How to Make Adult Friends

Parent Q&A

Select any title to view the full question and replies.

  • So many friends … so little community

    (14 replies)

    I’ve been living in  Berkeley and Oakland for over 20 years. I have many friends here from different stages in life. I have friends from college, work, graduate school, friends through my spouse, friends through my kids’ various schools through the years, friends from various interests and hobbies that I have, and friends through my volunteer work. Despite having all these friends, I feel like I have very little community here. 

    I grew up in a different part of the country which always had a solid sense of community. People were always available to help with a house project, spend a whole weekend day hanging around grilling by the pool, or to get together on a weekday evening to hash out a problem. There was time to get into deep conversations and make real connections - both for adults and kids. There was always someone around to watch a kid or a pet - no strings attached. Even people you just met would do this kind of thing. The older I get, the more I miss this - and the more I desperately need it.

    Has anyone here has success developing a real sense of community here? Do you have friends who are available without booking weeks in advance? People who will spend a relaxing weekend day with you and get into deep conversations about relationships and heavy topics? Someone who will watch your kids or come help out with a household project with no strings attached. If so, how did you build that community here?

    I have done all of the above things for many friends here over the years. It doesn’t feel like a burden to me - it’s how I was raised. It’s a gift to help others when they need it. But I’ve learned that this mindset doesn’t seem to exist as much here. And I really miss it. Any thoughts on how to find it?

    I wonder if you’re missing a place or an era. I grew up in Oakland and now live in Alameda. I remember my parents life looking more like what you describe. Life was less busy and hectic, and you didn’t need to schedule with friends weeks in advance. I’m lucky to live in a neighborhood with a good sense of community and we help each other out, in smaller ways than you describe. Maybe you can find more of what you’re looking for elsewhere, but I think to some extent life is just more complicated. 

    Short answer: No. I don't think you'll find this here. I am born and raised in the Bay Area, and I have never had this, although like you I have many friends and am a social person.

    But the kind of community network and support system that you remember doesn't seem the norm here. My parents were from England, and my brother moved there many years ago, and has definitely found exactly that. It exists all over the world and probably across the US - but not here. I'm sorry.

    It sounds like you've cultivated great relationships and I'm sorry you're feeling like those are still lacking in these important ways. I have lived in the Bay Area basically my whole life (since age 2, now 36!) and find that I have some long lasting friendships where I would feel comfortable swapping childcare, asking favors etc, but many of the connections where I feel that sense of community as you're describing are neighbors. I've found a couple families who live very close to us and we've become much closer during COVID. Due to the slowing down of so many things during lockdown, we did lots of spontaneous outdoor playdates, walks, trips to parks/coffee and then once adults were vaccinated we were able to expand those activities more! I find that lots of people are open to spontaneous plans but I'm usually the one initiating and there's no hard feelings either way if it doesn't work out. I find not planning too far in advance is better for my mental health most of the time and works well having a young child and two full time working parents. I used to plan everything quite far in advance and then sometimes once the day came, I wasn't as excited as when we initially planned. Now that I do more things spontaneously or with a few days notice, the excitement is still there once the activity rolls around! I'm not sure how helpful this is but happy to chat more if you'd like to contact me directly.

    Hi, I've lived in Oakland for 20 years and am having the same experience. I've recently gone through a tough divorce and realize I don't have a community I can call on. Like you, most folks have plans and to grab a spot, I need to book weeks in advance. I have a teenager, which limits me a bit, but I'm looking for companions who can do just what you described: hang out, have deep and meaningful conversations, take a spontaneous walk. I didn't grow up here, which adds to my sense of detachment. Most of the people I know are from the area and have much more history. I may be a bit older than you, but if you'd like to start somewhere, let me know. 

    Hello Friend,

    I have had a similar challenge cultivating that sensibility among my friends in the Bay Area. I grew up in the Midwest and moved here in 90s and still feel somewhat unfulfilled in my friendships here, despite having a gazillion friends. My lay analysis of the cultural difference in the approach to friendships here is that people prioritize the activity over the company. I also feel that traffic, working hours and productivity demands, and bridges are a barrier to frequent meetings. There may be other factors that I don't understand yet. I also notice that meeting people requires booking out 2-8 weeks in advance, which isn't satisfying when I am looking to connect with a friend sooner than that. In general, I could easily say that I meet my closest friends in the Bay Area 2-3 times a year! Also, I notice that people are reluctant to commit and/or cancel last minute fairly often.

    In the past 2 years I sort of decided that, rather than moving to a brand new place where the culture of friendship is closer to my experience of it growing up, or even warmer, I could act I like I moved to a new city and am starting all over making new friends. I was being a bit more deliberate about finding friends who live in close proximity, walking or bicycling distance, as I think that's a tangible, modifiable factor in friendships. Of course, then covid shelter in place put a "monkey in the wrench," like my mom says (kinda getting the phrase a bit mixed up). :-) 

    I believe that you and I are not the only people that experience this dissatisfaction with how friendships are conducted here. I think it is worthwhile to consider how we can create a different experience of friendships for those that want that. I'd be happy to meet up to talk about this further, if you like. This is the first time I'm replying to a post on this forum, so I don't know if you are able to contact me directly, but if you are able to do so through this platform, feel free. If not, you can find me at and contact me there. I look forward to connecting with you. 



    I'll be curious to hear the responses to this because we are in the same boat.  You are not alone.  It seems like most people we know create this type of network through local family members and spend a lot of their time with family, leaving little time for non-family friends.  That makes things difficult for someone who wasn't born here and doesn't have a lot of family in the local area.

    Just want to say - I hear you. I'm from the midwest and what you described was normal for me too. It changed a little when I had kids because my time split. Not sure if it is Bay Area, change in times, "big city life" or just life. I also noticed community seems more a political thing than a personal thing.

    I have tried to go for quality over quantity when it comes to friends. I have many friends like you described, but I cherish the few who have depth. I have also started small groups. I am in a book group and was in a small women's group (both under 10 people) just to have the very experience you said. I also find more of this in religious communities. Synagogues and churches are based on community and community support.

    Good luck

    No, but I would love to be a part of a community like this too. 


    First off, thank you for your vulnerability and sharing.  I feel your heart out there and just wanted to say that I resonate with this longing and have been speaking to my friends back home about this issue that I face as well.  Please feel free to message me!!

    I resonate with this so much. I’ve only been here for 3.5 years but have a lot of friends without any of the thing you mention. And I miss it a lot. I am from Houston and Austin and it was so easy to build a community there. I do t have any help but you’re not alone. 

    I understand and empathize with your quest for community.  I think it's hard in an urban environment and one where people move often to find people with the interconnections that might define community.  So, as you observe, you have friends, but not a web.   Also, many people/families are tightly scheduled, so it can be hard to find quality friendship time.  (See my post from years ago: How to find adult friends, post-kids? from Sep 2002 under

    However, I wonder if some of these friends could provide some of what you seek.  If you ask them, maybe some of your friends would help with a house project, the kids, come for a pool day or spontaneously gather on a weekday.  Have you said to each of your friends that you want more spontaneous and more time with them?  Have you tried broaching more serious topics?  There are people in Berkeley seeking what you seek.  (See the many questions about adult friendships on BPN)

    I wanted more, deeper friendships as well.  It took effort.  I had to ask many different friends to go for walks (Good for talking about deeper topics!), come for dinner, and occasionally for help.  Not everyone was responsive.  In fact, most people were not, but eventually, I did find people who would do the kind of things you list, even without so much advance planning.   

    Hi, I feel the same way you do, and it’s clear that many more feel that way as well. If you do end up initiating some kind of get together around this, as a way of creating a mechanism for all these like minded people to meet, please include me! 

    Your desire for community sounds like cohousing.

    Hi there, your post really hit me in the gut. It's really very true and I have not ever put words to it. I wonder if it's just living in a city and having too many obligations. I feel my schedule is too full often. But I used to live in a neighborhood in Oakland on a cul-de-sac where many people had been there for many years and it was a true community. When we moved in people brought us cakes and our kids were always playing outside with the other kids. If you wanted to bring a bottle of wine to a neighbor's house they would often be ready to sit and enjoy it with you on the porch steps. I felt so nourished by that and surprised by it. We moved to Berkeley and barely get a hello from any neighbors now. It really saddens me and I don't know how to address it. Too many people are transient and move often making community harder. Where were you from ? I am curious where someone can find such things. Frankly I think people work too much around here. Work is life and then if you have kids that's all you have time for. It's no way to live. I live in  south central berkeley if you ever want to meet up!

  • Taking classes/meeting people

    (5 replies)

    Trying to take the advice posted lately about ways to meet people, I'd like to take a class to develop a new skill and possibly also make a new friend or two. I'm in my 50s with a flexible work schedule, thinking about exploring a new language or art (both areas in which I have a lot of interest but little experience or aptitude). So, any recommendations? Do community colleges still enroll students who aren't working towards degrees? Is Studio One a better option?  I'd be interested in hearing about any interesting, welcoming classes or programs. Thank you!

    A few years ago I took some woodworking classes at The Crucible. I met some really interesting people, learned some new skills, and got a beautiful table and jewelry box out of it. The Crucible is expensive, but Laney has a well respected woodworking program (although I don't know how hard it is to get into). Good luck!

    Piedmont Adult School offers a great watercolor class taught by Wendy Soneson, and most of the people I met there are in your age range give or take a few years.


    I just join Berkeley City for a fun class. You can just enroll in any of your choice. It is not easy to meet people since everyone is in their own world or too young... but it still fun.

    Also there are the Adults Schools, Berkeley, Piedmont, Oakland. Also you could do a “Meet Up” or volunteer work. 

    Goid luck!


    Check out the Walnut Creek recreation department.  They offer FANTASTIC classes in ceramics/sculpture, jewelry, fiber arts, painting, calligraphy, mixed media--- you name it!  Excellent resource for making friends and learning something FUN!  Also, I might add that many people come from all over the East Bay- Oakland/Berkeley (not only Walnut Creek area) just for their programs.

    Check out the Ollie classes at UCB. I haven't tried them but they are specifically for people over 50 and there are lots of interesting classes in science, art, history, music, politics, all kinds of topics.  Have fun! 

  • Struggling to find community in the East Bay

    (19 replies)

    My family of four has lived in the East Bay for 13 years, first in El Cerrito and now in Albany. (I'm from the East Coast and my husband is from LA.) While we love many things about it, and chose this part of the Bay Area very purposefully when we bought our home, we're feeling a bit disenchanted recently. I'm wondering if our complaints are unique to us, unique to the East Bay (or Bay Area) or simply a product of the changing social landscape we're all living with these days. We have some good friends here, people we like and socialize with somewhat regularly as a family or just as a couple. That said, we've still struggled to find a true sense of community, or a group of friends/couples/families who all know each other and with whom we truly connect-- the automatic casual Friday night dinner crowd. We frequently entertain and are surprised by the number of couples/families whom we've hosted numerous times and have never reciprocated. We're always the family that gives rides to sports practices/games, hosts play dates and snacks and dinners for our daughters' friends. In several instances these efforts are simply never returned. We're starting to feel like we're beating our heads against the wall, making no progress at establishing strong friendships as a result of our many efforts. In short, we feel like we are very much more invested in sustaining relationships and creating a sense of community than most of the people we know. 

    When I talk to my friends on the East Coast it feels to me like there is a marked difference in expectations and experiences with friendships, social engagements and traditions. My question to this group is whether you've experienced any of these same issues and dilemmas, what you have done about it, whether you've considered moving from the East Bay as a result or if you have found another solution. Is it us? Are our expectations out of line? Is it a sign of the times, where everyone is stretched thin and doesn't have the energy or time to foster deeper connections? Does the Bay Area (perhaps specifically the East Bay) self-select toward people who prefer spending time outdoors (camping, skiiing) or alone as a family to socializing? Are we somehow just unlucky in our specific neighborhood or school community? We truly feel like we've tried everything to connect, put down roots and build a life here, but keep feeling disappointed in how our efforts are received. We’re starting to wonder if we’d be happier in another area where people might put more of a premium on community. I'd appreciate hearing from those of you for whom my post rings true, and what if anything you were able to do about it. Thanks.

