How to Build A Community For Your Family

How to Build a Friendship Community for Your Family - Episode 8 of the Friendship IRL Podcast - Imge at the top of the graphic is Alex baby wearing a small infant and her husband Michael making faces to a small little toddler in a stroller who is laughing and covering her face.

Podcast Description

If this episode has a theme, it’s this: the adults in the room need to put on their air masks first.

Today I’m talking with my friend Adrienne, who I meet with every week to chat about business. Adrienne is married and the mom of two children, one in preschool, one in elementary school.

Adrienne is in the thick of trying to build a friendship community for her family. Here, she shares what’s working and what’s not. In my mind, what she’s doing is advanced community building, in part because it’s in her own needs. She wants people around she can depend on so she doesn’t feel alone raising her kids.

A lot of people tell me they never saw their parents have friends. Maybe they were part of a local group or a place of worship, but their parents never took those relationships outside of that one place. 

My thoughts? Even if you live near family, you still might benefit from community support.

In this episode you’ll hear about:

  • How finding adult friends with shared interests is more sustainable than letting kids run the show, as kids’ interests are more malleable
  • Shared experience roots – and how this can make entering into a friendship community that already exists difficult
  • How offering small intimacies – inviting someone to your unclean house, for example – shows you’re human and offers the other person the opportunity to do the same
  • The overview of the “community conversation” Adrienne had with the families in her neighborhood
  • Investing in your own friendships, and why this models to children how to navigate and maintain friendships for themselves
  • How being part of a family’s community doesn’t always mean watching kids; it can involve taking apart a swing set or being an emergency contact, etc.

Reflection Question:

When you were a kid, what kind of friendships and relationships were modeled to you by your parents or guardians?

Notable Quotes from Adrienne:

“I used to be really hard on myself for not keeping up with certain friends or not always being the one to be there when a friend needed something. Or to just be like, sure ‘I’ll drive three hours’, but I won’t. And I know that now. Just be honest with yourself and say, ‘I just don’t have that in me right now.’ Then you can communicate that honesty with your friend groups and say, ‘this is not me right now. I hope it will be in the future. But at this point, I need convenience and proximity.’”

“I’ve found that it’s really important to be able to hang out with the parents or the adults that are around. I think it goes with putting your oxygen mask on first. These adults, whether they have kids or not, kind of have to fill your buckets. And then the kids can just play. They’ll find something, and you can weave in their other friends in other places. But it’s not sustainable to sit there and not be able to enjoy any conversation or not have anything in common while your kids are playing.”

Resources & Links

Like what you hear? Visit my website, leave me a voicemail, and follow me on Instagram

Want to take this conversation a step further? Send this episode to a friend. Tell them you found it interesting and use what we just talked about as a conversation starter the next time you and your friend hang out!

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@itsalexalexander #duet with @scottkress_ Don’t feel guilty. Go watch my video to understand what’s happening in that friendship and decide if you want to invest energy to make changes or if it’s ok to stay how it is for now. #friendshipadvice ♬ Thanks for using my sound – issawrap

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Until next time…

Take the conversation beyond the new podcast on friendship! Follow Alex on Instagram (@itsalexalexander) or Tiktok (@itsalexalexander), or send her a voice message directly with all your friendship thoughts, problems, and triumphs by heading to AlexAlex.chat and hitting record. 

Episode Transcript

Podcast Intro  00:02

All right, gang. Here’s to nights that turn into mornings and friends that turn in family. Cheers. Happy Birthday to you! 

Podcast Intro  00:18

Hello, hello, and welcome to the Friendship IRL podcast. I’m your host, Alex Alexander. My friends, they would tell you I like to ask the hard questions. You know who I am in the group? I’m the person that’s saying, “Okay, I’m going to ask this question, but don’t feel like you have to answer it.” And now, I can be that friend for you too.

