Making friends as an adult is one of the more difficult parts about adulting. When you are younger you just say, ‘I like your cool neon scrunchie, let’s hang out,’ (or something less incredibly ‘80s) and then you become besties forever. As adults, it’s a whole lot harder.
Having friends who can parent alongside you will make so many things easier. So cultivating friendships at the school gate is a very good idea. It does take some time and effort, as well as a commitment to making this happen. But making friends as an adult is worth it, trust me.
Why is it Difficult to Make Adult Friends?
As kids, hanging out with friends was considered an essential part of childhood development. Your parents would have actively encouraged playdates for you, and frankly been a little concerned if you didn’t spend time playing with other kids.
As an adult, just hanging out with other people for fun is usually the last thing on your priority list.
We struggle to make new friends mostly because we don’t have time for it. We are already stretched very thin, and don’t have enough time for our kids, homes, partners, work, getting to the gym or catching up with the friends that we already have.
And social anxiety doesn’t get any easier as an adult either. We may feel more exposed at the school gate, with our lack of makeup, our topknot bun, and pants with breakfast stains on them.
It’s not like in our twenties when we looked amazing and met people out at the bar, with the benefit of a little alcohol to give us courage (drinking before school pick up is not really encouraged…)
This is Time Worth Investing
It is scary making new friends – it always will be a little bit. You are putting yourself out there to be judged and possibly rejected.
Plus, when you make friends with other parents, you are putting your kids out there too. What if their child is mean to yours? What if the other parent says something horrible about your child, or picks up on that innate weirdness your toddler has that you were hoping no one would notice?
It is also time-consuming, but making friends with the parents around you will be so helpful, supporting and also incredibly rewarding, that it is worth the fear and the effort.
It’s a very old saying that it takes a village to raise a child, but this is still very true. In these days of digital friendships and the ability to get everything delivered without needing to leave the house, it is more important than ever to have real, physical friendships.
Kids are hard, and logistically they are a nightmare. Throw in school hours, assemblies, random sick days, sports, and homework into your already tight schedule and you will find that trying to manage kids alone is now virtually impossible.
No matter how many old friends you have or how great your sisters or cousins are at supporting you on the phone, practically you need a little village to support you at the school.
Having people who are on the same timetable, in the same vicinity and who you can trust with your precious babies becomes essential once your kids start school.
Having people you can complain to and vent with about the weird phases your kid is going through right now is also very helpful. Good friends made at the school gate will just ‘get’ you and will understand the special kind of bonkers life you are living at the moment. People who ‘get’ you like this are worth their weight in gold.
How to Make Good Adult Friendships
Everyone is busy, we all get that. You don’t have to show up 100% of the time or spread yourself so thin that you become transparent.
But strong friendships work because we have prioritised being with that other person. When we had options for other things to do, and there will always be options, we actively chose this person to be with. Your friend will appreciate that effort.
You need to be open and genuine, and have real and personal conversations. Ask questions and listen properly to the answers. Remember little things about this person, and make small thoughtful gestures based on what you’ve picked up.
Don’t overbook yourself or consistently arrange catch-ups that you end up flaking on. We don’t overbook ourselves maliciously, it’s usually because we really want to be that version of ourselves that shows up.
But when the date arrives we have a million other things we should be doing, and on top of that, we just feel tired and want to take off our bra and slide into PJ pants, so we cancel. If we cancel repeatedly the friendship will not work. So you need to make the time and effort to be there for this person, both emotionally and physically.
As adults, we don’t have time for being strung along. If you want a friendship to work and to give you the support you need you should be honest with the other person. Be yourself, be genuine and open. Tell them if you really like them and want to hang out more.
Don’t waste time with people who don’t reciprocate your friendship and save your valuable time for those that do.
Making Friends as an Adult and Parent: Tips to Help
The best school gate friendships you will make will be with parents with similar parenting styles to your own. Don’t try to hide who you are or pretend to be someone you’re not just to make people like you. You can find wonderful, genuine friends if you open up and be your lovely honest self.
Be kind, patient and compassionate. But don’t put too much time into people who aren’t reciprocating or who you, deep down, don’t really connect with.
Make the effort. You have to get out of your car and walk up the gate. You also have to put your phone away, make eye contact and start conversations.
Small talk is fine, and actually really easy for people with kids – you already have a lot in common. You can also just be nice – compliment another mum on her earrings. Or mention that your child was jealous of the banana bread she made for her son last week – it is easy once you get started.
And as a practical tip, control your road rage and always follow the general etiquette rules around parking near the school!
It can seem convenient to double park if you are in a hurry, but imagine the chaos if everybody thought like that! Other parents will get to recognise your car, so don’t bend the rules thinking that no one will notice.
And if all else fails just tell someone you really love their neon scrunchie – it always works!
P.S If you would like to read some strategies for helping your child make friends, have a look at this article here.
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