    Your post rings true. I don't have any particular solution, but some thoughts about the context. I think that the relocation, by itself, is a big part of what you're still dealing with. For example, if you were from the East Bay and had relocated to where you came from on the East Coast, I can't help but think that you'd be telling a similar or even more dismal story. 

    One exercise I'd suggest is to think about your social connections on the East Coast before you left, and analyze how they came about. I realize that they'd be different now, if you'd stayed. But still, how did they come about? If they were connections of long-standing, from grade school on, and so on, that points to the absence of such a foothold here. If you think that they had more (then) contemporary origins, then that might provide some guidance for you now.

    I know exactly what you mean.  I have lived in several other places, and the Bay Area is not the same as the rest of the US.  People here are generally nice, but they are very flakey and self-absorbed, too.  I have friends, but they arent the same depth of friendships I have made elsewhere.  It's not just you....


    You're definitely not alone. We relocated over 7 years ago from the East Coast (the southeast) and found that it is very hard to establish community here. I think it's a combination of people being very busy and not really interested in making new friends. I also think it is a cultural difference - I was raised to believe that when you invite someone or do something for someone they reciprocate but that doesn't seem to be the norm in this area. I hosted crazy inclusive birthday parties and playdates for my kids when they were young and many of the attendees didn't reciprocate. It was very very frustrating.

    I've kind of had to accept that this is the way it is here, but am also happy to report that we have found friends that we like. We have also lost some along the way, which is fine. I also think when you're a parent it's tough because your social life is kind of dictated by who your kids hang out with, which can be challenging. My advice is to do activities that interest you (yoga, community service, whatever) so that you can find people that you connect to and it's not about your kids. That way you will be more likely to find people on your wavelength. It definitely takes time but I'm sure you will find your people. Good luck! - Been there

    I am from the East Coast and I could have written your post verbatim.   I don't know what it is about it here. I find even basic social norms, such as "hello" to be an all too frequent absence.

    What have I done about it?  Lament it. Complain about it on BPN from time to time. That's about it.  

    But, I'm raising my children to be different.

    I too have found a lot of what you say to be true.  I also am from the East Coast and yes the reports i get from family and friends I left behind are quite different from what I experience here.  As to causes, I think it's an "all of the above" answer.  I have been here 20 years and it took me about 10 to get comfortable with the startling cultural differences between the coasts. I think I see this most in the lack of attention to reciprocity on play dates, dinners, etc.   We are friendly with school families but not in a way that translates to socializing outside of the kids' activities where the parents are lined up as spectators.  They all seem nice, but .....  Part of it too is that my kid is behind socially and quite awkward and I don't see the other parents encouraging their kids to notice this and be inclusive.  And so, because my kid has trouble making friends, our whole family is kind of left out of the social scene in spite of volunteering, being socially adept, bringing food by to someone who has experienced a birth or a death.  All that said, we found, as agnostics, a non-denominational progressive faith community that has met these needs for us and we have had a very soft landing there.  The disadvantage is that it's not in town, but the wonderful advantage is a large cohort of like minded people, intentionally social and kind and inclusive, with whom to share our day to day lives, and all the joy and the sorrow.  It's taken care of a bit of the longing I have for my family back East.  I know a faith community isn't for everyone, but for us it worked. 

    I can't help with your situation. With that said, we've lived in Albany for 8 years, and feel as you do. I am a Midwesterner, and, like you, love many things about California, have not established anything more than superficial relationships. Not sure if it's a east side/west side of the Mississippi. But I just wanted you to know that we are in the same boat. I'm extremely active in my community, and lead an active lifestyle. So we are not wallflower folks, yet, here we are. I also have lived in various places and have never been faced with this lack of relationships of depth. anyway, glad to feel that someone else feels the same, but still sad to feel disenchanted also. "Just keep swimming..."

    You are not alone! When we lived in Oakland, I found it hard to form a larger social group. We had several good friends that we'd see individually, but could never quite get a group together in spite of some effort! When my kids were younger, I hosted neighborhood-wide mom/kid groups. When my kids started school, I was organizing fun family outings (water parks, shows, museums, family camping trips etc) so we could all get to know each other. It was a big effort to bring people together but I too wanted to have a sense of community and a group of families that enjoyed each other. Reflecting back, but I came to these conclusions: 1. the area where we lived had a lot of two parent working families who simply weren't as available or committed to building social bonds; 2. often the families didn't quite "line up." My first born befriended a lot of kids who were the second or third child, and the families were "out of sync" in that way. Or I'd like the moms, but my husband didn't have anything in common with the husbands. 3. Organized sports and other activities meant people were already busy.

    A couple of years ago we moved to Lamorinda. Here the situation is different, and overall, I've found it easier to meet people. I may not quite have that tight social circle of families, but I do have 3-4 different groups of friends who know each other. I find that I'm often the one who organizes things like BBQs at the pool, dinner parties or family outings, but I'm not the only one who plans and hosts. One thing that I've learned here is that there are a lot of folks who grew up in Orinda or Lafayette and they are now back here raising their families. Usually, those moms are less available and more likely to have a tight circle already. I worked on getting to know other "new people," and that's made a big difference. Hang in there! You didn't say how old your kids are, but when mine turned about 10 or so, they didn't always want to hang out with "the family friends."

    Not all of us are lucky enough to have that tight group, but it is possible to have tight connections with smaller groups of people. Also, groups may flex and change as kids get older too. Best of luck.

    We've had the same experience. It's so depressing. I've given up on having a close community by my house. I think that you can contact me through my user name. I'd love to hang out!

    I also wish that I had a larger circle of folks in our family's social circle, but alas, there is just not enough time in the week!  From your description, you are putting in a lot of time to form social connections.  I imagine that other families would also like to reciprocate but simply do not have the time.  I know that in our family, with both parents commuting to work and kids in afterschool care and/or activities, we have very limited time during the week.  Play dates are not happening on weekdays.  Friday nights are not great for our kids, as they are usually worn out and frankly, not super fun to be around.  My husband works very long hours, so the weekend is when he recharges and gets to spend a lot of uninterrupted time with our kids. He is somewhat introverted so he is not inclined to invite other families over on the weekends.  Our family schedules some get-togethers with other families, but probably only about 4 times per year.  In addition to time limitations, it has been difficult to find other families where both the parents and the kids get along.  Over the last few years, we have found--through our kids' schools and sports teams--a couple of other families who are good "matches" for our family.  Those families all have limited time as well, however, so coordinating schedules is still challenging.  It is not unusual for us to need to schedule an informal joint family dinner 6 weeks out into the future.  I say all of this to explain that perhaps some of the families who haven't reciprocated to your generous invitations would also like to create "a sense of community," but simply do not have the bandwidth to do so. This may not be encouraging to you, but a realistic viewpoint from someone who also probably owes other people for countless playdates, rides and dinners.

    Before you romanticize the lives of your friends on the East Coast , I would stop to think whether it is an "apples to apples" comparison. Do your East Coast friends live in urban areas?  When I talk to my friends who lives in the DC suburbs, their lives sound just as hectic and stressed as ours do in the East Bay.  In fact, we frequently commiserate about how hard it is to spend time with existing friends, never mind developing new relationships.  Life is likely slowed paced in many smaller towns outside of urban areas, whatever region of the country.  

    I advise that you continue to reach out to families.  Eventually you should find the winning combination with a family with which you connect and that also has enough time to establish a deeper relationship.

    I feel the exact same way. My son is 7. Feel free to message me.

    Oh, we can so relate - when we lived in Berkeley, we felt like we were not making much headway socially and like you, we were very much the ones hosting and offering social events and not receiving anything back. I don't know if it's just the location, or the people we were trying to connect with, or what. We attended a church and people there did not make any effort to connect, either (I always thought church was a great place to connect with people of all walks of life). 

    What helped was moving to San Leandro - our neighbors are friendly, our realtor who we love introduced us to some people in the neighborhood and we've met other neighbors and although everyone is busy, we find the time to socialize and invite each other over. I don't know if it's the town itself that is laid back and down to earth or  we got lucky or we just started meeting more people like us who were looking for friendly connections. 

    Just so you know: friendly people are out there! (And my sister had a similar experience in Spokane and they gave up on it because of that). Look for people who will reciprocate and spend less effort on those who don't. Good luck. 

    As an east coaster (my wife and I are both, relocated to the Bay Area almost 8 years ago, been in east bay about 6), we struggled with similar feelings with even our close friends on the east coast. And to some extent, on the west coast, too. But we are able to see a small cadre of friends more regularly here than we did when Boston winters and habits set in (people hibernated). I do think people are spread more thinly, for sure. Friendships grow more slowly, and it takes more to maintain and nurture close friendships. But we have become more patient and view things over a longer arc. But yes, it can take a while to see reciprocation and develop that "urban tribe". I found joining a nonprofit board and pitching in on a common purpose and shared experiences as a way of really deepening some new friendships. But I think you really raised a thoughtful and important question. Thanks for that! 

    I could have written your post, except my family has only been here two years! Like you, I had a strong community back on the east coast, and socializing was natural and easy -- people dropped by regularly; we got together in parks and playgrounds every weekend, had regular outings, drinks, etc. When I was home with my baby and toddler, I had friends I saw almost every day! I have also found here (Oakland and Berkeley) that people just don't seem to need the same degree of socializing. I don't know why that is, but it does seem to be the case. I've met some great folks and feel like we genuinely connect, but they seem to be content to get together maybe once every couple of months, and I also feel like I'm usually the one putting forth the effort (a bit hard not to take it personally!). I'm beginning to resign myself to the fact that this may be the trade-off: beautiful place and high quality of life instead of a more social community of friends. We haven't been here that long so I still feel like I'm trying, but I too feel a little perplexed by the lack of engagement. As a side note, I'd be happy to meet up with you, though it sounds like our kids are at different stages (mine are 3 and 5).

    All I can say is that I consider myself to have several close friends and a wide circle of friends, and yet I have nothing close to an automatic casual Friday night dinner crowd. I rarely host anything. I never go on double dates. I feel like my friends and I are often just tired by the end of the week. We try to see each other when we can, but there's an understanding that yes, everyone is busy. This is perhaps the busiest time of our lives - raising young kids, working, dealing with aging parents. Long commutes with increasingly bad traffic. And yes, economic conditions in the Bay Area in general probably make it worse for many people. I have lived in the East Bay for 25 years and some of my friends are from the early days. It is possible that the people you are seeking friendships with already have other long-established friendships. I feel like my advice to you is the same as the advice for finding a partner: do activities you enjoy, and you will find likeminded people. And try not to judge other people if they can't reciprocate by having you over.

    Having lived in lots of different parts of the East Bay I can tell you that there are huge differences in the sense of community between Albany/Berkeley and the towns through the tunnel (Orinda, Lafayette, etc.) or further South like San Leandro. But there can also be huge difference within Berkeley just from one block to another. My experience has been that the neighborhoods or blocks that have a majority of stay-at-home moms or dads tend to have a lot more closeness. The kids are out on the street playing with each other, the neighbors are in and out of each others houses all weekend and there are lots and lots of parties. The blocks that have mostly two parents working outside the home have their kids in after-school care and so don't even get home until 5 or 6. There is very little time in those houses for get-togethers on weekdays and even on weekends many of those parents are working or are out-of-town on business or are trying to catch up on a rare bit of family time when they are all together in the same place. 

    So it's not necessarily that you're in the wrong town, but maybe you are on the wrong block for the kind of community you are hoping to find. 

