come across to tohers,
especially in case some of them are getting odd vibes
from you. Explaining your style is a helpful way for others to
put your behavior in context.
One thing that has helped me feel more balanced about friends and
friendships has been joining something that's more stable and just
showing up regularly. For me it was joining a church. But I've known
others who have gotten involved with non-profit organizations, or
community groups. Such places provide a meeting place that is a nice
back drop for developing friendships and more steady than parks or
short-term toddler classes. I can't say I've met any ''best friends''
my involvement, but I now have a place where I feel I belong, and
something about that takes the pressure off my other friendships. I
feel so lonely any more. One note: on-site childcare has made it
for me to participate regularly, and I'd recommend something like that
that your kids can have a place to go, too.
doing my best
I can certainly empathize with your delimma. While I am a pretty
outgoing person who tends to make friends easily, I left the
workforce 3 years ago to become a SAHM and found it an extremely
I kept making overtures to other moms at parks/playgrounds, in my
daughter's baby gymnastics class, in playgroups, to neighbors who
work part time and kept striking out over and over again. Either
they lived too far away to make it easy to get together, they
already had an established social network and didn't feel the
need to expand it or we just had very litttle in common to
sustain a friendship.
Eventually through patience and persistence I finally felt like I
was making progress and now the phone rings off the hook.
I found a group of people through a fiction writing group who I
connected with, I made friends with another mom at the gym where
I exercise, I reconnected with a few older friends who I hadn't
seen in a long time, and I found another mom at the preschool
where my daughter attends who wanted to get together for a weekly
I also tried very hard to be an interesting person who had
something to offer new friends. I try to read a daily paper and
one chapter from a novel when the kids are asleep in bed on most
nights, I see movies occasionally with other moms, attend an
annual conference for writers, we go to church services
regularly, and I write my own fiction when my daughter is in
But it seemed like for two long years I would make a dozen
overtures only to be disappointed over and over again with how
unresponsive/busy people are. It was so frustrating I started to
really resent busy people and thought they were personally
rejecting me which, of course, wasn't true. It's just that
parents with young children are pretty overwhelmed. And some
people are just as shy and uncomfortable getting to know new
people as you are.
ase don't give up and do be very forthright about the fact
that you are not a person who makes friends easily but you have a
genuine desire for adult companionship. Stay positive, stay
hopeful, this will work.
--a friendly mom
Four years ago, before we had children, my husband and I had a
small social life. We had friends, and although we would have
liked to have more even then, it was fine, especially since we
could go out together.
Now we have two children, and next to no social life at all. We
can't go to events we used to attend (an 8:30 dinner is not
possible, unless we get a babysitter, which we can only do
occasionally.) Our friends without children don't want to
socialize on our schedule (meaning we generally need to be home
after 8:30 PM.) We don't have many friends who have had
children. (I do have one good, loyal friend with a
child, and some relatives in the area, so we are not always
alone, but still.)
So I thought, especially after a recent move to a neighborhood
with many families, I'll try to befriend some new people. I've
invited over various families in our extended block area, and
assorted others, like people from my husband's work, people who
we were friendly with who had kids, etc., basically anyone I
could think of. This project hasn't been much of a success. I
have issued many invitations, both to parties and dinners, and
even informal, ''drop by any time.'' I would estimate about 1 in 4
of my invitations is accepted, and I get maybe 1 for every 5
I give. I also tried a toddler music class, which my children
loved, but didn't create any friendships.
An incident this weekend brought this to a head, when I was in a
friendly conversation with two other neighbors. One asked the
other one to dinner. Nothing was said to me. Obviously, I am
going about this in the wrong way, but I'm not sure what I should
do differently. Should I continue my invitations, or is it time
to give up? Is there something else I should try? I wonder if
there is something wrong with me, but obviously, this forum can't
tell me that. The only other thing I can think of is to join
some religious community. The problem is that I don't have a
religious or spiritual bone in my body, and so I would feel like
an imposter. I'd love to have some advice about this.
Looking for friendly advice
First of all, your neighbors are just rude. One usually learns
in kindergarten how to issue invitations without hurting other
Secondly, it sounds like you are really working hard at
expanding your social life, so everything I suggest may be a
repeat. But I think every parent goes through this, and it is a
I've met parents through story hour at the library, talking at
the toy store, parenting classes, gymnastics, etc. Almost
anything that centers on children should be a good opportunity.
