We’ve all been there. You’re in desperate need of some adult-to-adult conversation, so you head to the park in search of someone, anyone, to talk to. All of a sudden, you spot another mom with rad style, a similar-aged tot as your own, and an intuitive feeling that she and her kiddo are meant to spend Friday afternoon playdates (a.k.a. living room happy hour) with you and your little BFF. It can all feel awkwardly like dating when figuring out how to navigate a first move without coming across as desperate. So, when the all-too-familiar pickup line of “how old is s/he?” starts falling flat, here are a few icebreaker tips to try the next time you sense a new friend connection.
Make eye contact and smile. You know that awesome feeling you get when a stranger walking down the street gives you an infectious greeting or smile for no apparent reason? It works on other moms, too! There’s something about pausing to acknowledge and connect, albeit briefly, with other baby-toting moms or nannies that you encounter throughout the day. It can feel like you’re all a part of an unspoken club and community of understanding. Spreading those positive vibes does wonders for your own mental state, as well as for others. Think of it like a big ripple effect. Your warmth and kindness could make a struggling mom’s day and, in turn, she might make someone else’s. Once you’re regularly saying hello to another mom you recognize on the street, it won’t feel so awkward to finally stop and introduce yourself and your little one next time.
“Do you live in the neighborhood?” When you’re in the midst of park days every day, you start to get to know the “regulars” who, don’t get us wrong, are great in their own ways, but maybe you just haven’t found anyone you totally connect with yet. If you see a new face at your local park, ask them if they live in the neighborhood and, if so, get to know a bit more about their background from there. If there’s a connection, make a plan to meet up again next week, same window of time, same place, or see if they’d be interested in a casual neighborhood walk. Farmer’s markets are another great place to scope out other parents in your ‘hood and strike up a conversation over what vegetables your kids will actually eat.
Compliment her or her kid. Flattery works wonders, especially when you feel like you’re just scraping by and a bit disheveled most days. If you see another mom with great style, ask her where she gets her haircut, tell her that you love that shade of lipstick, or ask her where she bought her kid’s shoes. Complimenting her little one is always a sure bet to strike up a conversation, so don’t be shy about telling her what a great walker her daughter is or that her son seems so happy and social.
Sharing is caring. Number one playground rule: If your kiddo wants to bring toys, they better be ready to share. We recommend securing backup and always bringing a few extra small toys and snacks to share with others. Sometimes the best conditions for conversations to flourish is when the kids are occupied. Prime examples include sandboxes and snack time. It’s during these sanity-saving moments when the kids are staying put, engaged, and can practice sharing together that allows moms to connect versus cutting the conversation short in order to chase after their kid or keep them from falling off the monkey bars.
Put your phone away. We all know we should be watching our kid like a hawk at all times, but sometimes the urge to check your email and browse Instagram is real and necessary. When you can, though, try to be receptive to connecting with someone new in real life. It’s hard to approach someone when they unintentionally give a standoffish vibe and even harder to be approached yourself if your eyes and attention are on your device. However, if you’ve made a connection, don’t lose touch just because it’s time to part ways. Pull out your phone and ask if they want to make a future playdate and then connect via Facebook, text, or email right away. And don’t be discouraged if plans don’t solidify quickly, as we all know how busy life can get with little ones.
Get real. People tend to find it easier to talk about themselves and their mini-me’s, so skip the small talk altogether and ask another seemingly like-minded mama for some advice right off the bat. Starting a conversation about something you’re interested in and going through yourself can be a natural way to go deeper, quickly. Asking for advice—be it about local schools, fun activities in the neighborhood, sleep-training, or how to strike that perfect work/life balance—can create a shared bond over a topic that’s meaningful to you both. Just remember to practice your good listening skills and try not to turn the conversation into ME, ME, ME, and MY KID right off the bat. Soon, you’ll find that opening up to strangers doesn’t seem so strange after all. We’re all going through a similar journey into motherhood and it’s a good confidence booster to remind yourself that the other “cool mom” at the park is probably just as hopeful for a new friend connection, too.