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. Mamas, Thank you so much for responding to my question! It’s really made my day. Stephanie – I’m in Mobile, Al (been here for about 3 years).

    I’ve taken your advice about reaching out the the friends I have, although we’re not in the same state anymore.

    Thanks to all of of y’all for the advice. I wish Mobile had some of the groups talked about. Maybe I’ll get brave and start my own!

  2. I met mama friends through the guys at work. I’m military and I’ve only ever really hung out with the guys. Once I got to my permanent duty station and moved my first born out here and got pregnant with my second, all of my single sailor friends just stopped coming over. Suddenly the married guys at work were dying for me to meet their wives. It took months for me to actually take them up on it, but once I did we had a lot of fun. It’s great to let the kids entertain each other while I shoot the shit with other foulmouthed awesome moms.

  3. Thanks for posting this!! I’m feel like the lone OBM in this area. Seems like a majority of the moms in this area are conservative, girly-girl types. I’m so not that type. I’m part of a Mom’s club but I’ve always felt like I’m back in high school with the popular kids. I met a few nice moms but none with my same interests and the most are… well, they’re what you get when popular girls grow up, I guess.

    It really bums me out that I can’t find more moms like me in this area. I’d love to meet more geeky or just non-conservative moms!

  4. I love this idea!! Any Offbeat Mamas in the Mesa AZ area? You can look me up on facebook with my email: [email protected]. I would love to find some new mom friends. My girls are 2 and 7! See you on facebook!

  5. Weirdly, I was just waiting for the day that I had a kid so that i COULD meet other people! When you are 32, married, unemployed, in a new country…. it’s ridiculously difficult to make friends. Women my age without children are at work all day, and women with children are off doing children stuff. I wasn’t into going to bars or nightclubs, and because of the language barrier, the only “group” I could join was for other English speaking people. Which, …zzzzz… was really f’n boring. (I mean, yay! we all speak English! Now what…)

    I’ve not had super luck with making any BFF’s through playgroup, but you know — I NEED playgroup. My kid is very social and she loves “new” toys. πŸ˜‰ And even if the only thing the other parents and I have in common is brands of sippy cups and preferred slings, then – that’s ok too. It’s just nice to talk to other moms and dads. To any other people, really! (language barrier!) Plus my little one just has a grand old time and that makes me happy. πŸ™‚

    I can be patient and wait for a good friend to come along. I’ve thought that I’ve met “the one” a couple of times, but it fizzled out for various reasons. It’s like dating. We have to bite a lot of rotten apples, or whatever the saying is!

    hang in there ladies πŸ™‚

  6. I live in a small town in the south and I actually joined a christian mama’s group even though I’m secular. I just had to get some adult interaction. I have met some wonderful people there but I keep my beliefs to myself and I do feel a bit of a fraud sometimes.

  7. the really funny thing about this piece is that i have had an email half composed in my drafts folder, in varying states of unfinish (yes i made that word up), for a long time to YOU, ARIEL, about exactly this issue and trying to figure out some “offbeat” version of “meetup”. so far the best luck i’ve had is finding a local “atheist/agnostic parents” group on meetup (after having crap luck with several other groups), and chatting up parents at our 2 favorite parks that appear to have kids with similar temperaments to ours (often the ones out after dinner trying to wear them down for bed because the described method of simply putting them down before they look tired fails miserably, as do nearly all of the other suggestions in the popular books on such matters, and most other matters for that matter)…

  8. For some reason it said im from Victoria (Aus) but im accually in South Australia….. *grumble grumble* lol

  9. I live in a reasonably large city in India…and just going up and talking to people is NOT DONE. I have actually had people walk away from me as if I really am that crazy American their parents warned them about…fellow foreigners are surprisingly unfriendly as well. My husband is amazed at how rude and cold most of the Americans we have tried to approach have been (he is Indian BTW). Also, I find people here to be (at times disturbingly) conservative, and well, I am not, mostly. I am starting to make friends because I found an English theatre group and I am finally able to take lessons in the local language, but it is quite difficult. I think the hardest thing for me to deal with is the different perceptions of what is acceptable with regards to my child. I have had strangers come over and try to pick her up without warning!! And the poor child has had her nose and cheeks pinched so many times just by people passing on the street. Sheesh it drives me nuts. Anyway, I am ranting and off-topic at that. Has anyone else had to deal with finding friends in a foreign country? Any suggestions would be appreciated…