Alex Alexander  00:50

Hi, friends. Today, I have invited my friend, Adrienne. If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve seen me talk about her. We meet every week. We talk about business. But that means that she has heard me for the past couple of years, really try and figure out all this friendship stuff, what my theories are, what my beliefs are. And because of that, she has been implementing stuff in her life for a while now. So, she’s a little ahead of the rest of you, which is, I think something that makes her interesting. When I talk to people, and they start to see the importance of these friendships and relationships in their lives, if they are a parent, at a certain point, they realize, oh, my gosh, I need to think about my kid’s social wellness, too. And that can be daunting. This episode, if I had to summarize it in one phrase, in one sentence, it is ‘The adults in the room need to put on their own air mask first.’ We need to model this need to build our own communities. And then as kids get older, what I’m hearing from parents is around that, like 12-ish age. That’s where a lot of the coaching and conversations and empowering them to nurture their own relationships and learn these habits and skills comes in. But if you’re somebody with the younger kids especially, but all ages, modeling these friendships. You know, I did not get into this to talk about kids friendships. But what I’m hearing from so many people, especially parents, but also any adult who has kids in their life, is that prioritizing their social wellness, their friendships or community, building this in their own life, it is trickling down to the kids around them. So if you are a parent, or you are an adult, who has kids around you, grandparents, aunts, uncles, family, friends, listen to today’s episode. Consider how you might be modeling these relationships for the kids around you, especially if you are in a building phase. And you’re gonna hear from Adrienne, like she’s in it, she is doing this. There are things that are working, and there are things that are not working, and she’s sharing it all. So if you are trying to do this, if you have thoughts, send them back. I’d love to share them with everybody else, all the listeners and, I mean, also with Adrienne. Now, let’s get to today’s episode. 

PODCAST EPISODE! Take control of your social wellness. Listen here.

Adrienne  04:00

I can’t believe we’re doing this.. I feel like in some ways, we do this every week and have for three years.

Alex Alexander  04:11

Well, three years? Adrienne, we we started meeting right before I got married, and I’ve been married five and a half years.

Adrienne  04:19

Right, but I feel like the friendship component. 

Alex Alexander  04:22

Oh yeah.

Adrienne  04:23

You started to hit much harder three years ago.

Alex Alexander  04:27

Well, thanks to you. And our other friend actually, when I had the food blog, and you just kept saying on repeat, “You know, you should just talk about the people part of this. You should talk about the community part of this.

Adrienne  04:46

Yeah, the food blog seem like a stepping stone.

Alex Alexander  04:49

I mean, as we’ve learned, it was definitely a stepping stone, but I am beyond grateful for one, you pushing me to go for this. And two, you’re right. Three years. Three years of all the backend conversations that have led to this podcast,

Adrienne  05:10

And the multiple times where we should have hit record.

Alex Alexander  05:16

So many times, I do have a few of those.

Adrienne  05:19

Do you? 

Alex Alexander  05:20

Yeah. Sometimes when you would be like, “Alex, stop, Alex, stop. Hit record. Are you recording two places? Record in two places right now.”

PODCAST EPISODE! Hear all about why I created Friendship IRL here.

Adrienne  05:31

I kind of want to hear them. I kind of want to go back and to hear where you were at.

Alex Alexander  05:35

Hmm. I should do that. Maybe I’ll just release one of them.

Adrienne  05:39

Oh, that’d be fun. Where were you a year and a half ago with this?

Alex Alexander  05:44

Yeah, I’d have to go back. And I don’t know, maybe pull some chunks that are totally unrelated to friendship. But there’s some good stuff in there.

Adrienne  05:54

I think so. I’m excited about the one we picked.

Alex Alexander  05:57

Me too. Me too.

Adrienne  05:59

Also because it’s in an unperfect state right now. Like, I’m still trying to figure it out myself. So for anyone listening, if you have ideas, I’ll happily accept.

Alex Alexander  06:13

Yeah, send them over to me. I’ll get them to Adrienne. But to set the stage a little bit, you are a mom, you are married, have a partner, co-parent. And you have two younger kids, one preschool age and one young elementary.

Adrienne  06:33

And a business.

Alex Alexander  06:35

And a business… well, two businesses. You have a business, your partner has a business.

Adrienne  06:41

We’re juggling a lot.

