The parade

I feel very isolated in my offbeat-ness. Of course, I live in a small-ish, conservative southern town. However, I have found it very hard to meet other parents who do not want to pursue the whole “lets give trucks to boys and princesses to the girls” parenting style. I read your articles about urban tribalism and the acceptance of alternative styles and would love to know how you were able to develop your own community.

This is a great question, and certainly much bigger than just making friends as an offbeat parent — once you’re well into adulthood, how do you find your people? Stephanie and I will both take a stab at answering, and then we’d love to hear from Offbeat Mamas themselves about how y’all do it!

Ariel says…

Stephanie’s right: making friends as an adult can be a tricky thing, and finding parent friends can be even weirder … it’s hard enough to find friends for yourself alone, and if you’re partnered, it’s even harder to find “couple friends” where both you and your partner like both halves of a fellow couple. When you add kids to the mix? YIKES! There are so many personalities at play, and sadly parenting philosophies are all-too-often used as a way to mark the the differences, and create divisions between mothers who are already feeling isolated.

I’m lucky because in Seattle there’s this thing called PEPS — Program for Early Parent Support. When you join up, you’re matched with a new group of other brand new parents in your neighborhood who have kids all born within about 2 months of each other.

I honestly wasn’t totally sure about joining — I went to a city-wide orientation, and looked around and thought, “These totally aren’t MY people.” Where were the freaks? The nerds? The underground weirdos? Everyone was wearing khakis, and I felt foreign. Also: MOMS GROUP!? Ug, how stereotypical! What, are we going to do stroller aerobics together?

After a particularly rough morning with the baby, I realized I needed the support. I figured I’d give it a shot. The first meeting was about three months after Tavi was born, and as I looked around the group, I thought with a cynical heart, “these are totally, completely NOT MY PEOPLE.”

But you know I found? That the very fact that my fellow moms weren’t what I thought of as “my people” was part of what made the group so valuable. It was wonderful to see how I was dealing with the exact same mother-of-a-newborn challenges as the 40-something Boeing lawyer, who was dealing with the same issues as the 20-something stay-at-home-mom, who was dealing with the same frustrations as the former Army captain, who was crying over the same challenges as the University of Washington PhD student. We were all coming from different backgrounds and parenting philosophies, but we were all dealing with the same challenges.

I also found that our differences exposed me to parenting ideas that, in my progressive offbeat mama bubble, I hadn’t even considered. One example: a fellow mom explained that at the 4-month point, she just started putting her daughter down for bed at 7:30 pm, whether the baby looked tired or not.

“It took a couple days of sitting with her as she fell asleep, but now she goes right to bed at 7:30 pretty much every night.”

Having a scheduled bed time initially struck me as over-structured. I was still in the “Tavi goes to bed when he falls asleep” mode, which meant he was up until 9 or even 10, after a period of fussiness. But on a whim I decided “Huh, maybe I’ll try putting him down at 7:30.” And what do you know! It totally worked! He started sleeping better, and I had more time in the evening to get work done.

My point here isn’t that this bed time technique would work for every baby — rather that it was an idea outside of my parenting comfort zone that, thanks to being exposed to moms who I thought of as “not my people,” I found was actually a great fit for my kid. And after six months, several of these “not my people” moms are totally “my people” and have become real friends. We chat about feminism and media and gay marriage and I learned (for the 500th time – stupid Ariel is stupid) not to judge books by their khaki covers.

That said, part of how this works is because I also have a circle of “my people” friends — a hodgepodge of hippies, retired ravers, media dorks, role-playing geeks, and aging partiers. Here are the most common ways I’ve met my favorite people:

  • Used to party together
  • Worked together, whether that’s on-the-job, or a side project like the Salon of Shame)
  • Internet (one of my dear friends is also named Ariel. She found me via a vanity web search six years ago and emailed to say hi. Turned out we have more in common than just our names!)
  • Mutual friends of one of the above

Parenting, of course, can interfere with some of these methods. Not partying as much, so fewer party friends. If you’re not working, there goes that idea — but even if you’re working, you may not have the time to socialize after-hours. THANK GAWD for the internet. We have each other here!