    I think the issue is both the context of living in the Bay Area intersecting with the developmental stage of the families iwith which you are trying to build community. Seems like you are looking for the "whole package" in one group of people. Probably impossible. I break it down into thre categories: community, social support, and friendship. Community is the group you identify with 'parent at X school" "Warriiors fan" " practicing Wiccan"-allows you to come together to reaffirm that aspect of your identity. Then there's social support-concrete help needed at various times. Flat tire, need a ride or pick up, new baby and meals arrive or whatever pops up and you have a way of getting help. Then there is friendship, those you can call on, confide in, share feelings, exchange advice, etc..  There are different groups and people I rely on and provide for that fill those needs. Yes, there is overlap, but there are people I  provide social support and vice versa (gay couple across the street), but I do not confide or bear witness to their innermost thoughts, feelings and dreams,  nor am I part of the gay community. But we are part of the community of neighbors and enjoy and rely on each other. Same with church. We have a wondeful sense of community and belongingness and we celebrate that, and if we needed it would provide concrete help.not many friends there, as most are much older, have lived different lives but still liike and respect each other immensely. School revolves around the kids, and nobody has the time or bandwith to support each other concretely or emotionally for the most part. Yes, there are parents I like, but the burdens of family are real, and make it hard to reciprocate, especially if they live over 3 miles away (literally) and if the kids aren't close or husbands don't click.  My friends are a handful of farflung people, some single, some with kids, some living far away, that I get to see infrequently but can talk to, write to, reach out to and get/give emotional support. These folks are not the ones who are generally available for concrete support, but we are close and are true friends. If I want to hang out and share food, there are generally a few neighbors who will come over, but I do not pressure school parents or elders of my church to socialize. They would likely not be able to reciprocate, and I would not want to put them in that bind. Those people are busy, tired, have their own stuff to deal with. Quit putting your expectations on any one group of people and cobble it together with various groups. It's OK to have community without getting/giving social support and/or building close friendships with them. As long as you have access to getting those needs met, then you are good. Branch out, develop interests and hold those who are friends near and dear in your heart. Don't expect any one group to provide it all.

    I am with you on this one, as I know that being part of a community can make you feel connected, a support system, and companionship.  I grew up in a small town in the Rockies, and by it's nature of being small, it felt like there was more community. I moved away from home and out of state for college at age 17 and never really went back.  My husband is from the Boston area, and when I visited out there with him, it definitely felt like there was more community there, with extended family and long time friends in the area, and many more of them staying nearby to live their lives and be near extended family.  Many people in the Bay Area are from other places, and before we had kids, we had a very strong community through work, activities, and common interests.  As a single person in my early 20's I joined many organizations with weekly "show up events" and had lots of fun and through that developed a close set of friends.  I met my husband through these groups and activities, and over time we naturally coalesced into a tight group that we saw on weekends and evenings. Then we had children and our community changed.  We naturally stopped spending time with friends who chose not to have kids, partly because the activities we done with them were not compatible with doing with kids in tow.  It was a loss, but we cultivated a new community through the kids elementary school and sports activities.  Then as the elementary school friends went to different middle and high schools, the community and friend landscape changed.  You didn't say how old your children are, but relationships do change, and sometimes it is hard to accept.  We had several dear friends with kids the same age as children as ours but the kids didn't really "hit it off", so we spent less time with those friends.  Now that we have one kid in college and one entering high school next year, we are struggling again with re-cultivating the community.  I don't think your expectations are out of line but I do agree that it is a sign of the times.  I agree that many people are stretched very thin in the Bay Area because of the stress of work, commutes, traffic, and the demands of kids school and activities. Finding the community can be based on finding those people who have the same interests and values as you do developing a relationship.  Some people find through their church, temple, book club, kids school, sports team or activities, hobbies, volunteer work, etc.  Sounds like you have tried to foster the connections but haven't quite found it yet.  I feel the same way and recognize it might be a stage of life and that I need to keep working on finding the community, doing what I enjoy and hoping there will be others there who I can be with, and suggesting and hosting get togethers whenever possible, or even just coffee with a potential "mom friend".  Good luck to you! 

    This question seems to come up a lot, so I wanted to respond. A few years ago my husband and I moved to the East Coast (for job reasons). We had a really hard time establishing community there. We became close friends with one family, and we still keep in touch with them, but no one else really clicked. We eventually moved back to the Bay Area, where we have friends and community from long ago. My sense is not that people here are not friendly or polite, but rather that we are all overwhelmed - at least those of us from two-working-parents families. I have met several families that I really liked and wished I had time to connect with, but between work, kids and (now) a sick parent, there's simply no time left over. So it's not that I don't want to be your friend, but that I don't have the mental energy or time to do it. I think a lot of us feel this way. 

    With that said, we have made a few new good friends over the years, mostly through the kids' school, and mostly through their friendships, when the friends' parents happen to be like-minded people. 

    So... my suggestion, if you have the resources/energy to have people over, then do. If you can join a faith based community (if that appeals), then do. If you like some of your kids' friends' parents, hang out before or after or during playdates. Have patience. As our kids get older, we have (just a tiny bit) more room to breathe. 

    I wanted to offer a different perspective on the Bay Area.  I'm from Oakland, and still live here, yet have experienced a lot of the things you have - people not reciprocating, seeming flakey and not so interested in a group of friends.  Interestingly, the vast majority of people we meet are NOT from the Bay Area - they're from somewhere else.  And that kind of goes to what a lot of people have commented about lack of connections.  There are a lot of transplants here from all over, many people don't have extended family or lifelong friends.  It does create a different energy.  I think people's responses about families with 2 working parents is correct, many of us just have less time for developing friendships.  Also whether your families "line up" (i.e., kids the same age) is important, and I agree that it can be a block-by-block thing.  Someone mentioned taking the long view, and that is what worked for us (our kids are now 9 and 13).  We tried many different combinations of families over the years, looking for that perfect foursome that would all camp and go to the snow together, but what worked was just continuing to invite groups of friends over and eventually a bunch of them became friends with each other, and now we have our foursome.  But it took about 8 years.  And we still don't have the "automatic casual Friday night crowd," probably because we're on the wrong block.  ;)  Maybe just keep trying to play matchmaker with your various friends; hopefully some of them will click and you can all do more things together.  Good luck, I totally feel for you.

  • Advice for an extrovert?

    (2 replies)

    It took me a long time to realize what an extrovert I am.  I did the Gallup Strengths Finder recently, and in my top five were: Connectedness, Communication, and Winning Others Over.  I'm one of those people who is very energized by exchanging ideas with others socially, and I love working with small groups on projects at work.

    The problem is, I'm divorced, and have teens who are at the age they want to do their own thing much of the time. I feel like I have an early empty nest - it's like I lost so much family life, almost all at once. They may feel that way too.  I don't want another partner right now. I have my kids most of the time, so dating seems impractical and only barely appealing.  I have connected with my friends in a deeper way (and made new ones), I have a strong (non-local) extended family, and I get to work with groups and individuals professionally, which is rewarding. But it's still not enough.

    Suggestions? I'm working full time and in school, so it's hard to imagine starting a regular volunteer activity or club or ... I feel busy and tired - but I know how sustaining that sense of connection is for me when I get it.  I do feel like there's something missing.  A friend said "you can't rely on your kids for your social life" - ouch.  But true. Just hard to make that transition from family being 99% of my life to it being 20%, even though it's been over a year since the divorce.  Maybe others have experienced something similar and have ideas?

    Maybe join a book club. Or maybe team up with another parent to get things done more efficiently. Like, you could help her weed her yard, then she could help you with yours. You could cook for her and her family once a week, and she could do the same for you. 

    I have different friends, who have older kids or are childless, that participate in a regular:  poker night, book club, discussion salon, pub night, girls night out, restaurant/eating club, bowling league, softball team, group hike, and night out dancing (square, salsa, swing).  If you can't do something like this with your current friends, there are plenty of meetups available. 

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Where can we find families like us?

October 2008

Having relocated to the Bay Area from Eastern Europe 8 years ago, my wife and I have found it very difficult to find and make lasting friendships with people in this area who share our values and preferences. We are not religious but also NOT interested in US liberal politics. Instead our passion runs toward the traditional European high culture-- music, art, literature, science-- and conversations on these topics rather than about prices of real estate, prices of technology company stocks, prices of things generally.

We're wondering where and how to find married people with children who share our values-- high educational standards for the kids are core for us-- and are interested in the world beyond California real estate, tech company politics, Bush-the-Great-Satan, US culture wars and Sharks vs Jets foodfights etc. Any thoughts on where (outside of churches and church groups) we can find families like us, esp European-American traditionalists, would be welcome. t

I'm an American and I feel the same way. If I have another conversation about real estate or schools, I think I'll lose my mind. If it's not already lost. OK, but here are some suggestions. If you are affiliated with the University, you can investigate the disciplines you are interested in (Romance Language and Literature? Anthropology? Philosophy?) and contact the departments to get on the departmental mailing lists for events so that you can go to lectures, film screenings, etc. The Townsend Center on campus has excellent lectures and events in the Humanities. When you attend lectures, there are often receptions afterwards, and if you are not too shy, you can engage people in conversation. Be ready to suggest coffee dates, etc. with people you meet; if you go as a couple it will be clear that you're not trying to find a mate! If you regularly attend the lectures of a single department, people will start to know you a little. I found a couple of good intellectual partners through my son's school -- some of the moms and dads who bring cupcakes to parties and help out at the science fair are amazing intellectuals, and if you meet one of them, you can suggest an outing to a museum or to a concert or even a film (it had better be the PFA or the Albany Twin for you) or a DVD night at home so that you can discuss what you have experienced. Often Americans remain on superficial topics (real estate) because they are unsure of the interests and knowledge of the people they encounter. Introduce the things that interest you passionately, even if it's a conversation at the playground with the kids roaring around. Be a little aggressive about courting people, put yourselves out there as who you are, take initiative in inviting people, structure meetings around something that interests you (I once was part of a group that read Musil's The Man Without Qualities out loud in German in small doses and then talked about it over wine). Good luck! Euronerd

I'm wondering if this post is a prank. However, assuming that it is real I have a pretty good idea why you and your wife are having such a hard time making friends. If my wife and I came across the two of you, we would definitely be turned off by your selfishness and narcissism. That might be difficult for you to understand. Imagine this: my wife and I move to another country and then tell everyone we meet we don't care about their values, their politics, culture, etc. However, we don't know why we don't have any friends. Ring a bell?

I suggest you and your wife put an ad in the personals on Craigslist looking for couples who don't care much about anything other than self gratification. Perhaps your conversations should center around gourmet cooking or the latest fashion, maybe the symphony or which play to see? There are people out there who are truly self-centered and with the right ad and a little luck, you just might find them.

In the meantime, I'd think seriously about your attitude towards others. Otherwise, it may be a very long lonely winter for both of you. Anon

My initial reaction to your letter was sympathy - it can indeed be hard to get to know people here and find your niche - but upon closer reading, I have to wonder if you are making things harder for yourself with your attitude.

By giving a long list of things you're not interested in, and then emphasizing your ''high educational standards for the kids'' and focus on ''European-American traditionalists'' you frankly come across as a bit of a snob, unwilling to get to know the locals. Perhaps others are picking up on this vibe.

Try focusing more on what you ARE interested in than looking down at others for their interests, and you might have an easier time.

Now as for the practicalities of finding people with similar interests to yours, I can give you an example from my family. My in-laws love classical music, and they do things like attend lectures and workshops on the topic, as well as play in a small ensemble, attend retreats and performances, etc. Indulging their passion has also provided them with a social network. You could probably find some music appreciation groups or courses - or join an amateur ensemble if you are interested in playing instruments as well.

There are tons of bookgroups in the Bay Area - you could check with the public library, or look on Meetup or Craigslist. You could even start one yourself by advertising in those same places.

I have similar advice for finding people interested in art or science too. I just tried searching for ''science'' groups, and while there was some junk there, there were also the following groups: Bay Area Physics and Astronomy Society, Science Writing Meetup, Picnicking Plus Visiting Science and Nature Places, and more. Good luck!

