Being a single mum is hard. Making friends is hard. But what about combining the two? Factor in a bit of emotional vulnerability, low self-esteem and chronic exhaustion – all classic symptoms of single motherhood – and surely it is an impossible task? Fear not. There are lots of things you can do to overcome anxiety and reach out and form new friendships.
You are not alone
It sounds like a cliche, but its true. You are not alone in feeling nervous about meeting new people. Walk into any school or mums group and you can just about guarantee that the majority of the other mums there are feeling just the same.
It is true that some playgrounds and toddler groups do have a few well established cliques, but there are still plenty of people to talk to. If in doubt, ease yourself in gently. If you have preschool age kids, try a smaller more focused group to start with. Something like baby music sessions are great because they are normally small size classes, the babies tend to be similar ages, and you often get the chance for a chat and a cup of tea at the end of the session.
Confidence is just an act
Perfect the art of walking tall, even when you’re feeling low. Our body language and posture reflects how we are feeling about ourselves. When we are feeling shy or self conscious we show this in the way we move and hold ourselves. When trying to appear more confident we can use this knowledge of body language to our advantage by changing the way we use our bodies to trick our minds into thinking we really ARE confident. Try it now be aware of how you are sitting, standing, you facial expressions. Now alter your posture, make your back straighter, hold you head high and smile. Bet you feel better already!
Walk into a new group of people with a big smile on your face, looking as if you are a regular, and you’re half way there. Just imagine how you would behave if you were feeling confident and completely at ease with the situation, then just act that way regardless of how you really feel.
Most toddler groups, play schools or local NCT branches are run by a group of volunteers, most of whom are likely to be parents themselves. Getting involved as a member of a committee, in fundraising activities or maybe as a contributor to a local newsletter is a good way to meet new people, often away from the gaze of your children. Don’t worry that will have to commit yourself to anything. Going along to an NCT branch meeting for instance does not mean you have to take on a particular job, but existing committee members are likely to be thrilled just to have somebody new contributing fresh ideas and experiences. For mums of school age children the PTA is a great place to get to know people.
Shared Interests and support
Having children is actually a great ice breaker. There aren’t many other groups you can join where you are guaranteed that every person there shares at least one common interest â€“ you know you’ll all be parents! If you can find some groups particularly targeted at single parents then even better. There are plenty of organisations around that aim to support single parents and put them in touch with other people in the same situation. If you can’t find a single mums group in your local area, why not set up your own? Having a local support network of mums in the same boat can be invaluable; both in terms of the emotional support you can offer each other and the practical help e.g. sharing babysitting and childcare.
If the thought of meeting new people alone is just too daunting to contemplate, consider dragging a friend or relative along for moral support. Perhaps you have existing friends with children of their own who would come along with you or you could take your mum or a willing sister. If you have recently had a baby and have met some like-minded mums at antenatal classes now’s the ideal time to get to know them a bit better. Invite them along to try out a local toddler group with you and at least you’re guaranteed someone to talk to.
As you begin to make new friends an easy way to take a friendship to the next level is to suggest an outing to somewhere new or an activity that neither of you have been brave enough to try on your own before. That way you’ll be widening your social circle even further at the same time as getting to know your new friend better.
The best way to make sure that any new friendships you form are long lasting and rewarding is to be yourself simple but true. It is important to how things in common besides your children a shared sense of humour and a similar outlook on life are important too. Hopefully this way many of the friends you make now will last long beyond the time when the trials and tribulations of parenting have ceased to be such a prominent part of every conversation.
Some ideas for ways to meet other mums:
Meet a Mum Association www.mama.co.uk
National Childbirth Trust www.nct.org.uk