Alex Alexander  06:44

A lot. Plus, reentering the world a little bit after being a little shut down. And I feel like at the tail end of that, have you have be going… well, I guess I can’t say that, both of your kids names are… be starting kindergarten. And realizing that suddenly, she had friends. You were trying to figure out where you two parents were putting your energy. And I remember our call in which you said, “Wow, I realized I have I’m juggling four sets of friendships and community.”

Adrienne  07:24

And four different sets of needs. Because, I mean, as we’ve been discussing, and I think that you’ve even been discussing on the podcast, each person has friends that fill certain needs. I think you and Michael called them buckets.

Alex Alexander  07:44

I didn’t come up with that. Michael came up with that. But I think it’s a great metaphor.

Adrienne  07:48

It is. It’s a perfect way to describe it. So you have your different needs, and the different friends that fulfill those needs times 4. It’s one thing when it’s you and your partner, and you can each go out and get what you need from your friends. But then you also need to manage your kids needs and friendship schedules, as well. I think it was Brené Brown, who talks about play  and how play is different for each person. So I think she talks about playing with her kids not being an act of play for herself. But that’s an act of parenting. And so if you don’t find joy in the activity, you’re dealing with your kid, then you’re not filling your bucket, you’re only filling theirs. But you can’t do that for every single one of their needs. They need their friends for that.

Alex Alexander  08:49

I mean, I think I’m not a six year old. But it’s just a different kind of play that she’s getting with her friends than with you.

Adrienne  09:03

It’s more engaged. It’s more fun. It’s on her social level. 

Alex Alexander  09:08

Yeah, she’s going deeper into her imaginary world and they’re ready to jump into that versus you saying, “Oh, that’s made up.” But okay. All right. Let’s try.

Adrienne  09:18

And now our four year old is making friends. And he has a very different set of needs and what is play, and even his sister can’t provide that for him.

Alex Alexander  09:34

And you were saying that you’re getting ready for the six year old… She’s six, right? 

Adrienne  09:40

She’s gonna be seven. Yeah.

Alex Alexander  09:41

Seven. Yeah, turning seven. Her birthday that you let your four year old invite a friend. Because when all the six and seven year olds are off doing their kind of play, you don’t want your four year old to get left behind and feel like he’s left out, because there’s nothing wrong with him. He just has a different kind of play right now.

Adrienne  10:05

I mean, even if he tags along, he’ll end up being a little bit of a third wheel. He won’t be in on the jokes. He won’t comprehend all the things that they’re talking about from school. And also, he’ll be asking them to come with him in what he perceives as play. And they’re gonna blow him off.

Alex Alexander  10:35

Do I hear shared experience roots? Sure do. So what we’re talking about here, right, is the six year old and her friends, her classmates, they go to school every day, that is a shared experience. You know, they know the same people, their teachers, their classmates, the things they do at recess, a four year old isn’t going to understand that. And that is hard enough for adults to understand and not feel left out. A four year old, definitely is not going to get it. They’re just gonna feel left out. And I’m just pointing this out, because these shared experience roots. I see them everywhere. Well, and you know, a little rightfully so, right? It’s your six year old’s birthday. So they don’t have this emotional intelligence. But now that I’m older, right, the guest of honor is your six year old. So it would be different if her friends who are older were at your four year olds birthday, you would hope, you know, maybe they would cater to him a little bit more. But it’s… he’s not the guest of honor.

Want to learn more about emotional intimacy roots? Read about my Roots Framework.

Adrienne  11:48

Yeah. And for his birthdays, from here on out, it’ll be primarily his group of friends. And then she might get to invite one of her friends. So, there’s a balance of the age groups and the friendships being represented, and having a buddy in that system.

Alex Alexander  12:08

And you might find maybe, I don’t know about this, but you might find the older kid especially, I’m just thinking of myself as a much older sibling. There were times where I got to invite a few friends, maybe to my much younger siblings birthdays. But that is because my parents specifically saw that those friends could comprehend that it was my younger sibling’s birthday, and cater to them and play on their level. But that requires my older friends to have the emotional intelligence and care enough about my younger sibling to do that.

