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...to give up trying to befriend mums at school (long)

(22 Posts)
sadhymnsofthesea Tue 14-Nov-17 14:21:48

I am a stay at home mum to three DC aged 5, 2 and 1. I've lived in this city for over 5 years but can't seem to make any friends among the locals. When my oldest was born I tried attending some groups and the only one where I felt welcomed was an international women's group linked to the local university. Trying to make friends in other settings, like babies music classes, church groups, play groups, NCT events (never was a member or did the antenatal classes though), library story times and LLL felt like banging my head against a wall. Now it's the same at my DS's school. I haven't been able to join the PTA because I have two noisy little ones I'd have to drag along to meetings, so that's one thing that's limiting me in my social quest.

There are some familiar faces around here by now but it seems impossible to access their cosy chatty little groups. There are several individuals I've made an effort to talk to over and over again, in several different settings, but they just a)seem friendly and smile and chat for a bit but then blank me next time I see them, or b) don't speak or make eye contact, giving monosyllabic or generic answers to my desperate attempts at conversation. I always seem to be the initiator. I can only think of a couple of people who asked me anything about me, like where I'm from, what I do, etc. I always take an interest in people and find this lack of curiosity baffling.

I don't know what it is, I've done so much self searching, and self blaming, because yes, I'm an introvert and speaking to people for the first time is really hard, I'm so shy, but at the same time I know I really want friends, and I do make a genuine effort although it may be an awkward one, not quite as smooth or witty as native speakers or more outgoing personalities. At the same time though I do have a bit of pride that's making me want to just give up and accept my fate as a loner. I say hi, but since they don't make an effort beyond that, and have thwarted my efforts, what else can I do? So every day, morning and afternoon, I stand in my son's school yard, trying to smile, trying to make eye contact with the people I still have hope with, trying to search for an opening to start a conversation with them, but mostly just giving up and going home without having exchanged a single word (beyond "hi")with anyone. I listen to the talk among the little groups around me and feel really lonely and excluded. I keep analysing why the social dynamic is this way- is it me, is it them, or (most likely I guess) a bit of both? But I'm just tired now, tired of analysing, tired of trying, and it's really getting me down.

Tell me please I'm not the only one in this situation, unable despite my best efforts to make friends? Despite shyness I never seemed to have issues befriending people before motherhood, but is there a whole different way I should be approaching this...?

SloeSloeQuickQuickGin Tue 14-Nov-17 14:28:34

* I haven't been able to join the PTA because I have two noisy little ones I'd have to drag along to meetings* So why can't your partner proactively parent?. Any PTA things I recall were always in the evening, those that weren't, they ll hadd toddlers under foot too.

I'm going to be bluntly honest here. School gate mums, they are just people who happend to have some children the same age as yours. They are NOT your friends, They won't ever be your friends. They are just coincidental acquaintances to will pass for 2 x 10 minutes every morning and every evening for approximately 8 years. They are not your friends. Toddler groups ditto, these people are not friends.

Friendships are born out of common grount, a shares interest, hobby or experience. So you may have friends from your school days, a hobby or club, possibly through work.

When my oldest was born I tried attending some groups and the only one where I felt welcomed was an international women's group linked to the local university Are you still in touch with some of these women? Do you still go to this group?

Dollardime Tue 14-Nov-17 14:31:22

I've learnt the hard way that these women are not your friends. Twice I have been burnt badly by "school mum friends" and I have now refused to get too close to any of them. I'm polite and chatty but will never be friends outside of school again

Theresamayscough Tue 14-Nov-17 14:33:39

Ah op that’s tough.

Mind you most pta meetings are in the evening you know. Ours were down the pub. Couldn’t you do evenings?

redexpat Tue 14-Nov-17 14:38:59

I find that when I stop giving a fuck about what other people think of me and do whatever the hell I fancy then thats when I make friends, or at the least good aquaintances. Stop trying with these people.

expatinspain Tue 14-Nov-17 14:41:02

Are you an expat in the U.K. or a UK citizen abroad?