You are probably not making friends here because you are so judgmental. I would never move to another country and then begrudge those people for discussing political topics and issues that affected their communities. You should worry less about your high standards and bring your ego back down to earth a little. Get a grip. Bay Area Mom

Maybe examine your tone? Are you perhaps generalizing us all a little? Maybe being a little pompous? Sometimes we need to take a big cue from others reaction towards us, especially if it's been 8 years and you still haven't found anyone who wants to be friends. I am ''American'' as all get out. But our best friends are from other countries, and we all find lots of things to talk about besides George Bush! I have found that our family always makes friends when we move to new places because we genuinely care about getting to know others. We are open to new ideas, and like laughing and having fun. More than anything--we don't judge (or at least try REALLY hard not to!). Americans are a funny lot. As individualistic and ambitious and competitive we may seem, we really are super-friendly, warm, and honest. Maybe you need to loosen up a bit! Uncle Sam

It's odd that you keep running into people who are interested in high tech and real estate--are these connected to your field of work, for example, or the kind of neighborhood you live in? The Bay Area has a unique concentration of people interested in ''high culture''--if anything, we suffer from an over-saturation of cultural events. You don't say what country you are from, but if you attend public lectures or cultural events related to your home country, you will tend to find others like yourself, as well as Americans with an interest in your part of the world. If you sign up with any Eastern European departments on campus or on campuses around the Bay Area, they will send you announcements for things going on. Many people become members of centers for poetry or music, and go regularly to readings and concerts--and book events with the authors present are free, and many include events for children. Museums often have free and discounted days. The Pacific Film Archive shows rare films for children periodically--they had a stunning series on Czech animation for young people, for example. Take your children (you don't say how old they are) to hear music at the music schools and any of the many fantastic children's choruses in the area. Your children can also introduce their classmates to their interests and culture. You say you aren't interested in liberal politics--does it mean you are interested in conservative politics? That is a different challenge. But if you are looking for like-minded people culturally, I think you're lucky to be here--look into the listings in the free papers for marvelous goings-ons of every kind. Making longtime friends, though, is the luck of the draw anywhere in the world. Remember how long it took you to make your best friends at home. Wishing You Luck Making Friends

I lived in the Netherlands for three years. What impressed me was the ability of the population to talk about such a wide range of topics in ENGLISH. Often, we discussed politics. People were just as informed on US politics as they were on Dutch or Spanish. It was truly amazing -- and because of the selection for university there (university hasn't become a replacement for a high school degree such as it has here), most of these people had only a high school diploma. In the US, we aren't going to talk about foreign politics, because we have no clue. The papers tell us about the economy and the housing market, so that is about what we talk. I have recently begun having weekly coffees with a Swiss-expat and have been forced to really dig to get current on European politics. It has been enjoyable for me, but takes an effort on my part (which I gladly undertake as I remember the effort made to make me comfortable as an ex-pat

As an aside, it took me about 2-years before I truly felt at home in the Netherlands (I've moved a handful of times as an adult and find two years is about normal for me to feel like I truly belong in a place...) Give it time and try to understand why we talk about what we WILL find someone whose eyes don't glaze over when discussing the political situation in Austria. Good luck. Jan

Friendless. Now what?

April 2008

Hi- I am 32, married with a 4-year old. And somehow I have managed to stop having friends. Sure, some friendships atrophied during the I-have-kids and I-am-single phase, but I am at a loss and could use some girl-support.

I started a mom's group that has also puttered out. Joined a neighborhood group where I have been a member of for 4 years and have yet to meet anyone. They are all Martha Stewart-types who wear make-up for the morning drop-off and do not work outside the home. All of their events are during the week when I am at work. I am more suburban-hippy. Sorta ''Old Adventures of New Christine'' type while toting my canvas bags to the store. :) But no make-up. ;) I thought it would be important to get to know these people since they are the ones who rule the school, so to speak, where my son will be attending next year. But zilch has come of it. Not a phone call. Nada. And yes, I have volunteered where I could. I even threw some parties, inviting them, other people I sorta knew, etc. Not one person came.

All of my coworkers have grandkids and think I am some quaint object that reminds them of their kids -- so that is no good for friend support. I hate that job actually. But that is another post altogether....

What do friendless people do? I can't go try new sports or evening things as my husband works a different schedule than I, so I have to be the one-mom show in the evening.

I am not mean. Honestly. I am goofy beyond comprehension, make a mean plate of brownies and am a great shopping buddy. I almost considered a craigslist posting...Wanted: Friend. How pathethic is that? 'Cause it reeks pathetic to me.

In college? Friendless. I lived off campus to save money so I never met any dorm folks. And in high school, I was well-liked, but that was 15 years ago and who knows where those friend are.

Am I doomed to be a friendless loser? Freak and Geek.

My mother complained to a friend about being friendless in Chicago after a move there with a toddler and a baby. Her friend asked what she'd done politically, and was aghast that mom hadn't done anything. Mom went to a meeting, and met friends for life.

Find what you like to do, volunteer or visit, hang out at the park and talk to the person next to you, do something with your kids (and then without). You'll be fine. It just takes noticing that you want more.

My vote is politics. When I first moved to Berkeley, I found my lifelong friends in Loni Hancock's first campaign for Berkeley City Council. --politico

hi i don,t have any advice to give ,just to say that you are not alone out there without is just very difficult to make friends as a grown up.many people still have friends from school and college and so on.i have moved a lot and so i have not been able to make friends and yes also i joined momsgroups but as it mostly goes those slowly dissolve when the kids start preschool or the moms start working and everyone is on a diffrent schedule.i am a SAHM with two kids and i am not the make-up type of person,my husband works long hours and weekends and what do i do without friends?well there are days when i don,t talk to any grown-up at all(now how sad is that)i have my kids enrolled in classes but haven,t clicked with anyone sofar,i try and read a lot which kind of provides me with company,but what i really miss is someone to be able to call over for a coffe and to laugh and joke with. yes life can be lonely

Honestly, it sounds like YOU are really judgmental of the women you were trying to make friends with. You mention that they are martha stewart types...what is wrong with that? Its great to be friends with people who bake! They wear makeup. Who cares? I don't wear makeup and I am friends with plenty of people who do. Why would that make a difference to you? Wearing makeup or not doesn't mean anything about a person. I work full time and I LOVE being friends with stay at home moms. They can be really helpful and great. If they volunteer in your kid's class, they can update you on how he's doing. I always have my SAHM friends spy on my kids for me.

You need to recognize that people can pick up on your judgments of them. I think you will be a lot more likely to make friends if you meet people with a clean slate and don't assume you know something about them based on their outward appearance or what job they have. People will surprise you. It is easy to make friends if you are genuinely interested in them as people. Try to learn as much as you can about a person. I find that people have the most unexpected lives and interesting stories. You just have to give them a chance. Be open and interested in them and they will respond. In some ways it sounds like you maybe are not really interested in having friends. Or you have put up a lot of boundaries around yourself. If you are fixated on being friends only with people exactly like you, you aren't going to have much luck. You'll always find something different. Plus, its boring to be friends with people exactly like you. I work in an office all day...I love to be friends with people who have different experiences and who can share those with me. And I tell them my funny work stories. So open you own mind a little and see what happens. good luck

You reap what you sow...I read your posting, and my best guess is that your less than kind assessment of the stay-at-home-moms who you are trying to befriend has been noticed. Martha Stewart types who rule the school and put on, when did it become a bad thing to care about your appearance and volunteer at your kids school? And the Martha Stewart jab? Huh? I don't know anyone what actually gets that magazine.

I am a stay-at-home-mom who makes plenty of after hours time for folks who work -- and, I'll find a babysitter so that I can meet a friend who wants to leave her desk for a lunch date. I don't harshly judge them for abandoning their children to be raised by someone else so that they can selfishly pursue their own interests and they don't harshly judge me as some Stepford wife/Martha Stewart caricature whose singular ambition is to get elected president of the PTA and get my daughter on the cheer squad. Neither stereotype could be further from the truth.

So, my advice for making friends? Be kind, not condescending. -I like nice people

I had a similar question years ago. Although this is probably no comfort, I think you are at a stage of life when it is hard to retain old friends and to make new ones. I sympathize with how your efforts have yield few results. My only advice is to keep trying whatever you can to find friends. For me, persistence did help. I barked up many wrong trees, but I have now found more friends. No one thing was the magic answer; just reaching out to everyone I could think of. I hope the same happens to you. some friends now

dear friendless, boy I related to your words. After a divorce. I experienced similar disappointment while trying to ''fit in'' to my kids' public school scene here in the Bay Area. I was not a sahm like the majority of the moms and I had not ''been in the system since preK''- I tried for a few years and came up with not one friend. I am quite extroverted and likeable, I volunteered like you did for most things, field trips etc. But you know, I just did not click and it was an already established ''scene'' when I arrived. It was a real shocker for me, I am really friendly and tried the whole playdate scene etc. You know I finally realized that square peg round hole is not personal. I did not really like the moms who clearly were not into me- and I have since made a few friends through other avenues- don't waste your time on those who won't spend it on you. I encourage you to continue to find new avenues where you can-start frequenting other parks in other towns and maybe be bolder about Following up with a potential new friend. Go to local bookstore talks with the author, stretch to find other places besides the ones you have tried. it may take more time than you thought but you'll find a few folks who appreciate you for YOU - and honestly, the craig's list is not a bad idea. There are actually others just like you! I saw a sign for citygirls at a doctor's office -that is just that- a site to meet other women to connect with. You are not alone, there are others of us who are great people but have not found a group with whom we identify in our geographic region. Don't give up and don't feel alone! good luck! kindred mom

I know that through my single parenthood I have lost many, many friends. To date I have very few. And now my only kid is all grown up, wow! But I do have friends with toddlers who might be very interested in meeting/connecting with a no make-up chick who wants to connect. Everyone needs connections. Send me an email, and I'll forward it to my dynamic granola-crunchy, but very, way cool best friend who will happily send you her input. hez

Please believe me when I tell you that you are NOT alone!!!! I have often felt alone, like I didn't fit in with the other parents. I still often feel that way. I've always had friends, but I always floated from group to group, so I don't have too many long-term friends. I had good friends in high school (who I still keep in contact with). I was part of a sorority in college. I was a nanny in a small town and part of a great Mom's group there. I thought that I would really bond with other Moms when I moved here and had my child, but it took a long time to make good friends. What I've learned is that the Bay Area is a place where people move in and out a lot; when they are here, they work a lot. Most of my friendships seem to last as long as my involvement in the activity/group where I met them. For example.....Work friends disappear after you leave a job. Co-op friends drift apart when the kids change schools.

As for asking for friends on the internet....why not? People look for spouses that way, so why not friends? There were 2 times in my parenting life when I was lonely enough to ask BPN for friends. I met a lot of nice people who feel just like you do, and I now have 2 good friends who were also feeling disconnected from other Moms. Not everyone clicks, but you'll find friends if you keep trying. Some of us have a harder time (for many different reasons), so we have to find unique ways to find kindred souls! If you'd like, we can meet for coffee some time. If we don't click, at least we'll have a decent conversation! okeefeladies

I thought your post was HILARIOUS and I'm surprised you don't have friends coming out your ears. Maybe project some of your humor more (not everyone will respond, but the ones who 'get' you will). Don't try to fit in with everyone - just let your personality shine, and the right people will be drawn to you. Do keep an open mind, though. Cautionary tale: the first time I met them, I HATED the two women who are now my two best friends. I thought they were pushy and overbearing (and one was waaay too pretty!) Fortunately, circumstances put us in greater contact and I came to see how wrong I was about them. It is really easy to be judgmental about superficial stuff - our culture encourages this, with all the messages about how the things we buy express our personality. Believe me, the style of my cell phone is NOT who I am - it's the one that came free with our service plan. Oh, and Martha Stewart is porn for the working mom, just so you know. I'd sign my name but I don't want my friends to see this!