But you could also try going it alone--either you or your
husband enjoying activities solo and meeting people that way, in
most communites you can pick which ones would have compatible
And, you could try not trying so hard. Maybe your neighborhood
moves slowly in integrating newcomers. And you could use the
parenting forum on Craig's List-you could be online afterhours
and still making contacts (I haven't tried this, but I use
Craig's List for everything else).
I hope this helps, and good luck.
Also, despite being a not religious person myself, I tried the
Unitarian Church in Oakland a few times, and really enjoyed it.
My son went to a separate playgroup and really enjoyed it, and I
was able to sit in a beautiful building for an hour and listen
to music. It is worth a shot.
I can empathize! There are times when it seems so hard to find and
keep friends, and days when it seems that everyone else is laughing
and enjoying each other's company while I feel like the little match girl,
looking in the window at the party from the snow-covered street.
Everyone says that it's easy to make friends when you have kids, but
that does not always seem to be my expierience. I also empatize with
your ratio of invitations to returns. It's hard to keep trying sometimes.
But then I remember that being a parent takes a lot of time and energy,
and that I am also not always able to return calls, even when I really
mean to. I remember that while I used to be able to pull off a dinner
party on little or no notice, with a child around I'm lucky if I can get the
groceries out of the fridge without him pouring milk on the floor. If this is
true for me, it must be true for other parents, too.
So even when I feel afraid that I'll just get rejected again, I try again. If a
one session class was not enough, I try a second, or one at another
time when there will be different families there, or a different kind of
class of play group. Sometimes it takes a while to find a friend. I try
going to the same park at the same time each week and talk to ''the
regulars,'' I suggest a picnic, or going for coffee afterrwards.
Sometimes it doesn't work, but my mother once told me that there is a
virture just in reaching out to others. Sooner or later, a friend will reach
Your story about your two neighbors sounded like it hurt a lot. I
remember that it took a few years to develop frienships in my
neighborhood, and that I often saw other neighbors who had been
there longer socializing together. When I was already feeling lonely,
that really hurt. But over time, I have developed different kinds of
friendships with many neighbors. The time spent with them rises and
falls, but I feel like our family is a part of the commmunity in a way I did
not in when we were the new kids on the block.
On really bad days, you might talk to your husband, and suggest that
the two of you find a babysitter and go out toegether. Splurge. Some
focused attention like that goes a long way. You might also talk with
your loyal freind who has a child, and tell her what you are feeling.
Maybe she feels the same way at times. Perhaps the two of you could
think of a way to start a mom's group or play group. Don't give up. Be
kind to yourself.
I feel your pain. It takes time, a lot of time, so be patient.
Before kids, we moved here from the east coast and knew maybe 2
people. Full-time work kept us busy, we didn't really have social
contacts outside of work. Within three years we had 2 kids and I
went from full-time work to stay at home mom. I didn't know
ANYONE and was so depressed being at home alone with two little
ones. So I went to Bananas and found a card from another mom who
was looking to start a playgroup. (This was before NPN, etc.)
She had a friend, and that friend had a friend, and very shortly
we had a once a week playgroup with 5 moms and 10 babies &
toddlers. We'd meet in local parks or at someone's house. We
started a Friday night babysitting exchange when all the babies
were out of diapers. One of the moms and I decided to take a
night-time UC extension class together, where I met another
friend. Some of our kids went to a co-op nursery school where I
met more people. (That's a VERY good way to meet other parents
by the way). We organized camping trips occasionlly and threw
birthday parties where the adults had fun too but really none of
us really had adult-level ''social'' lives until the kids were much
older. And as for neighborhood people - we'd wave, some would
come to bday parties, we'd trick or treat, but didn't really have
social connections with them. I think this was because they
already were established in their social circles, and couldn't
really take on new connections. Maybe the thing to do is to seek
out other parents in the same boat as you - people looking for
social connections just like you are. It might be at a
playground, a class your kid goes to, a class you take without
the kids. There are really a lot of these kinds of opportunities
in Berkeley, and so many people who have JUST moved here and
don't know anyone!
Just to philosophize a little about friendship: my kids are teens
now and I have social circles based more on my own adult
interests than on the kids'. Many of my closest friends
I met when I went back to school after my kids started elementary
school. Some of them have kids and some don't. I can see that
friendships take time - maybe 4 or 5 years for an acquaintance to
become a friend, and then a few more years for a close friend.
