The Social Network: Building a Community When You’re Never Home from 9-5
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Now settled in suburbia, Robin Halpern has to navigate the realities of working mom-dom out of the city—and that means building a serious social network of like-minded mamas (and dads!). While it took a few tries, she discovered some tips, tricks and must-tries for making solid suburban connections—the kind that helped Robin and her family find their social mojo!
We spent so much time finding the perfect town and then the perfect house. And then, finally, the moving trucks whisked us away and tada! We were there, in our own personal utopia! Everything had changed. Our kids had new schools, we had new neighbors and we saw trees (!!) instead of cement just outside of our living room window. But all of these suburban wonders came with a price—and that meant we still had to work full-time to pay for the property taxes, upkeep our expansive new lawn, prune the budding trees and furnish this incredible dream home.
So how were we supposed to find the time to become an integral part of this new society when we were gone all day long?
The cliché is true. There are less working moms in the suburbs. Even those who hold onto their careers often have great flexible fields like medicine, speech pathology and party planning, giving them the freedom to be out and about more than me. I wished I had the time and the bandwidth to jump right into the world of the PTA (which I have HUGE respect for), but as a slave to the city, the desk, and the commute, the chance to meet people and make friends was almost immediately limited to an occasional weeknight, the soccer field, or the birthday party circuit. What did I learn? With some strategic thinking and a little work you can find your social network in suburbia, even if you aren’t there 24/7. Here’s how:
Baby Steps: You can’t expect to walk into a tight crew of besties from day one. It’s a slow build, and I have learned to set measured goals over time. The first (and only) time I took my son to camp during that first summer, I scanned the crowd of moms for a familiar face. When no one jumped out of the crowd I started looking for someone not engaged in a conversation. Just me!
With no other options I took a breath and dove in, hijacking a chat between two women—SCORE! One mom not only had a boy my son’s age, but the two of them would be going to kindergarten together. And what made this mom-connection even better was that she had an older daughter, so this mama already knew everyone in the hallway!
Finding (and keeping up) key relationships like this one have helped me navigate the social scene — otherwise I’d have nothing more than a blindfold and a smile. You aren’t going to meet swarms of new people overnight, but with each new relationship you’re getting more and more connected with your community. It’s like Mommy LinkedIn!
Social media is more than just a mindless pastime: At first, I was “Facebook shy” and didn’t want to friend people I had just met or comment/like their posts. But then some casual acquaintances reached out to me, and it didn’t feel weird or random at all. In fact, it’s a great way to connect and get to know what people are about.
Pastimes, vacations, even political rants—social media is like an instant 101 on the people you meet in passing. You’re never at a loss for words when you bump into that nice mom with three boys at the barber shop. You also always know who to reach out to about a particular sleepaway camp. And where to get the best personalized gear? You’ve now got tons of insights and know exactly where to shot. Social media even helps you stay up-to-date on some of the local hot button issues!
Bromances are OK, too! Sometimes, moms, you’ll feel like it’s all on you to fill your family’s calendar—the Saturday night dinner plans, the sports team invites and the extracurricular activities, among countless other musts. But here’s the thing…it’s really not.
I’ve learned that, eventually, kids will choose their own friends, and I’m OK with encouraging that from a young age. I’ve also learned that husbands can make friends, too. By putting my husband in charge of all things sports, he’s made a lot of nice soccer/basketball/football dad friends (who come with equally nice wives). And there are plenty of renaissance dudes who love to talk about what they’ve been grilling/building/fixing, and their other halves are pretty cool, too!
Finding your social mojo in a new town can be a tedious transition when you go from city to suburbia. You may not click instantly with everyone you meet—and that’s OK! There will be highs and lows. You must trust the process and understand that is takes time to meet the people you mesh best with. By taking it slow, using valuable online tools and remembering the burden of meeting people is everyone’s, your Saturday nights will be jamming in no time. Until then, enjoy the peace and quiet!
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