I'm in Spain and I haven't made friends with any of the mums. That's probably a lot to do with my very basic levels of Spanish though. They are all friendly and a few have attempted to talk to me, but I tend to avoid them as much as possible as I'm shy trying to speak Spanish, because I'm just learning and am pretty rubbish.

I've never really been big into the school mums cliques though to be honest, even when I was in the UK. If they are really being the way you say they are, then stop making the effort. Go to a meet up group or do an activity and you are likely to make friends you have things in common with that way.

Do you plan to work in the future? That's always a good place to make friends too.

Brighteyes27 Tue 14-Nov-17 14:41:15

Sorry you sound nice OP and in need of a friend. You are not alone many of us feel out on a limb as it were at the School gates for one reason or another sometimes.fleeting or sometimes for longer periods and when you feel like this you are more aware of all the various little cliques around you.
I am assuming your partner maybe works away mid week or works very long hours? Do you have any time free where your partner could look after the DC to allow you to go to a book club, dance class, aerobics, pottery evening class or something you are interested in for you?
Is their a nice cafe you could go to with a play table just on your own with the little ones (where at least other people are present).

KarlosKKrinkelbeim Tue 14-Nov-17 14:42:29

You are not alone op as the number of threads on here from people saying they hate/ feel excluded from school gate socialising proves (few of them phrased as pleasantly as yours). I have had similar experience, though I work FT so can’t really complain if people who are there a lot form firmer friendships.
From what I’ve seen some women do use school as a tool to build a social life. For others that doesn’t work. There’s no right or wrong. You may find as your kids get older and new people join a kindred spirit comes along. So be open to that, but look elsewhere too. Perhaps back to the university - a group, or class that fits your interests?

FrenchJunebug Tue 14-Nov-17 15:16:14

YABU to expect to make friends with other school mums so quickly or at all. My son is almost 7, I am gregarious but haven't made any friends just acquaintance. It takes time to make friends and whilst having kids in the same class is a good starting point to get to know somebody it doesn't guarantee that a friendship will form.

bungle99 Tue 14-Nov-17 15:27:09

OP,
I understand totally. I found this too. It's really difficult.
You mentioned international group? Are you ethnic minority?
I have given up but my kids are few years older and will be embarking on secondary school soon.
I will be really happy when I don't have to deal with school mums.
I have made a few mates but this took years and most of them are just mates. I have also felt excluded from the main cliques and felt lonely, but as the kids have gotten older it doesn't seem to matter as much.
I hope things get better for you soon. Once the kids are all in school it will be maybe be easier for you to pursue hobbies/join a class and maybe make friends this way.

HamishBamish Tue 14-Nov-17 15:32:42

I also find the whole school gate thing quite difficult. I find it easier to speak to other parents at the clubs my children attend funnily enough. I have volunteer roles at both their clubs and I find if I have a job to do, it's easier to speak to people as there's something to actually talk about rather than trying to make small talk.

I don't volunteer much at school (tricky to fit in with work) but if this is something you could do then it would probably help. I appreciate it's not easy with little ones though.

Lots of people find school gate relationships difficult, so you are definitely not alone.

HamishBamish Tue 14-Nov-17 15:35:22

One thing I found useful is to make a conscious effort to ask them about themselves and to remember bits of information about them. For example, if they mention they are going away for half term, you can bring that up in the next conversation you have to ask how they enjoyed their trip. It gives you a starting point.

millifiori Tue 14-Nov-17 15:38:27

I agree with Sloe. It took me years to realise that school gate mums were nto my friends and never would be. Now that DC are at secondary school, what's interesting is that a few mums have gradually got close. We weren't that close during school years as we didn't have DC in same year groups but we sort of found each other and now meet - not often but often enough, for walks, drinks, coffees etc.