Adrienne  12:48

Yeah, I think that’s also partly a personality thing. So, I don’t think you’re gonna get that from everyone.

Alex Alexander  12:56

No, I don’t think you’re gonna get that from everyone. But you might find that she has some friends that care or think of him as, you know, another younger brother someday. And they’re willing to do that, and they get it. But that’s more advanced. We’re not quite there yet. So this one buddy system just lets them each enjoy the party. And then, well, all of that is happening, since we’re using this birthday party as the metaphor. Even Kyle* are off, probably with some other parents interacting, talking. There might even be some family there. And that is even more dynamics happening. Some of the guests, the kids, parents are also there, you’re balancing, maybe talking to them, or there’s possibly some family there. You’re balancing that, like this is just a lot of relationships and dynamics in one room.

Adrienne  13:53

Yeah. And going back maybe to the summer would be helpful for context. Because we didn’t really have much of a childcare situation for our six year old. And so we had worked with about five other families to come up with a way that the kids could play a couple times a week, and then we could still get work done. And I feel like it was so far out of everyone’s capacity for thinking more in that community sphere that nobody showed up the whole summer. So, we did have one family show up one day, but I had offered it up for Mondays and Wednesdays and nobody took us up on it.

Alex Alexander  14:49

So, you did kind of an open house invite. You said, hi. We’re all in the same class, I think, right? 

Adrienne  14:56


Alex Alexander  14:57

A neighborhood. And I would love to host people in my backyard, we have a swing set, whatnot, we have Wi Fi, please feel free to bring your kids over. 

Adrienne  15:10

Younger ones too.

Alex Alexander  15:11

Yeah, with your laptop if you need and we can all just quietly work on the back deck and let the kids play. And in my first episode, I made it very clear that doing this kind of stuff is counterculture. It is not the easiest. And you knew that because we’ve talked extensively about it, but you still tried it.

Adrienne  15:32

I tried it. So, I’ve tried this two ways, I guess. One way is to dive right in. Because I knew a lot of these parents already, our kids had already played together, it seemed like most of them were working from home already. So, I figured I wasn’t asking anyone to make a commitment. And I made that clear. Just that from these hours on these two days, we would have an open play time for our kids. Maybe I needed more explanation about what my belief about community has become. Because I just don’t think that anyone was ready for it. They were still just maybe in the sphere of every family for themselves. I gotta find childcare every day. I’ve got to make my schedule work. Maybe there’s also a lack of prioritizing what your kids need, as well, like your managing work and their schedules. But do they need this playtime within another kid? Yeah, maybe that’s not even on their radar. And so this has gone so much better when I’ve sat down and had the community conversation. And then we kind of know where we’re both coming from, it goes much more smoothly.

PODCAST EPISODE! Listen to “Joining (or forming!) friend groups here.

Alex Alexander  17:06

So what is the… I guess maybe the overview of the community conversation for somebody that is wondering what that is?

Adrienne  17:15

Usually, I start with telling people that I have a friend who’s written a book, started a podcast. So like, go listen, if you want deeper notes.

Alex Alexander  17:27

You can just share this episode from now on.

Adrienne  17:30

And so there’s that. The other part is to just say that we’re a family that is looking for community, we don’t have a lot of support around us. And we actually did spend quite a bit of time looking at several other cities, less expensive cities, cities where family already was. And we explored at least, at least 10 options for places to move. And we just love that so much that we couldn’t bring ourselves to leave. But it leaves us in a lot of ways without any support. And so, you know, I’ve watched friend after friend after friend move back to the Midwest, to be closer to their family, to help with their kids. And then they get there and they don’t like it. And their family is not helping the way that they thought. They feel like they can’t move back. And so, we didn’t want to put ourselves in that place. And so one of the things that I tell people is, we don’t have a lot of support. So, we are looking for families that we can rely on in a more familial way. Let’s say I’m stuck in traffic. And I can’t be there to pick my kid up at the bus stop. I need to be able to make a phone call or two and see if somebody else can stay and stand with her while I get there. Or let’s say we have to run to a meeting for an hour, and I need somebody to come over and watch the kids during that time. It doesn’t always have to be something that you have to pay for. You don’t always have to call the babysitter if you can do that for another family. And they can do that for you. And I’ve seen a lot of people having that kind of conversation to start with. Like the light goes on. And then they’re like, “Yeah, I need that too.” And then the community aspect flows a little bit easier.