And they take some work, the same as a marriage. You have to
make an effort to call, get together, etc. I still keep in touch
with the old playgroup moms and we occasionally run into each
other. I get together regularly with the mom of my son's best
friend from the co-op preschool. Also - don't give up on your
pre-kids friendships. Some of them will have kids eventually and
they will really need you! And the ones who don't are important
too - I've stayed in touch with highschool friends from the east
coast, and those friendships have become very valuable over
I suppose in my own experience there is good news and there is
bad news. To start with the bad: my social life has never
fully recovered from having kids almost nine years ago. I
recall a wonderful conversation I had with a friend of mine,
the dad of now three kids (this was long before my two were in
the picture). He offered the following analogy that I have
loved ever since: Parenthood is like getting on a train. You
leave the home you have always known for an unknown
destination. You don't know where you'll end up, what it will
be like, what the culture will be, the food, the smells, the
tastes, but you will be there forever more. Some of it you
will love instantly, some of it you wil grow to love, some of
it you may never quite adjust to, but you will never return to
the place you once knew to be home. And so it is with every
aspect certainly of my life since my daughter was born in
November 1993. Nothings been the same, and the land that was
once so new is now completely home and I can't imagine for a
second going back. But there is still longing for some things
left behind, especially friendships.
Now for the good news: when the kids are a bit older, they
will start school, and their school will (hopefully) not only
be a good fit for them academically and socially, but a good
match for you socially as well. We are very involved in our
kids school (Tehiyah), which we love, and we have found a
wonderful sense of community there which I deeply value. There
are days, still, when I come up for air and realize how much I
miss my girlfriends of old, who are really no longer a daily
part of my life, but other friendships arrive, and the older
ones just require long intervals between visits. There are
parts of parenthood that are indeed a lonely journey, but all
things change, and if you have kids that make friends, or
extend their social lives into other avenues (like soccer,
dance, music, choir), there are lots of parents out there
I would simply add: Continue all the wonderful things you've
been doing to be available, indulge in the occaisonal
babysitter, pursue your own interests (like an adult school
cooking class if you love to cook, volunteering once a week for
a favorite political cause, family camping with the Sierra
Club, etc etc) and continue to explore all possible places
where folks of similar values and life circumstances might hang
out. Your efforts will be rewarded.
Best of luck during these sometimes lonely years.
A mom who remembers this all too well,
Ouuuuch! I know how you must feel. It doesn't sound like
you're doing anything wrong, just targeting the wrong people.
I've found that a lot of people are not necessarily interested
in making new friends because they're too busy, feel like they
don't have time to see the friends they already have, etc. So,
try not to take it personally, although its hard not to do so.
Have you tried joining a family-oriented health club or
something like that? The advantage of that is if you go on a
regular basis you'll start to see familiar faces and have an
opportunity to talk to people in a non-pressured environment
before deciding whether you want to take your ''friendship'' to
the next level. Other than that, religious or other types of
community organizations might be an idea. There are so many
types of organizations in the Bay Area for every type of taste,
you might find something you do identify with. Good luck!
You mentioned some interest in a religious community, but that
you would feel like an imposter, since you don't feel religious
in any way. I wouldn't let that stop you. There has been a
growing movement, especially over the last 10-15 years, for
Christian churches (and other religious institutions) to be
more ''seeker-sensitive.'' That means that there are very few, if
any, expectations or assumptions of religious background. Some
offer some very nice programs, especially for children and
families, with the intention that you feel comfortable and
welcome-- of course, also wanting to introduce you to some of
their spiritual teachings. Not necessarily a bad thing, given
our post-9/11 jitters.
That being said, some churches can be more friendly than others,
and church people, too, can sometimes get a little wrapped up in
themselves (translation: clique-ish). You should check out
several different places. If you decide you like one, then I'd
encourage you to try to have some kind of consistent
participation. That's the best way to build community.
First of all, keep trying--it's probably not something wrong
with you. I've often invited people over and then had them not
reciprocate. I think people are very busy and sometimes feel
awkward having people over (and maybe don't accept your invites
because they don't want to have to reciprocate). You might try
inviting people to go to something with you--''there's a free
concert in the park on Saturday, do you want to meet there?''
Second, it seems from your message that your oldest child is
four. If you can hang on a year till s/he starts K, getting
involved in your child's school is a great way to meet people.
Having kids shouldn't be an end to social life - but I agree it
can change it a lot. Restaurants, plays and so on aren't much
fun with a squiggling creature complaining. But it's also
possible to take kids a lot of places if you're prepared to lose
about a third of your time paying attention to them. For
example at friend's houses, you still get the two thirds of your
time with your friends, and that's better than none. Basically,
we dragged our kids about and put up with walking about patting
them over our shoulders while snatching bites of dinners, or
taking turns trying to put them to sleep in strange dark rooms
(which worked more often than you might think). So, don't be
afraid to keep your kids out late if that's what keeps YOU
sane. Finding new good friends is a slower process than making
do with the ones you have - it's like dating all over again.
