16 July, 2013

Why is it so hard to make friends with other mamas?

Seriously.  Raina has been going to day care since she was ten weeks old and the only other parent I am friends with is a woman I knew already, as she's another foreigner (and awesome).

Why is it?  I just haven't been able to break in.  I've had a friendly chat with one mother whom I ran into at the health centre one day when Raina was in for her monthly check up, but I've never seen her again.  The mothers I do see regularly completely blank me.  Really.  None of my attempts even gain eye contact.  One of the little boys opened the door for me once and his mother proceeded to give him the bollocking of a life time for opening the door for strangers.  Fair enough, but I'm not a stranger.  I see her little boy three days a week.  We chat together and he plays with Raina all day long.  I'm not a stranger to the mother either.  I've seen her three times a week for a year.  But she's never once acknowledged me.  I must have committed some crime on the very first day that she hasn't forgotten.

I've had people let the door slam in my face, ignore me and then if they do talk, it's just to be patronising.For example:
Her:  "Oh wat een bos haar heb je," (what a lot of hair you have) to Raina
Me:  "Ja, sinds ze geboren was," (yeah, ever since she was born) with a big grin, thinking finally!  I can engage with someone.
Her: "Tjsa.  Dat weet ik,"  (like, yeah, whatever.  I know that.) in a sarcastic way, not looking at me, then turning away.

It has taken me right back to the very early days when I first arrived in Holland.  Except now I do know the language and I'm not afraid to communicate in it.  These women seem to know all about me; where I come from, that we went on holiday to Australia for a month over Christmas, but I know zero about any of them.

One of the first things we learn in Inburgering is "Je moet altijd een hand geven," or, you must always offer to shake hands when you meet someone new.  Not one parent has offered their hand to me and yes, of course I could be offering my own hand, but that's difficult when eye contact isn't even possible.  I'm the first to admit that although I'm not great at making new friends and approaching new people, I'd love to be able to make friends with some of these parents.  Especially as our children are the same age and we live in the same area and are potential play-date material, but I feel as though it's too late.  The walls are already up.  And fortified.

I'm hoping it can be different once Raina turns two.  She'll be able to go to playgroup and parents are encouraged to hang around for a few minutes to interact.  I'd love to meet new people who share the same interests.  And by interests, I mean have kids.  At the weekend we went to a party for a friend's 40th (oh lord.  My friends are celebrating their 40ths.  Shit.) and it was wonderful.  He has a gorgeous daughter and their house is kid-proof!  We could just let Raina enjoy herself instead of stressing about her knocking over expensive statues or smearing the tv with her greasy fingers.  It was just about the best party I've ever been to.  Purely for that reason.  Well, the food was pretty fabulous too.  But I'm hoping that the playgroup will be a fresh start.  New people, new opportunities.  Maybe an invitation for coffee if I'm lucky.

Ultimately my point is, I want to have friends who live close by and have kids and I had always thought that I would find those friends via the day care because at the very least, we'd have kids the same age in common.  Instead I feel even more of an outsider.

How have you coped with making friends via kids and living in a foreign country?  I always hear that we must try harder to integrate and interact with the locals, but I don't know how I can break through.  Any advice for me?

And just because it's so cool, here's a photo of Raina getting creative with her dinner.

Raina dinner

What we are talking about

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