Alex Alexander  19:58

I mean, I think that’s a pretty… you’re trying to keep it simple, right? You’re trying to say, hey, we can help each other as simply as being able to stand at the bus stop for 15 minutes, if something comes up. It’s not a very big ask, right? But you’re right, I think most people are trying to plan for every scenario where things could go wrong, and how they can rely on themselves or pay someone to help. And let me say, there’s nothing wrong with paying someone to help. But that still requires coordinating schedules up front, anticipating the needs, really what you’re talking about as that backup person. And if you don’t have a family nearby, a lot of people don’t have that, and are then trying to be 10 steps ahead all the time, which is exhausting to feel like you can never mess up and leave a meeting five minutes late, because it might put you 25 minutes behind for school pickup with traffic.

Adrienne  21:02

Yeah, we’ve done this with one family. At my son’s preschool, where we sort of had that conversation. It’s with a parent that I’ve known previously. So, it was easy to go have coffee and have that conversation. And I saw the light bulb go on, and her click into, “Yeah, I need that too.” And so, they’ve come over a few times, but it’s always been pretty spur of the moment. So, we’re both picking up at the same time. And, you know, “Hey, do you want to come over and have an hour to play time? And she and I can sit and visit and our kids play out in the yard. And there’s no expectation that I have to have my house clean, but I have to have everything picked up and tidy that I have to be serving a snack or a meal. It’s just an easy hour of “Can I get you a cup of coffee or some water?” And then we just hang out while the kids play.

Alex Alexander  22:07

Which is also cutting out all that prep work and planning of setting the date and the time and exactly what the kids are doing, like that playdate prep work.

Adrienne  22:22

And then I feel like the more you engage in sort of those spur the moment get togethers, then when you have something come up that really is spur the moment to say, “Please, can you get to the bus stop? I can’t make it on time”, it’s not weird.

Alex Alexander  22:41

Well, yeah. I think you’re already being vulnerable in the first place. So then, in those emergency moments, it’s not as hard to be vulnerable. Because you’re already letting someone into your house if it’s not clean, or you’re not feeling like you need to put on a big show. And they come over and… I don’t know, serve like a snack platter. You’re just like, this is who we are. And sometimes we need help with school pickup. Today’s one of those days. Can you do that for me. But most people are going to see out of this as vulnerability, right? And that is what it is. If we’re looking at my roots concept, these are emotional intimacy roots. So, you are letting someone in to your life, you’re letting them see things about you. So, saying come over, your house may not be clean, or you’re not providing some big fancy meal, I call those small intimacies. You are offering up the fact that we are all human. And by doing so, you’re allowing the other person the opportunity to do the same. Now, I think that this is super important to proactively do. Here’s why. Because it is a lot easier if you’ve already let people in in these small, mundane, everyday ways in the big moments. Like the first time, you might have to call this parent friend and ask them to get your kid from school. That’s vulnerable. And if you have already done that in a variety of ways, it feels a little less scary. Because it’s not the first time you’ve let them in to your life. I know I’ve talked about this before, but I just really think there’s something to be said here about letting people in in these small ways, showing up as everyday people, because in the moments where we really need it, it’s easier to then let them in because we’ve already done it before.

PODCAST EPISODE! Want to learn more about emotional intimacy roots? Listen to my episode on the three kinds of roots here.

Adrienne  24:53

I’ll also say that these types of playdates go so much more smoothly when you have something in common with the other parent, I feel like that’s one of the other things that we’ve run up against is, “Well, our kids play well together. But I can’t sit here and have a conversation for more than three minutes with you. I’m running out of things to say. I’m not enjoying.” And it’s hard to make plans for your kids again and again and again, when you’re just like, arghh, I’m gonna have to endure sitting here.

