Standing Alone at a Birthday Party (Don’t Do It!)
I recently attended a birthday party for one of my son’s classmates. Since our kids are only turning four this year, the parents generally stick around the party.
Because we are all working parents with our kids in daycare, I have not gotten to know many of these parents. We hurriedly rush through drop off and pick up, focused on getting in and out versus chatting with each other. I can tell you which face corresponds with which kid that is on a similar schedule to me, but that’s about it.
I arrived at the party and sent Austin off to play with the kids. His departure left me feeling immediately naked. While there were several groups of moms standing around chatting, I could not bring myself to approach anyone. As I looked around, I would periodically make eye contact with someone, but no one seemed to encourage approach. Everyone seemed engrossed where they were.
The longer I stood alone, the more I circled in my mind. I grumbled at myself for not being able to attend more of the parties earlier in the year. I decided all of the moms already know each other. I decided that our daycare is full of cliques and that no one wants to talk to the single mom. Yeah, I made all of these assumptions in the first three minutes.
I fidgeted with my bag, my phone, and moved my son’s belongings around from pile to pile. I stared at the clock.
I made myself miserable for over an hour.
While helping our kids get settled with cake, another mom started talking to me. She was one of the women that seemed so in sync with the other parents earlier in the party.
One of the first things out of her mouth? How she doesn’t really know anyone. We connected about work schedules, about school and daycare, and the isolation we feel as working parents, and about birthdates and when to start kindergarten. We discussed our struggle getting our kids interested in doing homework – and why do they have homework at three? When are we supposed to get homework done?
Feeling encouraged by that conversation, it was easier to push myself to take the first step with other moms throughout the afternoon. I met some people with whom I really got along, and a few with whom I missed the mark … and I survived all of it.
Meeting other moms is scary – in a lot of ways, it is like dating all over again. But at this party, I constructed the barriers for myself, and I was responsible for the isolation I was experiencing. Many of the other parents there were in the same situation as me, just trying to find a place to land and not feel awkward while standing alongside the party.
I have made these promises to myself for the next school event:
- I will not judge someone simply for not smiling. It does not necessarily mean that they are unfriendly. People are shy, distracted, and quite frankly, thinking about things other than making sure I feel welcome.
- I will not stand on my own for more than five minutes. Our kids are together all day at school – there are plenty of ice breakers.
- I will not feel badly if I do not make a connection with someone. Not everyone I meet has to be my best friend.
I will still be nervous walking into these events, but there is only an upside to putting myself out there.
What about you? Do you find it easy to meet new parents? What are your tips?