Classified Ad: M.F. W. C. D.S.F. (Married Female with Children Desperately Seeking Friendship)

My family moved fairly recently to Billings from South Dakota. I cannot begin to tell you how thrilled my family and I were to make this move…because it meant, at last, that I was no longer a student. Our move was the tangible representation that I would no longer have to study in the evenings or ever write another 120 page paper again! This meant our family would have plenty of new found time… and we knew one thing we wanted to finally make time for… FRIENDS! Sure I had friends while in school, but our common bond was audiology. It was time to branch out and find friends who shared my interests and didn’t want to talk about ears! Woo Hoo! Besides the well documented benefits of friendship, it just feels good to share time and conversation with people. Plus, kids need role models on how to navigate through friendships.

But then the frightening realization hit me…where would I find friends? The feeling I had was akin to my days of looking for a boyfriend and future husband. Well…if I successfully managed to find my future husband nine years ago…surely I could find friends, right? But, like finding a mate, finding friends can be a process as well. Here are some of my observation, trials and triumphs.

Get involved (or get your kids involved)

I have met most of my newly found friends through activities like volunteering with bountiful baskets, my children being on swim team and playing soccer. Billings has plenty of activities for people with a wide variety of interests. My recommendations would include church groups, civic organizations (I plan on joining Junior League), accept invitations to at home parties you are invited to, volunteer, play groups, PTA, etc. Seriously the list can go on and on. Of course, I don’t recommend you participate for the sole purpose of finding friends…what a great added benefit, right?

My husband and I truthfully never intended on volunteering our first week contributing at bountiful baskets, but when we arrived to find the truck was late, we decided to help the site coordinator. That one choice has grown into a friendship with the site coordinator, getting the inspiration to become a blogger for SFM (Simply Marisa), and finding the best way to purchase jeans, and quickly taught my daughters the value of volunteerism. All of this happened because we helped out. There are plans in the works to get our families together in the near future, too. Our husbands don’t know it yet, but they will be friends, as well. Volunteering and seeing my newly found friends is a highlight of my week now.

Make the first move

To me, this is the hard part. Just like I once fanaticized that my future husband would find me and sweep me off my feet, sometimes I hope the same will happen with friends. The truth is though, both people involved may be apprehensive to “make the first move.” So my advice, make the move small. As with most new people we meet, we begin with small talk. Small talk can give us insight if another person would be a good fit, friendship wise. Ask to exchange email addresses, phone numbers or add them on Facebook if you are so inclined. Suggest that you should get together some time. The next step is the hardest: Call, email or Facebook them with an invite. It doesn’t have to be anything elaborate and doesn’t even need to be at your house. Figure out something that seems appropriate for both of you. Have two or three dates pre-picked that work for you and take the big step by asking. Having two or three dates gives them options and will hopefully mean one of the dates work. Be creative, too. My husband and I ran the Dirty Dash with another couple this summer… and boy was it fun!

Be flexible and diligent

Not everyone we meet will seem like our future BFF. If someone gives you an invite, by all means, if at all possible accept or schedule a rain check. We all know it isn’t easy to “make the first move,” so we should reward people who are. On the other side of the same coin, be diligent. If someone can’t attend a specific event once, don’t just disregard them and take it personally. Give it a few tries… with that being said – don’t be a stalker though!

Develop thick skin

All friendships aren’t meant to be. Sometimes we encounter “mommy cliques” and can’t manage to wiggle our way into the inner circle (See November’s issue of SFM for more information on “mommy cliques”). I remember at one of my daughters’ first soccer practices this season, I walked up to the table of other moms who obviously already knew each other and were catching up. I will admit it. I was super intimidated. I am a chatty Cathy and have difficulty sitting and not being involved in conversation. One of the other women mentioned a fabulous restaurant. I used it as my opportunity to ask her to repeat the name since we were new to Billings and needed to know a few of the good restaurants. Luckily for me, the other moms then began to ask me questions about where we moved from, etc. Had I not chimed in though, they could have just thought I was quiet. I was ready for anything though because for all I knew I was infiltrating a “mommy clique.”

Most importantly….Be yourself!!!

No one wants any type of relationship based on lies. So don’t tell the group talking about golf, that you love golf if you don’t or have never played. But go ahead and tell them you have never learned, but are eager to try sometime (if that is the truth). Be open to new activities, but don’t feel like you have to go against your grain. Just because everyone else is drinking coffee, doesn’t mean you should, etc. I know it sounds silly, but it is easy to feel peer pressure (even if your peers don’t know it is happening). One last piece of advice… you may want to refrain from discussing politics and religion until after the friendships have been formed and are strong.