Alex Alexander  25:35

So when you did that, that’s because you had taken classmates. So, you would let your daughter’s friends at school kind of dictate who you were inviting over, versus you as a parent, finding people out in the world that you enjoy, especially at this age, where they’re so young.

Adrienne  26:01

Yeah, because it’s not like anyone’s just dropping their kid off and leaving them at this age. They’re usually staying around. I feel like that’s also like getting to know the parents, and whether or not you want your kid to be able to be there without you. You mentioned the auntie role as well. And I’ve also had those conversations with either friends whose kids are out of the house now. So they’re starting to be empty nesters, or they’ve chosen not to have kids or can’t have kids, whatever the reason is, and so we’ve had the discussion of how involved do they want to be. Our kids know some of our friends better than they know their aunties who live 45 minutes away.

Alex Alexander  26:51

Yeah, having watched you and talk to you, and then your friend, I do feel like the childless people in your life, or maybe where you are thriving a little bit. Because at your birthday party, you have a friend. And that friend has, I believe, a daughter in college. And she misses having kids around. So, your kids were planning a weekend with her to go stay with her and, I mean, bake cookies and rollerblade and do all the things. And the adult, your friend, could not have been more excited. And then we have another mutual friend that I know. Although maybe isn’t watching your kids for the weekend, I remember when you got the swingset for the backyard. And you were talking about how you needed help going to pick it up and bring it over. And she said, “Oh, well, I’m happy to do that.” You know, again, woman with no kids isn’t necessarily providing a bunch of childcare for you. But was happy to go spend the day taking apart a swing set and putting it back together in your backyard.

Adrienne  28:06

It was also right in the middle of COVID. So she showed up with a huge set of tools. And it was like an hour drive from here, I think, and offered her car, offered her day. And her and my husband took apart a swingset, broke it all down, got it into two cars, and then drove it back here while I was with the kids.

Alex Alexander  28:33

Yeah, which is also say that it doesn’t even have to be watching the kids necessarily, that can make you an active part of a community for family, right? There’s so many different ways to find that support you need. And obviously, you want people who can help with last minute things or childcare or whatnot. But there’s a variety of other ways somebody could step in and help.

Adrienne  29:01

Yeah, I mean, the most important part of that is looping them into the conversation to say, “Hey, you know, we really appreciated that time that you did that. That  was huge for our family. And we’re excited that you’re part of our community, part of our support system.” And she also knows that she can come over anytime for, you know, a visit.

Alex Alexander  29:27

And then I’m gonna I was gonna do a whole separate episode on this, but I feel like we might as well talk about it right, because you asked me maybe last year, if I would be the emergency contact for your kids at school, that you would have another close friend, again a childless woman, that was their emergency contact, she is moving and you needed someone to put down. And you said, “You know there’s… there’s other people I could put down but they know you. Like you’d show up at school and they know who you are. They’ve seen you plenty of times.” And kind of gave me a rundown of what that would entail, right? They would call me if they can’t get a hold of either one of you. And I just asked to know where their schools are. And then it was kind of a, you trust me to be smart enough. And whatever the situation is, to go back to your house or take them to mine, if that’s the safer place, or figure out a way to get a hold of you, or take them to the hospital or the doctor. I mean, depending on whatever they called me for.

Adrienne  30:37

We wanted to pick people that were the most recognizable for kids. And you and I meet weekly, and so even though they don’t attend our in person meetings, they see you on Zoom often enough. And they visit with you for a couple minutes as they’re getting ready for school and heading out the door, that you are somebody who not only is recognizable that they can name, and we’ve had enough conversations and interactions. We have family, nearby-ish, but our kids wouldn’t recognize them. They wouldn’t necessarily know who some of those people are right away. Even though they’re family. 

Alex Alexander  31:26

Yeah. I mean, I have seen them in person numerous times come over for bike rides. You and I do things that are not necessarily our business meetings where the kids are involved. It is not like a weekly occurrence, but it happens. So I would walk in and they would, you know, add all the Zoom meetings they see me on, they would recognize me. 

Adrienne  31:50

Yeah. And I think in any sort of emergency situation, that’s even more important than it just being family. Because if you have a child that’s scared or nervous, or, you know, why isn’t my parent here? I think that they really do need to see somebody that is recognizable.

