There's been talking a lot about the village lately. I know it can been annoying, especially if you're a cranky introvert with an aversion to small talk. But sometimes you have to suck it up for the sake of your fragile sanity that has been teetering on the edge of spilled cereal and long Wednesday evenings alone. Also, have you ever tried on skinny jeans in poorly lit dressing rooms? The older I get, the more I realize how much we need each other.
Some signs you might need a village:
1) You recently had a baby.
2) You have multiple babies/children/people asking for sandwiches.
3) You often find yourself hiding in the bathroom because it's quieter there.
4) Your best friend is a fictional character who lives in Netflix.
5) Your spouse works long hours.
6) Your spouse works fine hours but is not willing to discuss the psychotic undertones of Gillian Flynn novels.
7) You are a human.
Here's the thing, I'm not very good at making friends. But I have learned a few things as a husband in medical school, the realities of adulthood, and children have forced my hand. Five ways to find friends, create a village, and possibly creep out your neighbors listed below. May our conversations move past our insecurities and right onto childhood terrors and the joys of night snacking. We are in this together.
1) Research it.
What's the worst part about making friends? Actually meeting them! Believe me, no one wants to do this part. First friend dates are just as uncomfortable as romantic ones. What do I wear? What do I say? What do I do with my hands? Just as difficult: actually finding friends to date. You will never know if Karen is your new Chipotle champion if you never actually meet her. Ideas: Facebook groups, book clubs, mutual friends, church things, school parking lot, special interest clubs, the park, Zumba class, the mall bathroom. I've even met people on Instagram (hello Fran!). It's never easy, but when you find someone else who also loves HBO and hates off-brand cream cheese, it's all been worth it.
2) Create it.
Parents aren't the only ones who need a village, but they do fall under a specific category of needs. For example, the need to get away from their kids. Paying for a babysitter is always worth it, but if you're like me and can't afford all the help you need, babysitting swaps are a mother's best friend. Some areas even have whole babysitting co-ops that use things like playing cards instead of money to keep track of hours. My friend Mo and I are starting one in our small town to provide free childcare for things like writing, self improvement, date nights, and solo grocery trips. Some ideas on how to start one here and here. Women helping women. There's no better thing.
3) Theme it.
Sometimes it's easier to plan things with new friends if there's a theme involved. Things on our rotation: Game nights, trivia nights, book club, movie club, and pool night. Totally nerdy but who doesn't like creating complex trivia games with corresponding snacks? Book club is an especially great starting point because it gives you A) a reason to get together with B) something to talk about besides the weather and potty training. Ours is an open invite every month. We rotate houses, book genres, and welcome nursing babies with open arms. You don't even have to read the book. Movie club is new and similar except we meet weekly instead of monthly as part of a 10 Step Program to surviving summer. We rotate houses, meet after our kids are in bed, and wear our pajamas. The host picks a surprise movie and sends out a snack hint the week before. So far we've watched Wild, Still Alice, and The Theory Of Everything.
4) Schedule it.
Pro tip: "Let's do lunch sometime" is not an acceptable way to schedule a lunch unless you plan on never actually having the lunch. My college friends and I have been getting together twice a year for almost a decade because from the very first gathering, we've always picked the next reunion's date before we leave. It will always be hard to coordinate seven family's schedules, but it's impossible without planning ahead. The same goes with local friends. If no weekly or monthly plans are set in place, it is much easier to hibernate in my house like a reluctant sloth. Putting things on the calendar is the only way busy adults see each other on a regular basis.
5) Show up.
Mirror mirror on the wall, who's the most awkward of them all? It's me. I'm the most awkward. Over the past 30 years, I have come up with a gamut of excuses for getting out of interactions with people I don't know. New co-workers in the lunchroom? I've got to get to an important financial meeting! Baby shower brunch for a long lost cousin? Sorry, sore throat and a touch of vertigo! But just like Reverend Carrie Bradshaw would probably say in one of her earth shattering monologues, "I've come to learn that showing up is half the battle." If I wouldn't have studied Spanish with Jen or started a book club with Mo, I wouldn't have two of the most important circles of women to help raise my kids and give me advice on sports bras. We can do this.