In the age of Facebook, Twitter, SmartPhones, and Skype, it’s hard to imagine ANYONE feeling disconnected nowadays.
However, some people find it difficult to transition from worker to parent, especially when your social calendar was once filled with work-related activities and happy hours, or your cellphone’s contact list is a Who’s Who of the corporate world to which you no longer belong. This condition can become even more unbearable if you find yourself without the support of local family or non-work friends.
The most difficult time to experience this type of social exile seems to be during the winter months, when it may take 20 minutes to bundle up our little angel just for a quick jaunt to the grocery store (is it really worth it, just for a pint of ice cream?), and there always seems to be some curious stranger with the sniffles, just waiting to infect you and your baby with the latest strain of what’s “going around”.
Eventually, however, you will feel comfortable (or resigned to) exposing your new little bundle of joy to the outside world. This newfound courage usually coincides with the overwhelming desire to be a part of any grown-up conversation that extends beyond, “Would you like to Super Size that?”. Congratulations! You are now a “social parent”. Here are a few ways to test the waters of “social parenting”.
-Meetup.com is a social search engine that services those looking for any specific group or gathering. You can find everything from stay-at-home mom/dad groups to foodie conventions to business networks. The groups are geographically organized, which makes locating a group in your area effortless. Some groups may charge a small membership fee.
-Stroller Strides has locations throughout the South Metro area, including Littleton, Highlands Ranch, Castle Rock, and Aurora. This is an opportunity for moms to reclaim their pre-baby body utilizing their baby’s primary mode of transportation. Each class is taught by a specially certified instructor, and class schedules and locations can be found at www.strollerstrides.com. The benefit of attending a class like this is that most of the moms walking with you will also have a newborn or infant child. Developing a social relationship with someone who is currently at the same stage of “social parenting” as you can be key to surviving parenthood.
-Church/religious organizations. Many churches will not only have playgroups built into their community calendars, several also have parent support groups and social activities. Mazel Tots, a national Jewish organization that focuses on social and religious activities for families, has a local branch in Denver. Their event calendar can be found @ www.mazeltot.org, and many events are free.
-Local newspapers/ magazines have a plethora of baby-friendly activities listed every issue, so don’t be afraid to troll the Calendar section! Colorado Parent Magazine can be picked up (for free) at most grocery stores, or can be found at www.colorado.parenthood.com, and includes a calendar of local events and activities, as well as articles on child-related topics.
-Never underestimate the power of the playground. As the weather warms, take your little one out for a stroll. Utilize one of the dozens of area parks while the older children are still in school. Once the temperatures hit the low 70’s, finding a fellow parent to chat with will be a piece of cake.
Once you have begun your journey towards “social parenthood”, it is imperative that this new network of friends is utilized to its fullest. Organize playdates (miniature happy hours with juice boxes in lieu of martinis), babysitter sharing, group trips to the Outlets or local attractions (usually accompanied by group discounts), and holiday parties are all a part of being a “social parent”.
The most important part of “social parenting” is to take that first step. Be open to new people and new experiences. You may be surprised how much fun being a parent can be!