Of course, only a small portion of these “my people” friends are parents, so we don’t always have current experiences in common, but repeat after me: PARENTS & NON-PARENTS CAN AND SHOULD BE FRIENDS. It’s awesome to get away from talking about my kid all the time, and get into a different mode where we can gossip about the publishing industry, kvetch over the creative process, dork out over tv shows, laugh over stupid cat stories, and talk about all the non-kid things in the world. Maintaining these relationships takes effort after you have a baby, but even if it’s just a text message saying “I’m thinking of you! XO!” it’s important to keep caring and feeding your friendships.

In summary I’d say:

  • Try searching your area for parenting groups
  • Don’t avoid talking to fellow parents just cuz they don’t look like “your people” (Remember: stupid Ariel was stupid. DON’T BE STUPID) Focus on the common experiences, and celebrate the differences.
  • Don’t lose touch with your child-free friends just cuz they’re not parents (make time to maintain these relationships! They’re really really important!)

Stephanie says…

First, there is no other way to put it — making new friends as an adult can be hard. Most of my friends are people I met in college, with a handful of high school friends that are still awesome to know as grown-ups. I have loose friendships I have made with people that I have met since graduating, but I’ve known the bulk of my friends for at least four years now.

In everyone else’s defense, between December 2008 and August 2009 I didn’t really get out that much. When we graduated we moved across the country, and didn’t make a lot of friends there. When we moved back (also to a conservative, small-ish Southern town — I am dying to know where you’re from!) we had a breastfed (read: must be near Mom at least every 1-2 hours), colicky (read: started to scream around 5pm almost every night until midnight) three-month-old, so we didn’t get out much. We saw a few people during the day, but I spent most of my time with Jasper.

We never intended to be Those People, the ones who have a baby and drop off the face of the earth, but it happened for a while. Sean is back in school now, which means he’s seeing people all the time, and also that Jasper and I usually see those people with him. We also have a night each week that the two of us go off together while Jasper stays with his Nana — something I highly recommend. This night is the shit, because it means we can take some time to just BE together, and we can also use that time to be together with other people. We also started taking Jasper out quite frequently once the colic subsided, so we’ve met people that way.

I’m not very good at doing the whole Little Gym/Mom Friends thing, and every time I take Jasper there or somewhere similar, I always get Sean to come so we can hang out. I definitely have a mental block about approaching women that are older than I am, dressed differently, and who, in general, seem to have different perspectives about parenting than I do — whether they actually do or not is a mystery to me, since I get too intimidated by their Awesome Momness and Always Brushed Hair (mental blocks!) to find out.

So what to do? My advice for adults looking for friends, be they mamas or otherwise, is to first and foremost maintain and nurture the friendships you already have. If they’re still stable, healthy relationships, make sure you tend to each one. Call your friends, Facebook your friends, text your friends — whatever. Just stay in touch. Second, get out of the house! You can meet people, you just have to (gulp) be brave and say hello, find out your common interests, and hang out. It’s kind of like dating, but not quite as awkward.

I am quite curious to see what kind of advice YOU guys have — I’m still getting the hang of this whole adulthood thing!

So now I want to know — Offbeat Mamas, how do YOU find your friends?

Comments on How do you find offbeat parent friends?

  1. I have been waiting for someone to write about this. I have been through FIVE PLAYGROUPS trying to find mom friends. That might seem weird, but the truth is I find the play dates really uncomfortable, so I just went to a few meetings here and there to find other moms I liked enough to contact outside of the group. We moved across the country when my son was 9 months old and I had to start from scratch with parent and non-parent friends. Being a student sort of helps, but not too much, because most of my fellow-students are in a very different place than me. It’s cool to see them in school, but I’m just not going out to college parties any more.

    I have found about half a dozen awesome mamas through those playgroups. I have 2-3 decidedly child-free friends. Time spent with these friends is awesome. I don’t feel any pressure to prove what kind of mom I am, and I have a really short interest in talking about the topics that always come up when I go to uncomfortable play dates.

