We’ve all heard it said; heck, you’ve likely said it yourself: Maritimers are the friendliest people you’ll find anywhere. And for the most part, this is true. When people visit New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, or Prince Edward Island, they are often amazed at how often we smile at strangers. How quickly we’ll give directions and follow up with a tip about a must-attend community event. How we’ll open our doors and invite people in. People, that is, who are visiting.
It’s a different story when we’re dealing with each other. Yes, Maritimers are still friendly, helpful, caring people. But we’re also often stuck in our own routines, with our own patterns, our own social circles. A lot of people grow up with family and friends nearby. Family and friends that are still there when we start to have children. Family and friends who become our support people and our social circle.
But what about those people who move here? And move within the Maritimes? Even the parents who have children earlier or later than their lifelong friends? These people – myself included – often find ourselves searching for our parenting community.
We moved as a couple to New Brunswick in mid-2009. Our daughter was born in mid-2011. In those two years, I worked in two locations: both small scale, with no one else having babies. We live in a rural area, with no parks or playgrounds nearby. Finding other parents with babies to hang out with was a serious task.
I went to lots of baby & me classes, which were great, but I didn’t make many connections with other parents; many of whom, it seemed to me, came with friends already. I turned to online communities, connecting with other moms who were awake and feeding babies at 3am. I finally found a mom who had also moved to Moncton, had a baby the same age, and wanted to get out of the house. We started with a blind date at the mall and never looked back.
I think it’s easier when you’re in a large city; chances are, most of the parents you meet at the playground or out for a walk are in a similar situation. They aren’t on their way to meet their high school bestie and their baby. They don’t have a grandparent two doors down to turn to when someone gets sick. When you sit next to each other on a park bench and hit it off, and you take the leap to suggesting a future playdate, they say yes, because they don’t already have three lined up with longtime friends.
In my experience, Maritimers are so used to having friends we’re not always great at making new ones. And that can be daunting to a new parent, trying to make connections in our community. We need to recognize that not everyone has a ready-made social circle. That smiling and saying hello is just the first step. Maritimers need to make sure that we’re being friends, not just friendly.
So take the time to invite another mom or dad to join your already-scheduled play date. If you have the capacity to help, ask your neighbour if they need a go-to person if they get the flu and need a few hours of childcare. If someone works up the courage to ask you to hang out, say yes.
And if you’re looking for a friend, don’t give up. Go to drop in playgroups and baby & me programs. Search out local online groups. Let the world know you’re looking for a friend. Because Maritimers are friendly, and some of us are also looking for friends.