Even for us who have worked in an office before we became WAHM’s, working with another person you know in the same room can be an uncomfortable experience if you’ve been doing it for so long. The easy-going, casual IM’s you share with this virtual co-worker turns into awkward, stunted conversations when you have to sit with that person in real life. And this with people I already know in real life (my sister, my friends). It becomes a lot harder when you try to set up “work dates” with co-workers or colleagues that you interact with almost exclusively online.
But in the end, it these dates are necessary for our sanity. It becomes harder to make new friends as we grow older and work-at-home parents need social support from other parents who understand what we’re going through. Not to mention the fact that networking with other WAHMs can present a lot of wonderful opportunities.
I guess the reason for this is because most work-at-home parents by nature a introverted. It takes a certain personality type to be able to work by yourself for hours and days on end. But having real life, lasting friendships with other WAHMs and homeworkers is worth the initial awkwardness.
Here are some of the things WAHMs should remember in meeting and building friendships with other WAHMs.
1. Put yourself out there! You don’t have to be the life of the party but you do have to approach at least one person to start forming friendships. And you don’t even have to approach total strangers either. You can try strengthening connections with people who are your real life acquaintances (someone in your PTA) or people who have formed a connection with in Facebook or Twitter.
It doesn’t have to be complicated. Just a simple, “Would you like to have coffee sometime?”, is usually enough. Worse case, you get rejected. Best case scenario is that you have a friendly coffee date, and this happens more often than you expect.
2. Have at least 3 dates before calling it quits. Chemistry is just as important in friendships as they are in romantic relationships. But when it comes to making friendships when you’re older (and when your socialization skills are rusty) it takes a while to open up enough to see if there’s enough chemistry to form a friendship. So it’s expected, even normal, to not feel comfortable with other WAHMs on the first try. Set up 2 more dates to see if either of you eventually feels comfortable enough with one another. Either way, the two of you become better friends for the experience.
3. Once you find your WAHM crew, set regular dates. Friendships are different when you actually meet your friends on a regular basis. It doesn’t have to be everyday or every week but it has to be often enough so you don’t lose that comfortable familiarity. And it doesn’t have to be a purely social meet-up. You can work together, go to the gym or run errands together to feel productive while socializing. The important thing is to keep the connection growing to build a solid friendship.
4. Rinse and repeat.
I know the tips above sound like dating advice but in some ways it’s better because unlike dating, you can be friends with as many people as you want and your friends can also be friends with one another.
It took me while to gather the courage to do this and I wish I had done it sooner. I didn’t realize how much I needed people I could hang out with until I started making friends on my own again. It’s not that the friends I had before weren’t fun to be with. It’s just that living the WAHM life isn’t exactly easy to relate to. And having somebody who understands the challenges of balancing chores, parenting and a career in real life and online does make the experience easier and more fun to bear. You learn more, you get more support, and your kids meet other children who share the same experiences.
So what are you waiting for? Get out there and make a IRL WAHM friend today. And if you happen to live in Davao City, just let me know when you’re free, I’m always open for coffee.