-- Hi there, I feel for you! If you reread your posting it comes across as very negative, self- loathing and also judgemental. Perhaps these qualities are leaking into your social interactions and turning off potential friends. I also experience negativity and lack of optimism. I've found that daily exercise and talk therapy helps me to keep my perspective on life. Not that you have to be fake or sun-shiney but people don't want to hang around someone who will drag them down. You might also be suffering from depression. Your resentment of the Martha Stewart types and the lipstick wearing moms makes me think that you are a bit close minded to new friendships. Some days the lipstick is all I've got going for me! Good luck with your search. anon

In response to this and the other poster who feels they aren't making friends at their kid's pre-school: It will come! You have a long way to go in school (12+ years!) and eventually you will run into different people who you click with. It's hard now, but will get better. Maybe that's one thing to think about when choosing the next school for your child, does this place feel like we will fit in as a family? Are there people like me? Is it a diverse place as far as class, race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, whatever? I had a hard time making friends at one of my daughter's private preschools, lots of SAHM's, wealthier, conservative, when I was working and in the middle of a divorce. Then when she entered public school it was a whole new world! I felt like I fit in finally and made some friends through getting involved in the classroom, school events, my daughter's friend's parents, etc.

I guess this a plug for public school in a way because you get a larger range of people for all of you to choose your friends from! But really, I think those early years can be very lonely and when your single friends without children start to bail out it's a hard transition. It will get better. not lonely anymore

I wish I had the magic bullet for your problem,I do have a few ideas to help and I really can sympathize. I too felt the same way when I became pregnant(last year at 33) all my friends were single and as my life was changing, theirs was not, so I really saw myself not fitting in. All my longtime friends are scattered across the country, so no real help there. But I did find that joining a moms group helped some and having the chance to do things with my Daughter like afternoon baby boot camp has been fun, meeting other moms etc. Also signing up for a neighborhood list serve has been good too, my husband has been part of a photography group, just another place to find friends. No one place will be the perfect fit, but find something you like to do and starting a group could do it, make it kid friendly but adult centered, like a book club or a knitting group, etc. By far one of the best and bravest things you have done is reached out. So if your interested in art, movies,music and outdoors type of stuff, or really anything email me I would totally up for making a new friend. Michelle

I read your e-mail with empathy and admiration that you do seem to be actively trying to get new friends. I don't have advice for you but I did want to share one observation from your message.

There is quite a difference between the way you describe yourself (lots of affectionate references to how you see yourself) and the dismissive way you describe others. Does the fact that ''all'' your coworkers have grandkids make them unworthy of being your friends? And why does it matter that other moms ''wear makeup at dropoff'' and don't (apparently) work?

Perhaps you are being too quick to judge others and dismiss them as potential friends? Anon

Hi Freak & Geek. You sound like a lot of fun. I'm a boho goofball too, with a bright 2-1/2 year old son. Email me if you want to meet up for a playdate. We're in Oakland. lisa

It could have written your post.

We moved to Berkeley almost 8 years ago and it's been really hard for me to make any new friends. We met a lot of people who seemed very nice at my son school/soccer/swim classes. And I made so many efforts.....

Normally it would go like this: we invite them over, for dinner or party or play date and after that we never hear from them. If I call again to invite for another dinner or play date, they would be happy to come but never making any kids of efforts to reciprocate or initiate any kind of contact. We had several families that were in our house 3-4 times for dinners but never invited us back!

I was making a lot of efforts for the first couple of years since we don't have any family living here and my son is a single child who is always asking for a play dates but now I stopped. I don't really care any more. I decided not to waste my time and energy on that.

We have 2 families that we see all the time and our kids play really well together, but they are all European. I think people are more gregarious in Europe. We lived in Midwest, Europe, Mexico and Russia and never had this issue before. I personally think it's only in Bay area people are so busy, self absorbed and rather spent time with a psychoanalyst than a friend.

Anyway, I have very sociable and fun 5 year old son, we love to have people over. Here is my e-mail, let's get together. l.

You can email me - I have a 4 yo son and I'm not a make-up in the morning mom. Jennifer

If you didn't meet any friends through the preschool, you might want to hold out for those you meet through school. And you could start by setting up playdates for kids who are going to your school in the fall. I'm a little baffled why you wouldn't meet friends, as I seem to meet people wherever I go. But some of it is being around people who you have things in common with (like kids). The only thing I'd try to tone down a little bit is your judgement of people who wear makeup. I don't either, but some of my best friends do. I'm a hippy-ish, geek, bag lady, sometimes disorganized, work-outside-the-house people lover. I have friends who don't work. Friends who work full time. Friends who are Martha Stewart clones. Friends who don't really know how to cook dinner. Friends who devote all their time to their kids. Friends at work (it may help if you like your job a little better too). Friends from grad school (I did lose touch w/ college friends, and I was a bit shy then). And I just got in contact w/ some high school friends. (You can check if your high school is on one of the ''reunion'' websites, and maybe you can hook up with old friends.) Don't expect anything from anybody. Just go forth and enthusiastically (and nonjudgementally) find people who laugh at the same jokes and will put the same effort into friendships. Better still, find somebody w/ a similar kid going to your school! That will make the next year all that much more fun.

I totally could have written your post, except I am 33 with a 3.5 year-old. Maybe we should get together! I have not clicked with any of the moms at preschool or in a mom's group I was part of. We have a lot of younger friends(=no kids) because my husband is in a band, but I don't feel like I could call up any of them and hang out one on one. Ask the moderator for my email if you want to chat or meet up at a park sometime with the kids. In the same boat

I don't have any advice but can empathize completely! I am 39, married, with a 2yo and a 4 mo old. Old girl friends have moved away and new friends are harder and harder to make as life gets increasingly busy and complicated. But I do keep trying with the hope that eventually something will stick. I like your idea of a craigslist ad! Feel free to email me, at the very least we can commiserate. In The Same Boat

Your post struck a nerve. It's been an issue for me (and MANY others): How do we make friends as an adult? To make friends we do have to ''get out there in the real world''. We have to have shared experiences, common interests, similar point of view.

So, to find them takes time. As adults and parents we are more reluctant, we don't have the time, the flexibility. We're shy, wary of rejection, wary of extremes. Too quick to make excuses (too tired, house too messy/small to invite people over). But there are still ways to find people.

You mentioned your son's school - I wouldn't give up!! Unless the school itself is very small, surely there are other parents you have yet to meet. It may even be the parent of an older child, or even a teacher you click with. There will be many more opportunities in September.

But before then - what about weekend time? Any chance of getting a two hour block to pursue an interest, a hobby, volunteer somewhere where you can meet other like-minded people? Or hiring an evening sitter once a week, or every two weeks for the same purpose?

Or if that's cost prohibitive, can you find someone to trade sitting duties with?

Start your own after work playgroup - advertise for other working parents to join you at the park before sunset, or any other early evening child friendly activities you can do - some libraries have reading hours at 7:30 pm, and many parks do summer evening concerts.

Once you get out there, to places you like to go to on a regular basis, you should start seeing the same faces. All it takes is a ''Hi'' to start with. And friends do come in varieties other than ourselves - those nice grandmas at your office might be really good listeners, might have some great advice, might have been in your situation. Please don't give up. Take a deep breath, smile and say ''hi''. Same as You

Wow, I could have written your post, especially a few years ago when I lived somewhere that sounds scarily similar to your community.

You are not alone, not a bit. It just takes time to find your niche. Drop those people who didn't come to your event and be more specific--search out people you REALLY like. It's okay to be picky, and in fact you'll have a higher chance of finding friends you really, really like. There are other working women with four year olds out there--I know--I'm one!

I'm doing much better than I was. I changed jobs and now have made some really nice acquaintances through work (not really close enough to do much more than have lunch together from time to time, but it really helps!). I moved away from Stepford Wife and Stepford Children suburbia and now am in Richmond, of all places--and I love it!

My neighbor and I swap spiritual books and I have a favorite coffeehouse (Catahoula on San Pablo Avenue) where everyone is SO friendly. I'm planning to attend our neighborhood association one day, and am excited about all the different things they do. I made a couple of friends through my ''house of worship''--a Hindu fellowship in fact. (This is America--whatever spiritual belief you hold, there's a group out there that you'll enjoy hanging out with.) So I'm slowly building a network of like-minded people around me.

You sound really fun and totally entertaining and I'm sure it's just a matter of time. If you live anywhere between in between Berkeley-El Sobrante, I know I would love to be your friend! Why don't you post your e-mail address next time? Girlfriend

Single mom having a hard time making friends

March 2007

I am writing to see if somebody has any advice for me. I have been in the bay area for around three years. I am divorced and live with my preschooler. I have never, ever, ever had problems meeting people and making friends. My ex, in fact, was surprised because every time we moved, I would immediately find people to make friends with. We lived in several cities in the US, by the way. However, since I have my son and moved to this area (the Danville area) it seems impossible for me to find people I could have a long term friendship with. It's like here it's too different worlds: I have one single friend and one married friend. My married friend is open-minded and has no problem with the fact that I am divorced. My single friend is very nice but wants to meet only when I don't have my son.

So, I have met many singles that just stop calling if I'm not available immediately to go out with them (I have my son). When they did things during the day I have taken my son but still it's as if for them I were from another species bc. I have a child. And then, with the many married people I have met, they also stop calling after a while because they end up doing things with other couples, even when they take their kids.

When I was single, and no child, I had all kinds of friends: married, single, young, older. However, here in this area it's seems as if people didn't mingle with those of a different marital status. I have tried to meet other 'moms' in the area but then I am not the soccer mom type. Please, I don't mean to offend anyone.

I don't want to go to those groups of 'divorced people', 'single parents' and stuff like that. I want to meet people I am compatible with regardless of their marital/child status. I am very frustrated and TERRIBLY lonely. I set up playdates for my son but I feel bad that he never sees me socialize. I'm sure he feels his mom is not very happy. And believe me, I try. Lonely mom.

I can empathize with your situation, though, I am not a single mom. I can only imagine how challenging that is. I think a lot of folks out there feel lonely and isolated in our fast-paced, self-absorbed, competitive Bay Area culture. I recently read an article in Newsweek about the lack of ''community'' in the US these days, relative to the generation prior. Attendance in churches and civic organizations - where many ''communities'' formed - are at an all-time low. Of course, I'm not advocating go join a church, unless you feel so inclined, but an interesting historical point. My only insight is what seems to work for me when I feel lonely - try to get out there and do what makes YOU feel good - interests, hobbies, activities, clubs for your son that you enjoy. You'll meet like-minded people that way through shared interests or values - and it just may be one or two people that turn out to be good friends. Good luck to you! empathetic loner

Hello, I am sorry you are having a hard time. My husband and I have been wrestling with friendship issues as well since we have had our boy 18 months ago. After he as born some of our single friends disapeared, some of our married with no kids friends stayed around but less. We were going out a lot before he was born and so our friends still wanted to do that and we did not. We still have some of our same good friends and have met more people. But now, when we meet people it does seem to be couples and i would say that it's because we want to be able to hang out as a family with another similar familie so that eveyrone gets to socialize. Time we have together is limited so we want to be together but my husband like to have a guy around and i like to have a girlfriend around...which doesn't happent with single parent. I am not saying we make a point of this, we wouldn't discriminate someone because they are a single has simply not come up. But these were my thoughts as to why... anon

Hello, I suggest you join a church or synagogue. Get involved in a few groups that make you feel like you are a part of the community. For example, I have a strong church connection that is not just about my spiritual growth, but about my growth in learning about how to connect with others in a community.

A book club has been great for me! 8 women get together once a month to discuss literature, eat a good dessert, and talk occasionally online about this and that. Sometimes we go to other events that we learn about from each other together or in smaller groups.

