I remember the morning that I took the first (of three!!) pregnancy tests. I was groggy and still half-asleep and honestly didn’t think it would be positive. But something kept telling me to take a test anyway. I looked down and saw that it was positive. Along with telling my husband that I was pregnant, I could not wait to tell my family and close friends that I was expecting.
I immediately dreamed of all of my friends being so excited for me and walking along with me during my pregnancy journey and as a new mom. While some friends were there with me the whole time, I sometimes began to feel as if my other friends and I were going in opposite directions. It felt as if we were now going down different paths. Daily text messages became weekly text messages, and weekly text messages became bimonthly text messages. I talked with other moms and other pregnant women and realized that this was actually fairly common, despite how painful it might have felt for me and, perhaps, others.
Once my son was born and my health began to improve, I still struggled with that same loneliness, while also trying my best to juggle being a new mother and figure out my new identity. I very much loved the baby that instantly became my entire world and took up the most room in my heart. However, with being at home most days and still recovering from delivery and preeclampsia, I longed for those close connections that I had before.
Eventually, I looked in the mirror, put something on other than sweatpants, threw some makeup on, and decided to venture out with my baby. It had been suggested to me to try out Mommy & Me classes, and while those can be a great way to meet other new parents, there are a few other places that I’ve come across where I found other new parents who are also in search of new friendships and navigating parenthood:
5 Local Places I’ve Met New People and Made Connections
1. Richland Library
I might be a little biased, but going to the library is a great way to meet other families. Each Richland Library location has a children’s section, which is a space specifically for children and home to countless children’s books and materials. Every time I visit with my son, I end up having a conversation with another parent, or my son ends up interacting with another small child. Be sure to check out the many library programs across the system for young children, and you and your child could build lasting friendships!
2. Studio Fire
Studio Fire is one of my favorite fitness studios in Columbia (They also have another location in Charlotte, in case you’re ever searching for a great sweat session in the Queen City!). The fabulous owners have created a space where people can take hot yoga, barre, and other fitness classes, while the opposite side consists of a comfortable and relaxed seating area and a coffee/smoothie shop.
Again, you’ll likely meet the occasional new parent in a heated fitness class, or you’ll meet a family with young children enjoying some of the yummy smoothies at the coffee shop. Did I mention there’s also a small shop with natural beauty products, yoga clothing and mats, and mindfulness products in the middle of the building? Strike up a conversation with a mom and ask her for her opinion about her favorite latte on the menu or that journal she’s thinking about buying.
3. Craft & Draft
Okay … hear me out on this one. Yes, Craft & Draft is an alcoholic beverage store and bar, however, because it’s located on Devine Street in the Rosewood neighborhood, you’ll find that lots of families with young children, babies, and fur babies gravitate to this local destination.
The vibe is very laid-back and family-oriented, and you’ll start to see many of the regulars are parents and professionals who get to know each other and build friendships. Grab your favorite local beer and chat up the new mom with the baby balancing on one hip and the terrier on a leash in one hand.
Bonus: There are usually food trucks with amazing food parked right outside!
4. Lake Murray Fit4Mom
Lake Murray Fit4Mom is another great way to get moving and meet new moms around Columbia. Designed specifically for pregnant women, new mothers, and experienced mothers, fitness classes are provided to help moms feel healthy and happy, build friendships, and bond with their children.
I love that you can test out a Stroller Stride class for free, and you get to bring your baby or small child with you. Staff only ask that any children you bring along must be in a stroller. So, when you need to take a water break during your run, slow down and say hello to that mom on the trail nearby. They just might become your new running and coffee shop buddy!
5. The Park
Whether you find yourself on the playground, walking the trails, or cooling off at the splash pad, you’re likely going to run into a family with young children. There are many wonderful parks around the Columbia area, but just a few of the parks that I would go on walks with my son included: Sesquicentennial State Park, Doko Meadows Park, Riverfront Park, and Saluda Shoals Park. Fresh air, sun, and the excited laughter of my son and other children nearby? What more could I ask for?
So, yes, I found great places to meet other women that were also new to motherhood and the many experiences that come along with it, but I do want to emphasize the importance of communication. After some time, I learned the value of open dialogue and being honest about my feelings (I want to note that this is extremely hard for me!), and I was able to talk to the women that I felt were drifting away during my pregnancy.
Unsurprisingly, I realized that so much disappointment and confusion could have been avoided with clear communication from the beginning. Shared feelings, explanations, honesty, and drinks with friends can really do a lot, and this applies to all parties involved (myself included). Just like it takes courage to go somewhere new with your new baby and start a conversation with a stranger, it takes courage to talk things out with the ones you love and have always loved. I’m learning that it’s more than worth it.