Again, as Sloe said, your real friends will be found in groups with common interests. What do you love doing or feel passionate about? Do it again, even if it means finding a sitter one evening a week. And if you're introverted, allow plenty of time to get to know the other people who share your interest.

Animation86 Tue 14-Nov-17 15:49:31

Sloe is right.

Honestly the school gates is not the place. I thought i had met some nice folks at the school but OMG the majority are absolute nutjobs. And if theres any issues arising with them , well, you gotta deal with that for the rest of the school era.

Is there a hobby you fancy taking up. That is the perfect opportunity to find people with the same interests and passions as you smile

sadhymnsofthesea Tue 14-Nov-17 16:02:19

Thank you everyone for the replies. It helps to hear other perspectives on it…and that I'm not the only one who struggles. It really does often feel like I'm the only one standing alone (with my kids) while everyone else is busy chatting
I think (hope) it’s true that things will get better as the kids get older and I have more time to pursue my own interests and meet people that way instead of relying on drop off/pick up to be my main social (or in my case unsocial) event of the day.

Maybe this part is my fault then, but PTA seems like too much hard work for me right now. I feel pretty overwhelmed with my kids, my hands are too full to voluntarily add more things to my list of things to do, when I can just barely manage to get dinner on the table every day and take care of everyone's basic needs while retaining some sanity.
Our PTA meetings are in the afternoons when my youngers are napping, or they take place in pubs in the evening- not convenient for me as I bf my 1 year old to sleep (hopefully not for much longer). That said I suppose I would’ve joined if I really believed things would be different there.

I don't expect school mums to suddenly become my new best friends just because our kids go to the same school, but it seems natural to start talking to people there as most people seem to do, since I’m there multiple times a day just standing around waiting, and maybe from that it could develop into friendship...? But I can't seem to even get anyone to talk to me! MAybe I'm expecting too much then and should aim for just having a nice friendly chat every now and then and not care that then for the next two weeks that person blanks me or literally turns their back to me. It’s hard not to care though when I feel really lonely and sometimes in desperate need of an adult to talk to who is not my DH. He works weekdays and sometimes away for a few days at a time. In fact he’s away for a few days right now which I guess explains why I feel particularly sorry for myself lately!

HandbagKrabby Tue 14-Nov-17 16:09:42

I chat but they are not my friends and I don’t think ever will be. I’ve made new adult friends through studying or work. It’s not necessarily about you, it’s been made clear to me that I’m literally a body with a voice to talk to whilst we wait for the kids, not a friend or a potential friend. This is nothing to do with my personality or communication skills - try not to let it get to you and look elsewhere for adult communication 😊

sadhymnsofthesea Tue 14-Nov-17 16:11:12

I do still go to the international women’s group but it’s only twice a month for a couple of hours and I only know one mum there who has a child in my son’s school. All my friends here I’ve made through that group and I’m grateful to have them, but it’s a bit different because they seem disconnected from my daily life. My kids take up most of my time and energyright now and when I arrange to meet a friend it’s a maybe once a week thing (not just because of me but my friends have busy lives with their kids, jobs etc too). It would be nice to be able to connect with the people who are around me on a daily basis even if it’s for a few minutes at a time and even if it doesn’t become a deep meaningful friendship. I understand though that I shouldn't be expecting to connect with them, maybe that's my mistake.... We come from different backgrounds after all and a fellow foreigner friend said she experienced similar (although she had many 'acquaintances' , I haven't even got that), she put it down to people already knowing each other, having gone to same schools etc. I might just seem like too much hard work for them.

bungle I'm not from an ethnic minority but my husband is, and it's clear from my accent and the fact that I speak my language with my kids that I'm not from the UK, although only one person at the school has so far actually asked me where I'm from.

LibbyLongtree Tue 14-Nov-17 16:12:47

Hi sadhymnsofthesea. Sorry to hear you're struggling.