But it does work in the end. So, good luck and remember things
I want to let you know you are not alone in having trouble
keeping a social life going post-kids. I think part of the
problem is getting a family social life going in the East Bay.
We already had kids when we moved to Berkeley, but I
found it very difficult to connect with other families socially.
One thing that helped me a lot was joining a playgroup with
my younger child. The friends I've gained through my
playgroup form the backbone of my personal social network
as I'm a stay-at-home mom. However, we only get together
socially only occasionally with a couple of families there.
Please don't feel as if there is something wrong with you
when people don't accept your invites. I think it's the nature
of living here where there is so much to do and there is little
emphasis on neighborhood (especially without
neigbhorhood public schools and with so many kids going
to private school). All you can do is keep plugging away at it.
But I do think that you'll make your best family friends
through more intimate experiences involving your kids, such
as playgroup, preschool, and school, rather than trying to
find people in your neighborhood or through classes. The
Neighborhood Parents Network publishes a newsletter that
has playgroup listings in the back. Some working parents
even have formed playgroups on the weekends. Also you
can post something in the ''Connections'' section of the UCB
Parents Announcements with the ages of your kids and your
interests. Finally, we have met some great families through
the Albany Little League. There are two Little Leagues in
Oakland as well as one in El Cerrito.
Please feel free to email me. I hope this helps!
Just wanted to add to the other excellent suggestions - try to
limit your efforts to only those people you genuinely like.
Don't try to make friends with everyone you meet, but think
about whether YOU like THEM, not whether they'll like YOU. Do
you enjoy someone's sense of humor? Respect their values?
Share their interests? If you do, chances are they will feel
the same way about you, and you'll find your ''batting average''
improves. First, you don't want to expend a lot of energy
cultivating ''friends'' just for the sake of adding them to your
social circle, and second, people can tell when you're faking
it. Be yourself!
Just a few thoughts after reading the interesting responses
to your question. I too have this problem and definitely have
taken rejections VERY personally., wondering what is wrong
with me, particularly being a shy person.
Someone else wrote about it being difficult to start a social
life in the East Bay. Something that I've noticed which might
be telling as to how ''friendly'' Berkeley (where I live) is, is
the obsession with privacy fences and vegetative ''screens''.
If you're from here, this might not seem weird; but I grew up
in Washington, D.C., and EVEYRONE had a 5 foot chain link
fence, which meant that you could see what was going on
in everyone's backyard whichever direction you looked in.
We knew ALL the neighbors on our very large block (we're
talking big city life here) plus neighbors on the surrounding
blocks. There were not really close friendships among the
adult neighbors, but people definitly took time to speak at
length on the street with one another and there were a lot of
close friendships among the children. New neighbors were
welcomed right away into the neighborhood. I don't
understand this need to be isolated from your neighbors;
our next door neighbors are fanatical that way. It's definitely
a sad thing to me.
It seems that our entire culture becomes more and more
isolating, with all of our creature comforts allowing us to be
fully independent from each other and entertainment being
available at the push of a button; you don't even have to
I know there were tons of responses to your post, but here's my
I felt the exact same way you did for a long time. I was the
first in my group to have a kid and to make things worse a lot of
my friends moved out of state due to the economy. Just seeing two
moms hanging out with their kids made me feel extremely jealous.
I was in a mom's group, and I was making friends with a few other
moms, had plans occasionally with other families, but it was
never enough. I joined groups, I extended invitations (and even
recieved a few), but my life never really reflected the image I
had in my head (close, nurishing friendships with other
mothers,and social plans for the whole family on weekends). I
hadn't felt jealousy/longing like that since I was in high school!
Finally, after talking extensively with my therapist, I figured
out that what I was really craving was my mother and sister. I
know it sounds weird, but thats how those types of issues
manifest themselves. I had severe post-partum depression and
anxiety when my daughter was born and my mother was not there for
me even though she lives 1/2 hour away. I barely see her now and
my daughter is two. My sister doesn't answer her phone (and
refuses to have an answering machine). Once I realized this was
my problem and got up the courage to confront my mother and
sister about how I felt, the desperate feelings pretty much went
It was then that I realized that I did have mom friends, I did
have a social life and all of a sudden we got more invitations
from other families.
Not saying its what's up with you, but I think its worth thinking
I just want to say that these kinds of things can be extremely
painful but you should give yourself a huge pat on the back for
your efforts. It's especially painful because it's natural
to ''take it personally.'' In fact I am sure there are lots of
parents out there who are experiencing what you are and who feel
just like you.