    I am learning to just PUT MYSELF OUT THERE. I am super shy when not blabbering away on the internet, so for a while I was totally forlorn that I would never meet anyone. But now I am realizing that I have to be proactive… I noticed the other day just how far I have come with this when my husband’s niece was telling me about the girl who did her tattoo, that she was my age and just had a baby, and I almost shouted, GIVE HER MY NUMBER!!

  2. I am SO glad you posted this! I am pregnant with my first child and planning on staying home with the baby after he or she comes (due in February) but have been worried about making friends who are a little offbeat like me.

    I live in Atlanta, GA right now and the thought of making friends in the Buckhead area where we currently live makes me cringe…but then again, I’m being judgmental, because to me the typical Buckhead woman does not = offbeat. But then, I live in Buckhead, and I am not typical.

    SO…if you live in Atlanta and are interested in a momma or momma-to-be friend, drop me a line on my blog and I will email you back with my Facebook info or something like that.

    This is like Internet dating all over again! Ha!

    • Hey! I currently live in Athens Ga but am moving to the Atlanta area soon. I have a 1 year old daughter and am seriously lacking some Offbeat mama friends 🙂

    • Hey, I’m not a mom per se, but I am Offbeat in Atlanta. What’s your flavor of Offbeat? I’m in a social group of nerds (video games, roleplaying games, computers, cons, costuming, etc). Even if that’s not your thing, I’d be happy to grab coffee sometime when my metamore is in town.

  3. I have also worried about this. I do have my regular friends who happen to be parents already but not a ton of them and honestly a lot of them follow typical parenting rules and practices. If you go here: and look on the left side, you will see a list of Secular parenting groups.. I found one in my area (Dallas) that is just a group for raising ‘nonconfirmist’ children in general, which sounds perfect.

  4. This is a great idea!

    Goodness, making mommy/couple friends is really hard. I tried the playgroup thing and it was far, far from stellar. It was such a negative experience that I didn’t go back after two visits. Not all people are as bonded by the experience of motherhood as much as other cultural aspects, so long story short, it sucked. Then I sort of gave up after that.

    I’m looking forward to see how this works out!

  5. My two best friends live out of state and I am not good at making friends. One of them is married and one is single but they are far away so I do not see them much. One I have known since I was 17 and the other I met on the internet because of the TV Show Lost. I have never been good at making friends and mommies groups scare the hell out of me.
    Ariel your answer really helped me I think I might go looking around for something around because I really need to get out with some females with babies around my age.

  6. I love this — I’m so terrified of other mothers! I would go to the park, and maybe strike up two or three sentences of conversation with a mom I seemed to have stuff in common with, but then I’d sort of just wander off. The one mom I had the most in common with was the clerk at our local cloth diaper/green baby store, and I only met her a couple months before I moved. I used to chat with her a lot when I went there.

    So, uh, if anyone lives in Lawrence, KS, and wants to meet a mom and a 17-month-old, I’m all up on twitter @ashleympoland. ^^;

    • Hi Ashley – I’m in Topeka, and am 6 mos pregnant. I’d love to get together sometime. I grew up in Lawrence (Free State ’02). Email me if you want to grab coffee or something.

    • I am not officially a mama yet, but I adore this blog- guestbook great idea. Looking to find some new offbeat friends with kid-I like this post because I feel like its been hard to find peeps as an adult…not as easy as college.
      @dofnup-send me a msg…i am in phoneix area too! Viva chandler! facebook:jacqueline may carter