I found that when my DC started having play dates it gives you a natural introduction to the other child's parent. Round our way it was the norm to invite the parent in for a coffee at pick up time.

15 years on (and separate secondary schools) I am still good friends with three of the mums so please don't give up hope.

I agree with HamishBamish that we also made friends with the parents we saw at out of school clubs.

Hope it gets better for you.

sadhymnsofthesea Tue 14-Nov-17 16:13:43

I suppose the general consensus is that I should look for friends somewhere else smile
I need to find a hobby to do outside the house, I'm not particularly sporty but maybe a craft...DH is open to taking a half day off work each week so I can do that

MistressDeeCee Tue 14-Nov-17 16:18:26

Go on Meetup.com and join a group of mums wanting to meet other mum's. There are lots on there. I know you said you're an introvert but you're obviously able to face challenges, talk and greet when you have to, because you've done it with the school mums.

Forget them - focus on where you'll find people in similar situation as you, with common interests, there for the same reason as you ie, to meet people.

What about Mumsnet Local, is that active in your area/ do they have groups...? I don't know, but somebody else might

What about the international group you attended before, why not go back? Try out some other events too, you never know. You sound lovely and friendly, someone the same as you will pick up on that. You may not make 5 friends but you could make 1 good friend

Hookedoncatnip Tue 14-Nov-17 16:22:45

You're definitely not alone OP. I find the whole school gate set up difficult. I smile and say hello. Make small talk but as an introvert like you it doesn't happen easily.

I have been lucky in that I knew a particular woman who lives locally through my dh way before we had children. She's one of those people who seems to know lots of people at the school and I have been introduced to people that way. However, apart from her I don't feel as if there's potential for other solid friendships to grow.

I assume it's me that's the problem as mums who I do speak to seem to have bonded much more with other mums. I wouldn't say it was cliquey but I do feel as if I'm on the outside looking in. These friendships just seem to spring up and before you know it there are photos of night's out on FB! I just don't feel as if I have whatever skills are needed to develop those bonds of friendship.

I work part-time so am not at the school pick up every day so it could be that but who knows. Sometimes it feels as if there is a pecking order in who is worthy of being spoken to on any particular day. i.e. someone might chat to me if there's no other preferred person around but I wouldn't be the first choice.

I would love to make some like-minded mum friends who live locally but I'm really not sure how that would happen.

Maybe it is better to busy yourself with other things in the meantime and join in where you can but don't make it your main focus. I understand though it is lonely sometimes. And it doesn't seem much to ask to have some adult company or conversation when others seem to do it so effortlessly.

You do sound like a lovely person though OP so it's their loss really smile

sadhymnsofthesea Tue 14-Nov-17 21:05:20

Thank you so much for the replies. Reading through them now properly, was kind of distracted before by kids up to mischief in the garden.

When I think back to how it was meeting people while I was studying everyone just seemed a lot more personally interested in each other. It seemed less about making small talk and more about making a connection. With the groups I mentioned like LLL, playgroups etc and even in the school yard I just assumed other people were genuinely looking for friendship (and I suppose some are). But I guess for many people the groups are just something to busy yourself and your kids with, and school pickup/dropoff are just necessities where you might as well while away the time chatting to someone. I guess if people are only looking for a fun easy 10 min convo, well I’m not the best person for that, so no wonder no one talks to me, ha!

Making friends used to be easy but then maybe it was the settings that made that possible- spending lots of time together, studying, etc. Being a mum is mostly just spending time with kids. Sometimes I switch on the radio or a podcast just in an effort to fulfil that need for adult conversation but it really doesn’t have the same effect as an actual interaction. How sad that there are many of us out there feeling so lonely!
Like you Hookedoncatnip, I worry that it’s me, something I’m doing wrong, or a skill I don’t have. I agree maybe I should take the pressure off and focus on doing something I enjoy not necessarily in an effort to make friends. Thank you for your kind words smile

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