The point is, you need to get some support in a big city. Work on finding some small groups that you can contribute to and also feel a sense of belonging to. After a while, you will get to the point where you will appreciate solitude, if it is balanced with social activities.

I invite you to my east bay book club, if you'd like to try it. Just email me! Susanne

Hi ''lonely'' mom, I can relate to where you are coming from..When we moved to marin from the city I was a first time mom and suddenly went from constant socialization to nothing..I was miserable.. The good news is that when I moved to the East Bay I put myself out there and have quickly met some amazing mothers and friends!! The socialization has been wonderful for my son and we have been going to playcafes, parks etc. daily- but it's all been just as great for me as we also do shopping trips, lunch, mommies nights out( we just had one last night, FUN!!!) I feel so lucky to have met such an amazing group of women! Please let me know if you'd like to join us sometime..We are out and about daily...Hope to hear from you soon! KP

Dear Lonely Mom, I've got some good news and not so good news about making friends in the Bay Area. I'll give you the bad news first. The Bay Area is a tough place to make new friends. I've been through some of what you've been through. It's pretty common that married people or coupled people quickly lose interest in single friends. Maybe it's that the people in a relationship are afraid that they would alienate their partner by exhibiting independance from them. Maybe it's because they're just blissfully lost in the relationship. It's a fast paced lifestyle out here. The Bay Area is very much different than other parts of the US, in the sense that everyone is always on the go. We have places to be, people to see, and things to do...and we cram it into the span of 24 hours, and repeat it again the next day.

I have friends who are single with kids. I do try to spend time with them when they also have their kids, not just when they are free from them. Here's my impression of that. Sometimes it's a drag to deal with the kid, sometimes its not. Sometimes it feels like I can't have an adult conversation with the friend because the kid is around. Sometimes the kid gets demanding. Sometimes it's a drag to see the friend have to reprimand the kid because he/she is acting out.

Here's some good news though. It's not impossible to find good friends in the Bay Area. You just have to look beyond your initial comfort zone, stretch out and make friends with folks farther away, or of a different social status.

Go and join some activity groups, take some classes etc. And, you may really need to look beyond Danville, home of the soccer moms, and not too socially promising for single/divorced people.

Also, keep in mind that you may not make a ton of new good/close friends out here, but that you may make 1 or 2.

I've got 2 really good friends that do things with, everyone else is pretty much an acquaintance in my book. But that is ok, because I've learned that striking out on my own to do new things helps to open the possibility of meeting more new friends.

I don't have to have a giant collection of friends, just a few really good ones. And, when the good friends aren't available, I do things on my own.

Good luck. Single, independent and happy

I am so glad you wrote about this! I have felt exactly the same way. I never had a hard time making friends until I had a kid. I don't know why this has happend either. I have exactly the same experience with married/parent/single friends as you. I am basically a single parent in many ways as my husband works and goes to grad school full time. We sometimes go for days without seeing him. So to be social I have tried many things. I go to my parent friends' house that I met in a mothers group. You can try to do the initiating of the activities, or be proactive and set actual dates for another meeting before you leave.

I also invite people to my house for dinner a lot. My child is pretty easy then and I don't need a babysitter. I might cook a cassarole or stew the day before and spend the day paying attention to my girl and not letting her nap, then when 7:30 comes, she is asleep in her room, and I am socialising in the living room and since I don't have to drive, I can even have a glass of wine! Meeting friends for lunch on my work days has worked well, too.

I have also had sucess with doing on-line book clubs with my relatives and friends from back east. I get them a magazine subscription (Science News, the New Yorker-something with stories) or a book for a gift, then I get the same one and we discuss it. I tried to go to several churches (First Unitarian in Oakland had a lot of friendly people and a kid friendly service/activities), but since Sunday morning is when we actually see my husband, I stopped going.

I figure it's hard to be free for friends when my kid is little, so I started socializing in a way with her, too. We go to a museum and out to lunch sometimes. To the zoo, to kid movies or to a mall then out for pizza. We go on nature walks and collect leaves for collages. A lot of the stuff I would like to do socially (just not very grown up topics). My friend volunteers at a senior high rise with her 3-year-old. It's really social and easy for her. I think it's a good idea to try to contact people you normally wouldn't meet.

I think that when my daughter is older and has her own life, I will have mine again too. I do see other moms at the park, zoo, etc. but I haven't been quite brave enough to go up and start talking to them. That would probably work eventually. We need a mother's club for parents of older kids,don't we? I'll be interested in the other ideas people give you. tam

If your schedule permits, volunteering at at organization that reflects your values can be a good way to meet people who are like-minded. If you are religiously inclined, many churches, synagogues etc. have ample opportunity for meeting people and creating community. Good Luck!

i wasn't clear whether or not you were looking only for women friends or would be open to a man. i am the latter and have an 8 year old daughter and live in alamo, fairly close to danville. i have been single for 5+ years and have exactly your problems, possibly worse, because i am 63. most women my age recoil at my having such a young child (i have half custody of her, but am very involved with her and her life), since they feel they have ''been there, done that''. they want to travel, etc. not my scene and i have my work, my daughter hence no time for travelling in any case.

and of course women a generation or so younger, probably such as yourself, who had their children at a more ''sensible'' age, aren't interested in me either; they want someone more their own age. while i actually am more comfortable with folks younger than myself (my life style has never been consistent with my own demographics), i can understand how younger women feel about someone my age.

bottom line: like you i am hungry for adult companionship (especially female, especially one with a small child or children who can understand and live the same life style) and have none whatsoever.

if you think we might have something in common, please drop me a line. by the way, my daughter loves small kids and would enjoy (initially at least) playing with your son.

I can empathize with your situation. I am also a divorced single mom of a toddler... I find myself surrounded by single people which is great sometimes, but difficult at other times.... Those that are married are either significantly older than me or are enmeshed in relationships with other married couples as you pointed out. I know that part of my problem is my perception of being a divorced/single mom. It may be holding you back from creating the friendships you desire. Perhaps you could make a posting to create a playgroup for your son on here? I haven't tried it yet (I've been so busy with work and school)... Where do you live? What are your interests? single divorced mom

Lots of acquaintances but no close friends

June 2005

I'm coming to the realization that I have a lot of acquaintances and no really close friends. I'm plenty social. I want a best friend like the ones I read about or see in the movies. One I can call at all hours of the night or day and who will give me advice about everything and anything. I don't know how to make the leap, though. How do you approach someone you like? I tend to stick to shallow conversations naturally - it'll take some real effort to get more personal. Should I make offers, just share things about myself, or hope someone approaches me? Open your heart to me

Making close friends is not easy for anyone. Usually, those folks who have that ''best friend'' have probably had her for many years. As adults, I think friendships work differently. We are busier, have kids, have our own lives and things to focus on. But friendships are so important to help us avoid feeling isolated, especially as parents. I've found that the more open I am myself, the more others are with me. Trust is not easy for any of us. Don't expect too much opening up and sharing all at once, but it will come if you are open to it. If you're not in one, it's a good idea to join a mom's group, or meet other parents at the park, Gymboree, etc. Or you can suggest starting one with some of your neighbors. Eventually, you get past that layer of conversation that is all about your child(ren) and on to adult stuff that goes beyond that (not that kid talk isn't importan, too.) Good luck! Gal

Hi there, Your message hit close to home. I have been feeling increasingly alienated from my friends for numerous reasons, family, kids, careers, move from bay area etc. But regardless I feel I never had friends that I could call anytime or go watch a matinee movie with or grab coffee. I think a lot has to do with urban living. I think if you do find someone you really connect with , you should make the effort to see if you can elevate it to a higher friendship. Easier said than done as I thnk we all struggle with our inadequacies. I am not sure what you are interested in or how old you are etc. but feel free to drop me emails. H.

I have found for me, and my friends, that we tend to have a *few* very close (or ''best'') friends--as opposed to one, single best buddy--and then ever widening circles of less close friends (maybe ''good friends'', close acquaintances, and casual acquaintances, or whatever).

I think getting close to people is about learning how to:

1) Open YOUR heart to people. You might ask yourself if perhaps there are some trust issues that hold you back from doing this? Opening up to people allows them to feel trusted by and important to you. They often feel special, that you would share of yourself with them. This contributes to a feeling of mutual closeness.

2) Give give give. ALL relationships require give and take. Make the first move. When you give of yourself (time-wise, energetically, emotionally, financially, whatever) people feel that you care about them and will want to be closer to you, AND they'll want to reciprocate.

3) RECEIVE! When people make offers to help you, support you or otherwise ''be there'' for you, learn how to graciously and appreciatively receive what they are offering! This can be one of the hardest things to do (I've really had to work on it!). It can be challenging to overcome feeling undeserving, or that we would be imposing on people to accept. People like to feel that they have something to offer, too, and that you trust and appreciate them. So, when you accept *their* overtures, you allow them to matter to you, and to get close to you.

Of course, you will run into people who have emotional wounding in and around intimacy/trust, and they may be reluctant to get close, even when you make these overtures. Don't worry about it or take it personally (something that has always been tough for me, but I've been learning), there are always other people who will be more responsive.

Finally, I've found that the friendships that have lasted the longest are the ones in which both people really ''made room'' for one another. In other words, we were understanding if one of us had to cancel a get-together, if one person became really busy for a while and fell out of touch, or was *occasionally* difficult, insensitive or, (in other words) HUMAN. With my closest friends, we can approach each other with hurt feelings and express our needs without being judgmental, accusatory or vindictive. We can allow for one another's humanness because we've come to trust each other and, therefore, not to take things too personally.

Of course, if some one is consistently inconsiderate or selfish in some way, I realize that they are not really being a friend to me and I simply move on, or otherwise shift my relationsip with them. I don't try to GET them to be different, if they are unresponsive to me when I express what I need to remain close.

I hope this helps. Best of luck to you! Opening Up More Every Day

It's impossible to be close on a series of shallow conversations. Time to open up with those acquaintances you've known for awhile, or start to ask probing questions. Go easy at first and see if your acquaintances seem open to sharing - not everyone does, and some people are not comfortable with anything heavy. anon

For the last several years (since I've had kids), I've struggled with both maintaining and establishing new friendships. (See my 2002 post archived at Since 2002, I have made some friends, but like you, I would really like more closeness. I feel that my relationships have become more superficial. This is due to several reasons.

First, my friends and I just don't have the time we used to, and intimacy takes time. We are all rushing to work, rushing our kids to schools and activities, rushing to make some organic, low glycemic index dinner, etc. I do have some free moments, and I would love to use those to create more intimacy with my friends, but my free moments are not necessarily theirs, etc.

Second, we're older, and in established relationships, which wasn't the case when we were younger and just dating. I feel there's a barrier to talking about our spouses/partners. I just sense that it's somehow become not done. Maybe because we all know each other, and are committed for the duration. It's more pointless to talk about something that you know isn't going to change. It's not that I am personally unwilling to listen to or talk about relationships.

I don't know how to overcome these obstacles. Still seeking friends

Your post sounds both hopeful and sad all at the same time. I know what you mean about wanting a best friend. I have longed for that kind of relationship many, many times, too. Once in a while I have a friend I feel I can really open up to, only to have things change--someone moves, a new boyfriend, a new baby, a new job. Usually, with those friends, the love remains even if the daily contact does not, and we can share through letters or emails or phone calls even if it's just once in a while. That helps. It also helps to be affiliated with larger groups, like a church or synagog or other organization where there are lots of people who are sort of looking out for you. And how about a partner? Do you have one you love and trust? It's different than a best friend, but it helps.

As for trying to turn an aquaintance into a deep friendship, well, ask that person to go out for a walk, or for a movie, or for a mom's night out if you both have kids. Lots of other women out there also feel the way you do, and it's nice to be asked. Even if the friendship does not deepen the way you hope it would, having buddies is a great thing.

And a caution: allow your growing frienships enough space as well as enough contact. It can be devestating to pin your hopes one a friendship only to see it unravel. And also do what you can to be your own friend. That will help you weather the ups and downs that all friendships go through. Me Too.