  7. Like Ariel and Stephanie, I really had to push myself out of my comfort zone and be more outgoing than I normally would be. Having a kid in the first place makes this much easier since it’s a great conversation starter, even if it is lame –“How old? So cute! What’s his name? Oh, this is Alice, she’s 2,” and so on.
    We moved when Alice was 18 months old and I was 7 months pregnant with our second child. It had taken me nearly 6 months to find mom friends and playdates for Alice in our old neighborhood, because we didn’t take any classes or go to any storytimes. I thought Alice was too little to appreciate it! Now, I know that it’s important for me too, not just Alice. When we moved, I immediately started going to library storytimes, and went to a playgroup sponsored by the Dept of Family Services a few times. I don’t go to the playgroup anymore because it wasn’t really my bag but I see the moms around the neighborhood and it’s nice to have someone to chat with on the street.
    But the turning point for me was when we went to brunch soon after moving, and a dad came by our table with his toddler, and introduced himself. It turned out that his wife’s friend was the moderator of a local mom’s yahoo group. He took my email address, she added me to the group and presto, I was hooked up with all these breastfeeding, cloth diapering, smart, literate, granola mamas who showered me with their friendship and generousity. Though I barely knew them, come April, when my daughter was born, those mamas kept us fed for a month afterwards, bringing meals 2 or 3 times a week! It was unbelievable.
    So, I guess my point is… get out of the house. You never know who you’ll meet.

  8. This is my first time commenting, though I have been reading offbeatmama for the past several months when I desperately sought a “pregnancy website” that was not, well, you know.

    I had just sent an email to a friend this morning about my frustration and sadness in not having a close community of women friends around me while being pregnant (I am 7.5 months). I have always had a strong community of women friends in my life but since moving to Charlotte, NC I just haven’t found one (a few great people here and there, but no true feeling of support/community esp. the kind I would like).

    Let me know if you’re in the area! And, thank you for this post!

  9. Thank you for this! I’m the first of all my close friends to get pregnant, and most of my friends don’t want to have children at all. I want to homeschool, and I am not religious, so I feel a big need to find other parents who are somewhat like-minded in my area.

    The internet is also nice for making connections when we can’t leave the house.

  10. I am so glad I am not alone here. My daughter is a year old now I have yet to make another mama friend in my area ( small southern town as well). For months I would cry all day until my husband came home from work because I was so lonely for adult company. And although I have not made any serious friends yet when I start to get the baby blues I get out of the house. I try to go to places where other SAHMs go ( Old Navy and Target are swarming with moms for some reason). Maybe next time I will actually get up the guts to make small talk with other mom’s. GEEZ why is it so intimidating to approach other women?!

  11. thank you thank you thank you for this post! I have a hell of a time trying to find people with kids (or without who don’t mind dealing with mine) to hang out with. I’m 24 but look younger, and add tattoos, bright coloured hair, a 2-year-old and a 10-month-old, and we get stares everywhere we go. I’ve had a few chats with moms at Chapters – I’d totally recommend the train tables in the kids’ sections there, my daughter loves playing with the big kids and my son just crawls around and flirts with the other mothers. We spend WAY too much time at Chapters these days. I’ve never actually had a long enough conversation to facilitate meeting up again, though.
    We’re in Oshawa, Ontario, though probably moving into Toronto soon. I’d love to meet up with some other mums, and talk something other than baby talk occasionally!

      • Congrats! I’d love to get together, if you’re up for a crash course on dealing with crazy infants:)
        We just moved from BC and are currently staying with my in-laws in Oshawa until my husband lands a job in Toronto, then we’ll move somewhere into the city, near wherever he’s working and hopefully the subway line. Send me your email or facebook if you like. (

  12. My antenatal group gave me some amazing friends and I cherish them so much. I struggle with mum and baby groups though. Really not my cup of tea and I’m the first from my social group to have a baby so I’ve felt pretty lonely at times. The guestbook is an ace idea!

  13. Awesome idea Ariel! I’m pregnant with my first child, and don’t have many friends of my own as I’ve moved with my husband back to where he’s from. I’m going to have to suck it up and be brave and go and find people to talk to! Although obviously I’m sorry for all the people in the same slightly lonely boat as me, it’s nice to know I’m not the only one who is freaked out by trying to make friends, never mind mama friends!

  14. Oh, also — I am going to my first La Leche League meeting tonight. I thought that could be a good way to find some mamas that may be a little more my speed. If this is something you’re interested in, you could check to see what meetings are located near where you live.

  15. Honestly this is one thing I struggled with for a long time, especially since I was back and forth across the country for school. It became really hard to keep many of my regular friends, add a soon to be baby to that mix and I don’t know if I will get out much at all!

