You know the drill.
After you finally arrive in your new city, the to-do list generally looks a little like this:
-unpack the coffee maker
-set up the internet
-figure out which day is trash day
-make some new friends
Depending on how old your kids are, they’ll probably have no trouble making some new friends right away. If they’re school age, they’ll likely have about 20 options in their new class, or if they’re like my toddler, they’ll have no qualms about walking up to anyone who is the same height as them and throwing their arms open and yelling “friend!” Oh to be a toddler.
That leaves us moms.
After five moves, I’ve given a lot of thought to the awkward dance that is called making friends. So, I’ve broken down the process of meeting new friends in a new city to these Five Stages of Friend Dating. Consider this your helpful guide if you’re the new kid in town.
Now, if you’re lucky, this usually happens on common ground. Maybe you’re meeting people at your new job or your neighbors or your spouses club. Lots of times, it’s the built-in places that we wind up in after a move. But, I’m particularly sensitive to the plight of stay-at-home moms because lots of times we have to get creative and step out of our comfort zones and create places.
That’s why, if you’re all #nonewfriends, you should probably steer clear of me when I roll into town. I am a firm believer that your tribe is the way you get by in military life, so I take Friend Dating pretty seriously. Playground mom? Yup. Church ladies? Bring em! Honestly, if you have a stroller, and you look like you’re playing with a full deck of cards, I’m probably gonna ask you for your number.
But usually, no matter where you meet people, you’ll zero in on a few people who seem like your kind of people. You introduce yourself, exchange your kids’ ages, tell her you just moved here, and if she’s still hanging around for more convo, then it’s on to the good stuff.
So, you’ve zeroed in on that chick who seems like someone you might get along with. You’ve thrown out a few lines to see if she’ll bite, and you discover you’re kindred spirits in such important matters as celebrity gossip and Champagne being appropriate for any occasion. You want to hang out outside of library story time, so you silence the sixth grader inside your head and ask if she wants to maybe get the kids together for a playdate. You wait nervously for her to throw you some shade and hustle out of there as fast as she can, but instead she says she’d love to! Whew! This is one of the hardest parts of meeting new people.
True Story: The idea for this post was born in the awkward moments right before I gathered the courage to ask another mom for her number when I first moved to D.C.. I thought to myself, “God, this has to be the most awkward I’ve felt since I was 12.”
I almost backed out, wondering if watching Peppa Pig with my toddler alone every day was really that bad, but then I snapped out of it and asked homegirl for her number and now we’re friends, so trust me I’m an expert 🙂
The First Date
This truly is the most awkward thing about friend dating.
You’ve mustered up the guts to ask a total stranger to hang out with you, and now you are both doing the dance to see if you’re actually compatible. And the thing is, sometimes you are and sometimes you aren’t. Maybe you guys have kids the same age, and you crushed it with small talk, but really you don’t have much more in common. That’s OK. Some friendships can live in the Playdate Zone. There’s nothing wrong with that.
I like to think of my tribe as an onion. I have my childhood friends and my sisters way down deep in the center, but every new move and new city and new chapter of life brings friends that make up the other layers, even the outer ones.
If you’ve made a friend who you don’t think will leave the Playdate Zone, congrats! She’ll probably help this new city feel a little less lonely. But if you and this girl click, and you think it might be time to get a little more serious, read on.
The Kid-less Date
This is an important defining the relationship moment in a mom friendship. Getting together without your kids truly says, “I want to take this thing to the next level.”
Kids are a distraction and a safety net, and without them, you’re likely going to have an actual grown-up conversation free of interruptions and repeated Goldfish requests. And you just might reveal some of the pre-mom woman who is living deep inside you, under the messy bun and the athleisure wear. That woman is dying to see some sunlight.
Most importantly, you deserve a friend to go be adults with for a while. If you’ve made it here, then go dust off your cute shoes and swipe on some lipstick, girl, cause you are rocking this new friend thing!
The Sweatpants Phase
I’m gonna be honest here, this is kind of the Holy Grail of Friendship phases in my humble opinion.
This is the blessed time in a friendship when the small talk has faded away, and we can be real. This is when you’re gonna start to hear my trucker mouth and see a lot more of my undone eyebrows and dry shampoo.
This is when you’re going to hear me admit my kid is sometimes the worst, and I will not follow it up with a nicety about what a blessing she is to avoid judgement.
This is the place in friendship where we don’t necessarily need “plans” to hang out, and I will not frantically clean my kitchen prior to your arrival.
This is the kind of friendship level that military spouses don’t always get with every move, and it’s precious and valuable if you can find it. I love this phase because this little slice of friendship heaven is part of what makes being a woman fun and what makes motherhood bearable.
It’s definitely OK if every friendship doesn’t reach this point because these friends are about quality, not quantity, but if you’re sticking around your city for any length of time, I suggest letting at least one worthy girl into your Inner Sweatpants Circle.