I seem to have a problem making friends

Nov 2003

Hi all - I am looking for advice on making new friends. I seem to have a problem doing this. It isn't easy for me.

I grew up in a very undemonstrative household with no hugs and no outward displays of love at all. Over the years I have had various groups of friends (I have moved a lot too) that have since fallen by the wayside for different reasons (lifestyle changes, moving etc). When I was in college I had a group of friends I loved very much. Unfortunately when I split up with my very likeable and popular boyfriend, almost all of my ''friends'' didn't want anything to do with me as my boyfriend took it very hard and I didn't handle the break up very well due to my emotional immaturity. I felt very betrayed by these friends and still have dreams to this day about being friendless and unloved.

As it stands now I have 2 young children and am a SAHM. I have very few friends. Two close women friends locally is about it. I have tried making connections with other women and don't seen to have the skills to really bond with people well after the initial pleasantries. I have been told frequently over the years that I am unapproachable and intimidating. I have tried pretty hard to soften up and have succeeded to a certain extent I think. But I don't open up easily and I just don;t seem to know how to make friends.

Does anyone have any words of wisdom? Am I a candidate for therapy? Can anyone recommend any good books on the subject? I have been feeling that this is a dark secret over the years. Basically that I am not likeable enough to have friends. And I would really like to develop these skills.

Thanks a lot. anon

I would suggest to be the friend you would want to somebody else. All of the characteristics you look for in people, practice those to the people already in your life. Spark up conversations with people in the grocery store, coffee shop, etc. or in other words, network. You may find that you have similar interests and then use that as an opportuity to build a relationship by planning a meeting or get-together. I have met a lot of new people that way. Anonymous

I also found it difficult to make friends, especially when I no longer had work or school as a venue for meeting people. What worked for me was figuring out what hobby I enjoyed doing and would like to do with others. I loved reading, so I started a book group and invited other moms I met or knew or wanted to know better to join the book group. It gave us an organized way to start to get to know one another and I have made some long-term friends from that group. One you get to know these moms better, it wouldn't hurt to mention your concerns about how you come across to tohers, especially in case some of them are getting odd vibes from you. Explaining your style is a helpful way for others to put your behavior in context. Jen

One thing that has helped me feel more balanced about friends and friendships has been joining something that's more stable and just showing up regularly. For me it was joining a church. But I've known others who have gotten involved with non-profit organizations, or community groups. Such places provide a meeting place that is a nice back drop for developing friendships and more steady than parks or short-term toddler classes. I can't say I've met any ''best friends'' through my involvement, but I now have a place where I feel I belong, and something about that takes the pressure off my other friendships. I don't feel so lonely any more. One note: on-site childcare has made it easier for me to participate regularly, and I'd recommend something like that so! that your kids can have a place to go, too. doing my best

I can certainly empathize with your delimma. While I am a pretty outgoing person who tends to make friends easily, I left the workforce 3 years ago to become a SAHM and found it an extremely difficult transition.

I kept making overtures to other moms at parks/playgrounds, in my daughter's baby gymnastics class, in playgroups, to neighbors who work part time and kept striking out over and over again. Either they lived too far away to make it easy to get together, they already had an established social network and didn't feel the need to expand it or we just had very litttle in common to sustain a friendship.

Eventually through patience and persistence I finally felt like I was making progress and now the phone rings off the hook. I found a group of people through a fiction writing group who I connected with, I made friends with another mom at the gym where I exercise, I reconnected with a few older friends who I hadn't seen in a long time, and I found another mom at the preschool where my daughter attends who wanted to get together for a weekly playdate.

I also tried very hard to be an interesting person who had something to offer new friends. I try to read a daily paper and one chapter from a novel when the kids are asleep in bed on most nights, I see movies occasionally with other moms, attend an annual conference for writers, we go to church services regularly, and I write my own fiction when my daughter is in preschool part-time.

But it seemed like for two long years I would make a dozen overtures only to be disappointed over and over again with how unresponsive/busy people are. It was so frustrating I started to really resent busy people and thought they were personally rejecting me which, of course, wasn't true. It's just that parents with young children are pretty overwhelmed. And some people are just as shy and uncomfortable getting to know new people as you are.

ase don't give up and do be very forthright about the fact that you are not a person who makes friends easily but you have a genuine desire for adult companionship. Stay positive, stay hopeful, this will work. --a friendly mom

How to find adult friends, post-kids?

Sept 2002

Four years ago, before we had children, my husband and I had a small social life. We had friends, and although we would have liked to have more even then, it was fine, especially since we could go out together.

Now we have two children, and next to no social life at all. We can't go to events we used to attend (an 8:30 dinner is not possible, unless we get a babysitter, which we can only do occasionally.) Our friends without children don't want to socialize on our schedule (meaning we generally need to be home after 8:30 PM.) We don't have many friends who have had children. (I do have one good, loyal friend with a child, and some relatives in the area, so we are not always alone, but still.)

So I thought, especially after a recent move to a neighborhood with many families, I'll try to befriend some new people. I've invited over various families in our extended block area, and assorted others, like people from my husband's work, people who we were friendly with who had kids, etc., basically anyone I could think of. This project hasn't been much of a success. I have issued many invitations, both to parties and dinners, and even informal, ''drop by any time.'' I would estimate about 1 in 4 of my invitations is accepted, and I get maybe 1 for every 5 I give. I also tried a toddler music class, which my children loved, but didn't create any friendships.

An incident this weekend brought this to a head, when I was in a friendly conversation with two other neighbors. One asked the other one to dinner. Nothing was said to me. Obviously, I am going about this in the wrong way, but I'm not sure what I should do differently. Should I continue my invitations, or is it time to give up? Is there something else I should try? I wonder if there is something wrong with me, but obviously, this forum can't tell me that. The only other thing I can think of is to join some religious community. The problem is that I don't have a religious or spiritual bone in my body, and so I would feel like an imposter. I'd love to have some advice about this. Looking for friendly advice

First of all, your neighbors are just rude. One usually learns in kindergarten how to issue invitations without hurting other peoples' feelings.

Secondly, it sounds like you are really working hard at expanding your social life, so everything I suggest may be a repeat. But I think every parent goes through this, and it is a tough transition.

I've met parents through story hour at the library, talking at the toy store, parenting classes, gymnastics, etc. Almost anything that centers on children should be a good opportunity. But you could also try going it alone--either you or your husband enjoying activities solo and meeting people that way, in most communites you can pick which ones would have compatible people involved.

And, you could try not trying so hard. Maybe your neighborhood moves slowly in integrating newcomers. And you could use the parenting forum on Craig's List-you could be online afterhours and still making contacts (I haven't tried this, but I use Craig's List for everything else). I hope this helps, and good luck.

Also, despite being a not religious person myself, I tried the Unitarian Church in Oakland a few times, and really enjoyed it. My son went to a separate playgroup and really enjoyed it, and I was able to sit in a beautiful building for an hour and listen to music. It is worth a shot. Kean

I can empathize! There are times when it seems so hard to find and keep friends, and days when it seems that everyone else is laughing and enjoying each other's company while I feel like the little match girl, looking in the window at the party from the snow-covered street. Everyone says that it's easy to make friends when you have kids, but that does not always seem to be my expierience. I also empatize with your ratio of invitations to returns. It's hard to keep trying sometimes.

But then I remember that being a parent takes a lot of time and energy, and that I am also not always able to return calls, even when I really mean to. I remember that while I used to be able to pull off a dinner party on little or no notice, with a child around I'm lucky if I can get the groceries out of the fridge without him pouring milk on the floor. If this is true for me, it must be true for other parents, too.

So even when I feel afraid that I'll just get rejected again, I try again. If a one session class was not enough, I try a second, or one at another time when there will be different families there, or a different kind of class of play group. Sometimes it takes a while to find a friend. I try going to the same park at the same time each week and talk to ''the regulars,'' I suggest a picnic, or going for coffee afterrwards. Sometimes it doesn't work, but my mother once told me that there is a virture just in reaching out to others. Sooner or later, a friend will reach back.

Your story about your two neighbors sounded like it hurt a lot. I remember that it took a few years to develop frienships in my neighborhood, and that I often saw other neighbors who had been there longer socializing together. When I was already feeling lonely, that really hurt. But over time, I have developed different kinds of friendships with many neighbors. The time spent with them rises and falls, but I feel like our family is a part of the commmunity in a way I did not in when we were the new kids on the block.

On really bad days, you might talk to your husband, and suggest that the two of you find a babysitter and go out toegether. Splurge. Some focused attention like that goes a long way. You might also talk with your loyal freind who has a child, and tell her what you are feeling. Maybe she feels the same way at times. Perhaps the two of you could think of a way to start a mom's group or play group. Don't give up. Be kind to yourself. Carolyn

I feel your pain. It takes time, a lot of time, so be patient. Before kids, we moved here from the east coast and knew maybe 2 people. Full-time work kept us busy, we didn't really have social contacts outside of work. Within three years we had 2 kids and I went from full-time work to stay at home mom. I didn't know ANYONE and was so depressed being at home alone with two little ones. So I went to Bananas and found a card from another mom who was looking to start a playgroup. (This was before NPN, etc.) She had a friend, and that friend had a friend, and very shortly we had a once a week playgroup with 5 moms and 10 babies & toddlers. We'd meet in local parks or at someone's house. We started a Friday night babysitting exchange when all the babies were out of diapers. One of the moms and I decided to take a night-time UC extension class together, where I met another friend. Some of our kids went to a co-op nursery school where I met more people. (That's a VERY good way to meet other parents by the way). We organized camping trips occasionlly and threw birthday parties where the adults had fun too but really none of us really had adult-level ''social'' lives until the kids were much older. And as for neighborhood people - we'd wave, some would come to bday parties, we'd trick or treat, but didn't really have social connections with them. I think this was because they already were established in their social circles, and couldn't really take on new connections. Maybe the thing to do is to seek out other parents in the same boat as you - people looking for social connections just like you are. It might be at a playground, a class your kid goes to, a class you take without the kids. There are really a lot of these kinds of opportunities in Berkeley, and so many people who have JUST moved here and don't know anyone!

Just to philosophize a little about friendship: my kids are teens now and I have social circles based more on my own adult interests than on the kids'. Many of my closest friends I met when I went back to school after my kids started elementary school. Some of them have kids and some don't. I can see that friendships take time - maybe 4 or 5 years for an acquaintance to become a friend, and then a few more years for a close friend. And they take some work, the same as a marriage. You have to make an effort to call, get together, etc. I still keep in touch with the old playgroup moms and we occasionally run into each other. I get together regularly with the mom of my son's best friend from the co-op preschool. Also - don't give up on your pre-kids friendships. Some of them will have kids eventually and they will really need you! And the ones who don't are important too - I've stayed in touch with highschool friends from the east coast, and those friendships have become very valuable over the years. Anon

I suppose in my own experience there is good news and there is bad news. To start with the bad: my social life has never fully recovered from having kids almost nine years ago. I recall a wonderful conversation I had with a friend of mine, the dad of now three kids (this was long before my two were in the picture). He offered the following analogy that I have loved ever since: Parenthood is like getting on a train. You leave the home you have always known for an unknown destination. You don't know where you'll end up, what it will be like, what the culture will be, the food, the smells, the tastes, but you will be there forever more. Some of it you will love instantly, some of it you wil grow to love, some of it you may never quite adjust to, but you will never return to the place you once knew to be home. And so it is with every aspect certainly of my life since my daughter was born in November 1993. Nothings been the same, and the land that was once so new is now completely home and I can't imagine for a second going back. But there is still longing for some things left behind, especially friendships.