PODCAST EPISODE! Learn about Social Wellness. Listen now!

Alex Alexander  32:10

Yeah. And that’s just a part. I’ve brought that up to other people. The reason I want to talk about it, right, that’s a pretty vulnerable ask, and I am so honored. And so many people have said to me, “Oh, I can’t imagine asking somebody that.” And I said, Well, from my… my viewpoint, it’s a pretty easy ask, right? Like, if something bad happens, I’m going to drop everything, and I’m going to go but you’re not even asking me to watch your kids for a day, a week or an hour, whatever. It’s a pretty easy thing for me to say yes to and just know that I would hold that responsibility if something happened.

Adrienne  32:45

Yeah, and it’s not a regular occurrence. We trust you as an adult in their lives. They’ve spent enough time with you. We’ve seen you guys interacting enough. But we trust your judgment with them as well. So I think that this also leads me to connecting with the parents versus the kids connecting with the kids. And as I’ve tried to navigate all of this over the past year… year and a half, I’ve found that it’s really important to be able to hang out with the parents, or the adults that are around. I think it goes with putting your oxygen mask on first, these adults, whether they have kids or not, kind of have to fill your buckets. And then the kids can just play, right? Like they’ll… they’ll find something, and you can weave in their other friends and other places. But it’s not sustainable, to sit there and not be able to enjoy any conversation, or not really have anything in common while your kids are playing. It does not make you… does not make you want to do it again.

Alex Alexander  34:06

What you are doing in my mind is pretty like advanced community building. And partly you’re doing that because you see your own need. You want to have people to depend on so that you two don’t feel alone in raising your kids. And you should not. Like you’re doing what you should do. But there is a little bit of like, I need this. So you’re just trying anything and I totally commend you for that. But there’s another piece here of… you’re right, you need to put your own oxygen mask on first. What you were trying to do was put your kid’s social needs first. I’ve talked to some other parents who have said to me, that hearing me talk about friendship and community is obviously suddenly making them aware of how are they teaching their kids this, how are they encouraging their kid’s relationships. So, I think it’s natural as parents to want to center your kids and want to prioritize their social relationships, now that you’re realizing this is another role of parenting that I don’t think a lot of people are thinking about. I could be wrong. I don’t think this is the highest priority. I think this is a newer thing.

Adrienne  35:28

Yeah, it’s not a priority. But it’s also something that even if it were a priority, nobody tells you about.

Alex Alexander  35:35

Yeah. There’s not a lot of conversation. 

Adrienne  35:36

Yeah, you have a couple of kids, and you’re going to be multitasking for sure. You’re gonna have to do more laundry, for sure. But nobody tells you, you have four sets of needs, you have four sets of friend groups you have, you know, for a family of four, that you’re going to be juggling everyone’s needs, social, emotional, as well.