  10. I love this post! I found this blog through Offbeat Brides and was super excited. My fiance was born and raised in a tiny town in Indiana and happened to be BFF’s with my family that lived there. I moved there, blah, blah, we had a baby. But I got freaked and was like OMG have to go home now, two years after moving there. So we moved to VA so I could be with my immediate family for the birth of my baby. VA is super conservative for the most part. There are fifty million churches in my teeny town. I’m an offbeat conservative chick, which is really strange I know. It’s hard to find people to relate to. Plus it’s really awkward for me because I fell out of touch with all my friends from HS. (I moved almost immediately after I graduated.) So now it’s like whoo I’m back and I have a baby and a fiance that you all have never met. Most of them don’t have children, are in college, and party pretty consistently. My fiance is super social and had a bagillion friends in his hometown that he had known for at least 5+ years. Now we are here and pretty lonely all in all. D: Even when we do get a night off, we don’t really have anyone to go out with so it’s kind of lame. He is finally making friends at his job (yay!) but they are all mostly single guys. (Awkward at times with the baby and talking about poopy diapers, etc)

    So this is the best thing ever, except I don’t think there are currently any other OBM in VA. I am trying out a MOPS (Mothers of Preschool Age Children) group, which is religiously affiliated AKA Baptist. I am kind of nervous about it, although I know one mother already going who recommended I try it. I’m not super religious, though I associate myself with Judaism and I’m paranoid about the other mom’s being like “Oh no, you don’t believe in Jesus, you have to be saved!” But I could just be being kind of stupid and judgmental. I’m super shy and extremely awkward in most social situations so I’m hella nervous. (Shock!) But hopefully all will go well and I can meet some other moms who can appreciate my not quite with the grain style. I’m a total video game nerd who reads obsessively and RPs on the side. My fiance has gauges, an entire sleeve plus other tattoos, and shaves his head religiously. (Most people think he is a neo-nazi in our awesome small town.) So I worry about people judging us both who aren’t in the same sort of… sub-culture? I don’t know what you’d call it.

    Anyway I think this is super long, I like to ramble. I am just so excited to have found this website and this article! ^___^

  11. Hey! Anybody in Ottawa? I am starved for mom-on-mom time like nobody’s business. Give me a shout on my blog! Making friends is hard to do and I totally feel cut off from mine, who mostly don’t live in the same city, but at least 3 hours away. Luckily alot of those friends have babies but it makes it hard to connect when I can’t actually go to their house, you know?

  12. I am so glad this was posted! It’s especially tough being an offbeat military mama/wife, and after 3 years in southern California, I still have almost no friends here πŸ™ Hopefully this will bring me some luck!

  13. Unfortunately, all my the “friends” I made in college ditched as soon as I got pregnant. I couldn’t drink and smoke and party all night anymore… so what good was I? I’m not one of those people who has had friends since kindegarten. I have never really clicked on a lasting level with many people. For me, my huz is my best friend, my 10 month old son is my party animal, and that’s about it. Sure it gets lonely and stir crazy sometimes, we both wish we had a buddy to go out with or have over for dinner. But we don’t, so we make the best of it and rely on our own little fam πŸ™‚

  14. I signed the guest book, but forgot my contact info. Just search me on FB by my name and, when you send the friend request, mention offbeat mama! Great blog. Read it every day!

  15. I’ve thought about this a lot. I live in a culture where cloth diapers just don’t exist, organic food? It’s a marketing strategy that appeared here a couple of years ago… so just try and imagine what parenthood looks like here if such easy topics are regarded as lies or useless.
    Where am I, do you ask? In the very same city where that picture was taken. Valencia, in Spain. πŸ˜€

  16. I am not an exceptionally stellar friend maker, but having moved around a lot, and moved cross country recently, and having a child, and being shy has led me to one rule: just talk to people.
    My group of friends isnt giant, and its revolving (people moving around, etc), but just being friendly and saying hi is how I have met all of my offbeat kin. Not every friendship will knock your socks off, not everyone will even be a ‘friend’, but by giving most people an in you’ll not only make ‘your type’ of friends, but meet people you never knew you were missing out on.