Now for the good news: when the kids are a bit older, they will start school, and their school will (hopefully) not only be a good fit for them academically and socially, but a good match for you socially as well. We are very involved in our kids school (Tehiyah), which we love, and we have found a wonderful sense of community there which I deeply value. There are days, still, when I come up for air and realize how much I miss my girlfriends of old, who are really no longer a daily part of my life, but other friendships arrive, and the older ones just require long intervals between visits. There are parts of parenthood that are indeed a lonely journey, but all things change, and if you have kids that make friends, or extend their social lives into other avenues (like soccer, dance, music, choir), there are lots of parents out there craving connection.

I would simply add: Continue all the wonderful things you've been doing to be available, indulge in the occaisonal babysitter, pursue your own interests (like an adult school cooking class if you love to cook, volunteering once a week for a favorite political cause, family camping with the Sierra Club, etc etc) and continue to explore all possible places where folks of similar values and life circumstances might hang out. Your efforts will be rewarded.

Best of luck during these sometimes lonely years.

A mom who remembers this all too well, Deborah

Ouuuuch! I know how you must feel. It doesn't sound like you're doing anything wrong, just targeting the wrong people. I've found that a lot of people are not necessarily interested in making new friends because they're too busy, feel like they don't have time to see the friends they already have, etc. So, try not to take it personally, although its hard not to do so. Have you tried joining a family-oriented health club or something like that? The advantage of that is if you go on a regular basis you'll start to see familiar faces and have an opportunity to talk to people in a non-pressured environment before deciding whether you want to take your ''friendship'' to the next level. Other than that, religious or other types of community organizations might be an idea. There are so many types of organizations in the Bay Area for every type of taste, you might find something you do identify with. Good luck! Sympathetic

Hi, You mentioned some interest in a religious community, but that you would feel like an imposter, since you don't feel religious in any way. I wouldn't let that stop you. There has been a growing movement, especially over the last 10-15 years, for Christian churches (and other religious institutions) to be more ''seeker-sensitive.'' That means that there are very few, if any, expectations or assumptions of religious background. Some offer some very nice programs, especially for children and families, with the intention that you feel comfortable and welcome-- of course, also wanting to introduce you to some of their spiritual teachings. Not necessarily a bad thing, given our post-9/11 jitters.

That being said, some churches can be more friendly than others, and church people, too, can sometimes get a little wrapped up in themselves (translation: clique-ish). You should check out several different places. If you decide you like one, then I'd encourage you to try to have some kind of consistent participation. That's the best way to build community.

God bless, Jim W.

First of all, keep trying--it's probably not something wrong with you. I've often invited people over and then had them not reciprocate. I think people are very busy and sometimes feel awkward having people over (and maybe don't accept your invites because they don't want to have to reciprocate). You might try inviting people to go to something with you--''there's a free concert in the park on Saturday, do you want to meet there?'' Second, it seems from your message that your oldest child is four. If you can hang on a year till s/he starts K, getting involved in your child's school is a great way to meet people. anon

Having kids shouldn't be an end to social life - but I agree it can change it a lot. Restaurants, plays and so on aren't much fun with a squiggling creature complaining. But it's also possible to take kids a lot of places if you're prepared to lose about a third of your time paying attention to them. For example at friend's houses, you still get the two thirds of your time with your friends, and that's better than none. Basically, we dragged our kids about and put up with walking about patting them over our shoulders while snatching bites of dinners, or taking turns trying to put them to sleep in strange dark rooms (which worked more often than you might think). So, don't be afraid to keep your kids out late if that's what keeps YOU sane. Finding new good friends is a slower process than making do with the ones you have - it's like dating all over again. But it does work in the end. So, good luck and remember things WILL improve.... fiona

I want to let you know you are not alone in having trouble keeping a social life going post-kids. I think part of the problem is getting a family social life going in the East Bay. We already had kids when we moved to Berkeley, but I found it very difficult to connect with other families socially. One thing that helped me a lot was joining a playgroup with my younger child. The friends I've gained through my playgroup form the backbone of my personal social network as I'm a stay-at-home mom. However, we only get together socially only occasionally with a couple of families there. Please don't feel as if there is something wrong with you when people don't accept your invites. I think it's the nature of living here where there is so much to do and there is little emphasis on neighborhood (especially without neigbhorhood public schools and with so many kids going to private school). All you can do is keep plugging away at it. But I do think that you'll make your best family friends through more intimate experiences involving your kids, such as playgroup, preschool, and school, rather than trying to find people in your neighborhood or through classes. The Neighborhood Parents Network publishes a newsletter that has playgroup listings in the back. Some working parents even have formed playgroups on the weekends. Also you can post something in the ''Connections'' section of the UCB Parents Announcements with the ages of your kids and your interests. Finally, we have met some great families through the Albany Little League. There are two Little Leagues in Oakland as well as one in El Cerrito.

Please feel free to email me. I hope this helps! Maria

Just wanted to add to the other excellent suggestions - try to limit your efforts to only those people you genuinely like. Don't try to make friends with everyone you meet, but think about whether YOU like THEM, not whether they'll like YOU. Do you enjoy someone's sense of humor? Respect their values? Share their interests? If you do, chances are they will feel the same way about you, and you'll find your ''batting average'' improves. First, you don't want to expend a lot of energy cultivating ''friends'' just for the sake of adding them to your social circle, and second, people can tell when you're faking it. Be yourself! Fran

Just a few thoughts after reading the interesting responses to your question. I too have this problem and definitely have taken rejections VERY personally., wondering what is wrong with me, particularly being a shy person.

Someone else wrote about it being difficult to start a social life in the East Bay. Something that I've noticed which might be telling as to how ''friendly'' Berkeley (where I live) is, is the obsession with privacy fences and vegetative ''screens''. If you're from here, this might not seem weird; but I grew up in Washington, D.C., and EVEYRONE had a 5 foot chain link fence, which meant that you could see what was going on in everyone's backyard whichever direction you looked in. We knew ALL the neighbors on our very large block (we're talking big city life here) plus neighbors on the surrounding blocks. There were not really close friendships among the adult neighbors, but people definitly took time to speak at length on the street with one another and there were a lot of close friendships among the children. New neighbors were welcomed right away into the neighborhood. I don't understand this need to be isolated from your neighbors; our next door neighbors are fanatical that way. It's definitely a sad thing to me.

It seems that our entire culture becomes more and more isolating, with all of our creature comforts allowing us to be fully independent from each other and entertainment being available at the push of a button; you don't even have to move! anon

I know there were tons of responses to your post, but here's my two cents.

I felt the exact same way you did for a long time. I was the first in my group to have a kid and to make things worse a lot of my friends moved out of state due to the economy. Just seeing two moms hanging out with their kids made me feel extremely jealous.

I was in a mom's group, and I was making friends with a few other moms, had plans occasionally with other families, but it was never enough. I joined groups, I extended invitations (and even recieved a few), but my life never really reflected the image I had in my head (close, nurishing friendships with other mothers,and social plans for the whole family on weekends). I hadn't felt jealousy/longing like that since I was in high school!

Finally, after talking extensively with my therapist, I figured out that what I was really craving was my mother and sister. I know it sounds weird, but thats how those types of issues manifest themselves. I had severe post-partum depression and anxiety when my daughter was born and my mother was not there for me even though she lives 1/2 hour away. I barely see her now and my daughter is two. My sister doesn't answer her phone (and refuses to have an answering machine). Once I realized this was my problem and got up the courage to confront my mother and sister about how I felt, the desperate feelings pretty much went away.

It was then that I realized that I did have mom friends, I did have a social life and all of a sudden we got more invitations from other families.

Not saying its what's up with you, but I think its worth thinking about. anon

I just want to say that these kinds of things can be extremely painful but you should give yourself a huge pat on the back for your efforts. It's especially painful because it's natural to ''take it personally.'' In fact I am sure there are lots of parents out there who are experiencing what you are and who feel just like you.

I think part of the problem is that parents get overwhelmed with the time demands of parenting and simply don't feel they have any time to develop new friendships. So as much as some of the people you have crossed paths with might enjoy your company a lot, they are not allowing themselves to make time for that additional enjoyment because they are simply overwhelmed with the other things that seem to take their time (kids, work, paying bills, sleep!!).

I am sure it is true because I feel like I don't have time to spend with existing close friends, let alone develop new friendships. A really nice woman with a child my daughter's age recently asked me to do something social and I said no because I felt it would cut into my very limited time with my daughter. I tell you this because I want you to know you are not alone in this situation.

Another problem of course is that people are ''clique-y'' and it doesn't occur to them that their lives might be richer by associating with a range of different people.

In any event, hang in there and know that you do have a valuable friendship to offer and over the years I am sure you will gradually find that you have more and more friends whom you really enjoy and who are quality people in your life, regardless if you ever have a huge quantity!! Take care.

Adding yet another voice...

I'm a native to Berkeley/El Cerrito and now own the house I grew up in. Most of my neighbors have lived here fifty years and knew me as a child. In most cases, I have never been inside their houses. We do have high fences around our yards. BUT (and this is the important part) all of us are quite pleasant with each other. We never have turf disputes, nor problems with ''different'' lifestyles. This seems quite a comfortable way for us to live in close proximity, I think.

Social life? Ours is quite rich. One family goes to Tehiyah. (Group gatherings at the house are common.)Another family has friends over to their garage to create Ikebana arrangements every Saturday. Rock musicians down the road practice in their basement. My sister is active at Epworth (on Hopkins) and my family travels to dog shows frequently. Our local library provides listings of fun things to do.

For those who need to find a kindred soul in parenting, try Tekla Nee's column:

''Tekla Nee is a Palo Alto mother of three and author of ''The Everything Baby9s First Year Book'' and ''The Mommy Zone: Tales from the Trenches of Parenthood.'' Her column appears every Thursday in the Daily News. You can reach her with your comments and suggestions in care of the Palo Alto Daily News, 329 Alma St., Palo Alto, 94301, or by email at tekla (at) ''

She's funny, real...and very ''Bay Area.''

Dorothy Coakley, ''proud to be a public librarian''

Just wanted to offer a fresh perspective to this interesting problem. How do you develop a social life post-kids? For me, it's been to keep the friends I had pre-kid! Much as I love being my 2-year-old's mom, I choose go out without her once a week and spend time (movie, coffee, meal) with my friends, who for the most part do not have kids.

My childless friends do not want to hear about potty training or weaning or toddler tantrums, but that's fine with me because it gives me an opportunity to talk about non-mom stuff -- politics, movies, mutual friends, work (I work part time). I live and breath mom/toddler issues and frankly I like to have a break from them once in a while! It does mean my childless friends have to meet me earlier because I have to leave earlier, and I'm probably not up for a boozy night because I have to get up at 7 a.m. but that's never been an issue.

Personally I've never found a moms group I've been comfortable with and although I love chatting to other moms in the playground, I don't find that shared motherhood means automatic sisterhood.

Just a different viewpoint ... ANONYMOUS anon

I'd just like to add one more thing about social lives. It sounds like your oldest is about 4, but not in daycare. Daycare is a wonderplace to meet lots of parents, and to choose which parents you like best. For me, it did not happen right away, but when the ''playdates'' started happening in a big way- when my child was about 4, we started to get to know some parents better. So school for you will be great. But it may not start right away. Also, if your child is not in a daycare, and starts kindergarten ''cold turkey'' this will be hard- of course. It will help both your child and you to very early on identify several children that you think may ''click'' with yours- ask the teachers. Then ask the kids over for a play date on Saturday- by 5 it can be 2-5 hours. Ask the mom to stay for coffee for an hour to make sure the kids are comfortable. Slowly, you will have mom buddied. Also, I started a lunch time, once a month ''parents chat'' at my daycare, so that we could talk about kids issues. This has resulted in some friendships too. Good luck. In a few years, you will have such a busy social life with your kids, that it will wear you out! I think one issue is that when you meet adults through your kids, the adults are from much more diverse walks of life, than you have with you old school and work friends. Those friends have a lot in common with you, you kid's friends parents may not. So it takes a while. Good luck. Been there too