    But, in it all there has been one thing that has always kept me able to find childless friends and friends with kids, my extra-curricular sports. For me, it is a way to keep in shape and meet people who like the same things I do. Gives me a chance to go for beers (or now virgin margeritas, lol). And honestly there is always someone on the sidelines who is all about baby-sitting while myself or another mom are playing. I don’t honestly see myself ever really being a part of a mommy group, it really isn’t my cup of tea. I always feel that I am more than just my kids, and that I have other things that I love as well. Its the other things were I end up meeting other mom’s, many of whom I have more in common with. Plus I find there is a lot less “mommy competition” when we aren’t meeting just about the kids. Most of my teammates are insanely supportive of me and baby, and are there as a great source of support. Its been amazing, and still allowed me to be me 🙂

  16. some stuff I learned

    when you go out, wave your freak flag. Show your tats, wear your Yeah Yeah Yeah’s shirt and your docs so other OBMs can identify you.

    Get out. Go to mommy and me classes, the pool, the parks, the story hour at the library. Meeting OBM friends means meeting people.Go to where there are people, go to where there are moms. You will find them.

    Post a Mom’s group meeting time and place, like a local park on Craigslist, or even print up fliers and post some at kid’s stores, the market, the YMCA, etc in your town saying “Hey cool moms, meet at this park on mondays at noon, bring a snack” etc.

  17. It’s not easy for me to meet people I like. I have a wonderful group of good friends I love because we’re simpatico, but many of them don’t have children. The mommy groups didn’t work for me because most of the members I met found motherhood as their primary identity, and I can’t relate to that. I’m looking to hang out with people who share more with me than the fact that we both happened to breed at the same time. Call me idealistic, but I like the conversation to run smoothly from dirty diapers to indie rock to politics.

    With that said, I’ve been able to identify and befriend (in the spirit of a clandestine reconnaissance mission) a handful of interesting parents and kids at mainstream activities like rec league soccer and my son’s preschool. I also keep my mommy radar on in non-parenting contexts–at my CSA, a local supper club, meeting friends of friends—and sometimes I get lucky. I was pleasantly surprised to see what a large group of cool people we managed to assemble for Nico’s fourth birthday party last week. Guess we’re doing okay.

  18. Yay! Offbeat Mama for the win! This is my biggest problem, not just for my own sanity, but for socializing my little dude. I join parenting playgroups that are local, like Ariel’s PEPs, and Meet-ups featuring like minded (as well as unlike, but interesting) individuals, but nothing ever sticks because I don’t feel like either of us (little dude or I) ever really connect. The internet is my mommy support group, but that doesn’t help my fella find friends. So, basically, I hope this OBM match-up goes places! Also, forgive my non-picture in the guestbook, but our family has a true and legitimate need for online anonymity. Yay!

  19. I’ve had good luck meeting offbeat moms by joining La Leche League, and going to a local Unitarian Universalist Church. UU churches are GREAT places to find eccentric and offbeat people.

    I was part of a mom’s group, but then it disbanded. It was okay, but honestly it seemed weird going to a playgroup when my son was too young to crawl. It would probably be better now that he’s 3.5, but I’m back at work, and he’s in preschool.

    • Go UUS!!! They are good for finding variety of nonconformists! ALso have interesting children’s RE programs that stress education about all religions and support self realized beliefs! I know cause I am a product of said RE program 😉

  20. I love that everyone is posting their blogs! I’m learning my lesson and bookmarking all of you! (Even though I honestly haven’t had time to look at any of them yet…)

  21. I think about this all the time. I live in a very “hip” city in a very baby intensive neighborhood, but still struggle to find mom friends. My daughter is 2 now and I finally have several mom-quaintances I see around town and can make small talk at the playground, but still no close, call-up-anytime, friends. I don’t know how to transition from casual acquaintance to “real” friend. Anyone have advice on that?

    • My advice is just call them. You might feel weird at first, but do it anyway. Odds are, if they’re another mom of a small child, they’ll welcome a call from a grown up and an excuse to get out of the house.

    • Acknowledge the weirdness the next time you see someone: “You know, we run into each other all the time — but I’d love to actually get together! LET’S DO THIS THING!”

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