I think part of the problem is that parents get overwhelmed with
the time demands of parenting and simply don't feel they have
any time to develop new friendships. So as much as some of the
people you have crossed paths with might enjoy your company a
lot, they are not allowing themselves to make time for that
additional enjoyment because they are simply overwhelmed with
the other things that seem to take their time (kids, work,
paying bills, sleep!!).
I am sure it is true because I feel like I don't have time to
spend with existing close friends, let alone develop new
friendships. A really nice woman with a child my daughter's age
recently asked me to do something social and I said no because I
felt it would cut into my very limited time with my daughter. I
tell you this because I want you to know you are not alone in
Another problem of course is that people are ''clique-y'' and it
doesn't occur to them that their lives might be richer by
associating with a range of different people.
In any event, hang in there and know that you do have a valuable
friendship to offer and over the years I am sure you will
gradually find that you have more and more friends whom you
really enjoy and who are quality people in your life, regardless
if you ever have a huge quantity!!
Adding yet another voice...
I'm a native to Berkeley/El Cerrito and now own the house I grew
up in. Most of my neighbors have lived here fifty years and knew
me as a child. In most cases, I have never been inside their
houses. We do have high fences around our yards. BUT (and this
is the important part) all of us are quite pleasant with each
other. We never have turf disputes, nor problems
with ''different'' lifestyles. This seems quite a comfortable way
for us to live in close proximity, I think.
Social life? Ours is quite rich. One family goes to Tehiyah.
(Group gatherings at the house are common.)Another family has
friends over to their garage to create Ikebana arrangements
every Saturday. Rock musicians down the road practice in their
basement. My sister is active at Epworth (on Hopkins) and my
family travels to dog shows frequently. Our local library
provides listings of fun things to do.
For those who need to find a kindred soul in parenting, try
Tekla Nee's column:
''Tekla Nee is a Palo Alto mother of three and author of ''The
Everything Baby9s First Year Book'' and ''The Mommy Zone: Tales from
the Trenches of Parenthood.'' Her column appears every Thursday in the
Daily News. You can reach her with your comments and suggestions in
care of the Palo Alto Daily News, 329 Alma St., Palo Alto, 94301, or
by email at tekla (at) well.com. ''
She's funny, real...and very ''Bay Area.''
Dorothy Coakley, ''proud to be a public librarian''
Just wanted to offer a fresh perspective to this interesting
problem. How do you develop a social life post-kids? For me, it's
been to keep the friends I had pre-kid! Much as I love being my
2-year-old's mom, I choose go out without her once a week and
spend time (movie, coffee, meal) with my friends, who for the
most part do not have kids.
My childless friends do not want to hear about potty training or
weaning or toddler tantrums, but that's fine with me because it
gives me an opportunity to talk about non-mom stuff -- politics,
movies, mutual friends, work (I work part time). I live and
breath mom/toddler issues and frankly I like to have a break from
them once in a while! It does mean my childless friends have to
meet me earlier because I have to leave earlier, and I'm probably
not up for a boozy night because I have to get up at 7 a.m. but
that's never been an issue.
Personally I've never found a moms group I've been comfortable
with and although I love chatting to other moms in the
playground, I don't find that shared motherhood means automatic
Just a different viewpoint ... ANONYMOUS
I'd just like to add one more thing about social lives. It
sounds like your oldest is about 4, but not in daycare. Daycare
is a wonderplace to meet lots of parents, and to choose which
parents you like best. For me, it did not happen right away, but
when the ''playdates'' started happening in a big way- when my
child was about 4, we started to get to know some parents better.
So school for you will be great. But it may not start right
away. Also, if your child is not in a daycare, and starts
kindergarten ''cold turkey'' this will be hard- of course. It will
help both your child and you to very early on identify several
children that you think may ''click'' with yours- ask the teachers.
Then ask the kids over for a play date on Saturday- by 5 it can
be 2-5 hours. Ask the mom to stay for coffee for an hour to make
sure the kids are comfortable. Slowly, you will have mom
buddied. Also, I started a lunch time, once a month ''parents
chat'' at my daycare, so that we could talk about kids issues.
This has resulted in some friendships too. Good luck. In a few
years, you will have such a busy social life with your kids, that
it will wear you out! I think one issue is that when you meet
adults through your kids, the adults are from much more diverse
walks of life, than you have with you old school and work
friends. Those friends have a lot in common with you, you kid's
friends parents may not. So it takes a while. Good luck.
Been there too
this page was last updated: Nov 14, 2008
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