  17. I would LOVE to meet a local offbeat mom! I am 6 months pregnant in the metro Detroit area. πŸ™‚

  18. I met a woman on meetup, and although I went into labor the day we were supposed to meet in person for dinner at Panera bread, we’ve been facebooking. It’s so amazing, because we were just getting together as pregnant women who were about the same gestation, and independent of each other, we chose the same cloth diapering system… so we obviously think similarly! It’s a much smaller world than we all think.

  19. Hi!
    Anyone is the Montreal, Quebec area? My husband and I are expecting our first this May! We also might be moving this year to Ottawa or Toronto, so anyone from those areas also give me a shout! The other women in our prenatal classes give me weird looks when I say I want to breastfeed for two years +, instead of only a couple of months like them, and they couldn’t wrap their heads around wanting to be breastfeeding when I get pregnant again… gah!

  20. Hi, my name is Ashley ( http://a6.sphotos.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-snc7/429476_10150656579544194_572979193_8854195_971166370_n.jpg ), I’m a single mom by choice that will be moving back home to Seattle once I give birth in San Francisco sometime in August. I’m very ecclectic and was previously quite outgoing, outspoken and wild. Being a mom is something I’m very excited to do, but would be even more excited to do with other like-minded, eccentric mommies like myself. I love a good, immature laugh, but also enjoy the brainy antics of people like Woody Allen or Mary Roach. If you want another expectant single-mom friend, I love making friends over the internet and am usually pretty reliably entertaining. Read my blog, hit me up, I’m sure we could both use the support πŸ™‚ -Ash

  21. oh hay, not sure how much attention this post gets anymore but i figure it’s worth a shot, right? πŸ˜‰ i just moved from washington dc to savannah ga so if there’s anybody remotely in my area looking to meet up, let me know. http://www.facebook.com/leah.ryan.5473 xoxo (thank you ariel for doing this)

    • Hi! Obm here, I just moved to the Denver/Aurora area. I realize that was an old post but I figured Id say hi anyway. I hope you met some offbeatmoms , I haven’t yet. But here’s hoping!

  22. Great subject! I’m only 3 months pregnant but have been thinking about the question of meeting new friends recently. I moved to Casablanca, Morocco a year ago and this September decided to check out the expat communities (which I had been holding off doing because it seemed too…onbeat). I went to a few get-togethers and realized that even though as a group, I didn’t fit in, I always came away having made at least one interesting contact. It also put me into “meeting people” mode, and one day in a cafΓ© I randomly started talking to a girl I thought looked cool – turns out she we clicked immediately and she has become a great friend, one of those ones you know will be part of your life.
    So I guess my feeling is you should try out anything once, even if it seems silly or not “you”.
    Meeting people in a foreign country is tough! Specially when you work from home. But it’s possible – I’ve found more people with similar multi-cultural backgrounds here than anywhere else I’ve lived. And one of them is 4 months pregnant! Bam, my first new-mom-friend πŸ™‚
    If you’re in Morocco, the groups I looked into are: the American International Women’s Club, American and English Speaking Women in Morocco, and Casa Accueil (French). And if you’re in Casablanca, let me know! πŸ™‚

  23. i have to say i have an odd ball one to throw out there for those with older kids. or older step kids.

    i made good freinds with a younger girls mom and her. i met her at a anime convention when she was 12, and i was 20. really iffy at the time, but i made it kind of a point to meet her parents, and her other friends parents that always seemed to end up hanging with us. besides being good friends with the daughter, her mom and became good friends, it started as appreciation of adult help and supervision and conversation at the kid’s b-days. and turns out we had a lot in common despite just being 2 years older than her oldest son, who i also became good friends with.

    “sadly” despite my weirdness, i give off this aurora i’m told of responsibility, towards “adults” and coolness towards kids. so i can hang with both and find common ground all the way around. so as your kids get older, try to get to know their friends too. you never know you might find that one mature/older friend of your child’s you can be friends with too.

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