This post is also available in: Svenska
A few weeks ago, I asked a counselor at the neighboring children’s hospital what she thought I should write about. “Write about people on parental leave who need to meet other adults,” she said. During parental leave, many parents find themselves isolated and often do not have the opportunity to connect with other adults. So, here is a post about meeting others on parental leave And what you can do while on parental leave.
I have written about what babies need. They need food, love and a little help with hygiene. In order to give a baby, child, or anyone, love, the parent must have his or her own basic needs met and feel content in their own lives.
A basic need for humans is connection, or friends. And particularly, friends of the same age. We, as adults, need adult friends and children from at least one year of age, need other children friends. An infant does not need friends of the same age. However they will need them later. So it may be wise to get to know nice parents of infants of the same age, as the children will eventually become peers and hopefully start liking each other.
How do you find friends on parental leave?
We all have children at different times in our lives. If you have children at about the same time as many of your former friends, you have a big advantage as you will be on parental leave at the same time. Take the initiative to meet your friends during their pregnancy and plan to continue meeting when you are on parental leave.
Continue being friends with your old friends even when you have children. Parental leave can be a time where you have the opportunity to spend time together and get to know each other in depth. My friend Mija is closely associated with my pregnancy and parental leave with Isak. Thank you Mija! And my two friends, both named Anna, were my great joys during the parental leave with Edvin. I miss all our coffee catch ups (aka Fika in Sweden), but know that it will be nice when we meet again next time!
If you are first, or last, in your circle of friends to have children, there may be no one who is on parental leave at the same time as you. No old friends, at least. But on the bright side, there are lots of potential new friends to be made. It’s just a matter of finding the ones you like. I have never been a person who enjoys hanging out with people who happen to be in the same situation as me. We should click in terms of personality as well. So I’ve had to look around a bit. Other friends of mine (I’m a little jealous) thrive with many more, and have become friends with all the parents at both the maternal medical center and children’s medical center.
So, go to the parental groups at the maternal medical center and children’s medical center and see if you find someone you click with. Exchange phone numbers and become Facebook friends with the ones you like. Take antenatal courses together eg. childbirth and parenting preparation classes, breathing courses, maternity water gym etc. When you are on parental leave, visit open preschools. Go to baby rhythmics or song and dance at the local church. Several study associations in Stockholm have started to have courses for those on parental leave (with babies). Friskis & Svettis and SATS and many other gym chains have maternity gym groups.
Check if your local library arranges something for parental leave and their children. Baby singing and nursery rhymes are common. When I was on parental leave with Edvin, Stockholm City Library had book circles for parents and their children. It was super nice even if I could not read as much as I wanted. My friend Bodil, librarian at Linnaeus City Library in Gothenburg, has arranged fantastic meetings “baby + coffee” with invited lecturers. I hope she continues with this.
Feel free to share your tips in the comments below!
What about internet forums?
I am divided about internet forums. On the one hand, you can find good friends there, and if you meet them in real life, everything is good. On the other hand, you don’t know exactly who the person on the other end is. The question is whether they are the right person for you to take in their views and thoughts. The internet forums can also take a lot of time out from real life. That time you could have spent inviting a friend home and eating cinnamon buns instead.
A good place to start can be Rulla Vagn (Sweden). It is an internet community where you can start parent groups and find others.
Be sensitive to each other’s children and views
Sometimes the first child can be something that separates friends. Often when I hear about it, it’s about friends having different ideas about how to raise children and ending up in conflict about it. Here’s my advice: be sensitive and humble to one another. Remember that you are each in the midst of a big life crisis. Not only are you entering a new milestone in life by becoming a parent, with a lack of sleep and breast engorgement or formula and milk all over the kitchen, you are not always your best self.
Children are also different. If you have a child who is good at eating, it is easy to think you know the right way to feed a child. You should be proud of yourself (and your child’s other parent), but stay humble in front of other parents. If you have a child who does not like to eat, or is not so good at sucking or breastfedding, it is awful to hear self-righteous friends talk about how amazing it will be just to do as they do. It goes the same with sleep, and screams.
On the other hand, offering one’s own insecurities, or one’s own failures, usually brings friends closer together. And if your friend asks you for advice, feel free to say what worked for you, but always add that it works for you and your baby, but you do not know if it works for other families.