Alex Alexander  36:01

And I didn’t get into this to talk about kid’s relationships. Like, I’m not a parent, I can make my guesses and assumptions. But what I do think, what I firmly will believe, is that a lot of adults now, were not modeled how to have solid relationships, friendships community. So now we have all these adults who never saw this, who have been told they just have to go out there and do it on their own, maybe with a little family support, maybe by hiring someone, but for the most part, you go do that. You’re successful if you can do it. And a lot of the adults, a lot of people I’m talking to are telling me that they didn’t even see their parents have friends, that their parents maybe were a part of a local group of some kind, a place of worship, or school or their work. But they never really took those relationships outside of that one place. That’s where they went, filled their social bucket, I guess. And then they depended on family. And that was it. A lot of people have not seen a lot of adults, right now have not seen their parents have strong friendships. I hear this over and over. So I think that adults right now, investing in this and modeling what it’s like to navigate these friendships, have them build this community, where your kids are watching what you’re doing. And that is probably the beginning phases of teaching them how to do this. Now, when they get older, and they’re teens and whatnot, then there’s probably a lot of coaching and letting them prioritize their relationships and figuring out how to nurture those friendships. Right now, with your kids being almost seven and four, it makes a lot of sense for you to just model and let them see that and enjoy whatever kids come with your friends. That was a lot. So, I just want to recap real fast. What we’re talking about is adults today, millennials, Gen X, part of some Gen Z that are starting to have kids, I am hearing from a lot of them, a lot, not all, but a lot, that their parents did not maintain strong friendships. I once had a man tell me that he cannot remember his parents having a single friend that wasn’t a family member. That is not a one time occurrence. I’ve heard this from a lot of people. So when I was talking about parents, grandparents now, having friends, a lot of them went somewhere. They went to work, they went to a place of worship. They were part of a community group. And they made friends there. Those are people that I would probably call defined friends. As in, you can normally say, “Oh, they’re my church friend. They’re my work friend.” That’s why I call them to find because you know where you see them. And you don’t really bring them outside of that in to your everyday life. And a lot of people don’t give a lot of value to those friendships. That is another podcast episode. The ‘What is a friend?’ episode, go listen to that. But what I’m talking about here is this was not modeled to a lot of people who are raising small children today, to millennials, to Gen Z. We did not see our parents having these diverse support systems, depending on people besides family. This is all new. So as you’re learning, and teaching yourself this, a lot of parents that I’ve talked to want to just start teaching this to their kids. And depending on their age, what I’m hearing from the parents I’m talking to, is until they are probably about like 12, 13, 14. Most of what you’re doing is just modeling. You are investing in your friendships and your support system. Yes, you are facilitating playdates, you are getting kids together, things like that. You’re maybe doing some simpler coaching. But for the most part, you are showing them what’s possible. And what parents are telling me is that that’s working. I really didn’t get into this, to talk about children’s friendships. But this is only natural, right? If we’re trying to be more interconnected with the people around us, the kids are going to see whether you are the parent, or you are a family friend, you are a grandparent, whoever you are, the kids are going to see. So, it’s only natural that just by doing this, it’s going to model what’s possible.

Adrienne  41:34

I think most kids can find some common ground for play. It’s not always easy. And it’s, you know, it’s not always a perfect fit, but they seem more malleable in what play is for them. Where as prioritizing the adult relationships, especially when you have so little time to be making really intentional choices. Again, it’s not sustainable to not have something being fulfilled when you’re standing there for an hour watching your kids play. Also, you’ve talked about routes, it doesn’t add any routes to the relationship. And so then, you have nothing to really go back to. And then outside of just a one hour playdate, what else are you going to do?

Alex Alexander  42:32

Yeah, there’s no reason to initiate contact, to message them about something to follow up, because the conversation didn’t feel aligned when you are there and having it. So, Adrienne is talking about shared experience roots. What she’s saying is when she was prioritizing her kids’ classmates, like her kids’ friends from school, and inviting those kids and their parents over, and they didn’t have anything in common. They weren’t able to build any of these shared experience, shared interest roots. Their only shared interest roots was at their kids, their friends. That’s what they could talk about. And she was really struggling to find other conversation with them, other shared interests, things to talk about, you know, we both like, reading we both like, traveling, we’ve both lived in this part of the state, whatever it is. You know, sometimes those come naturally. And if it’s just really a struggle, then it’s hard to strike up conversation. But it’s also hard once you’ve parted ways to stay connected. There’s no reason to text and say, “Oh, I saw this book and it made me think of you.” There’s no reason to walk up to them at school pick up and mention something from your conversation. You would just have to walk up to them after school pickup and say, “Hey, our kids are still friends. Do you want to come over for a playdate?” And after a while that’s really draining. So, Adrienne went that route to start and has now decided to build her own shared experience roots and invite adults around that she can connect with so she can model those relationships for her kids.

Adrienne  44:32

Recently, we met a parent who our daughter plays with their kid at school and she likes paddleboarding. And she takes her kids paddleboarding. And so this is somebody where it was like, great. Now we at least have just the one thing in common, one thing to attach to and now next summer, that’s something that we could try together. And then let’s see if there’s another thing that we can add on or not. Maybe that’s just the thing. But it gives our kids a chance to be together play together, that gives the other parent and I, a chance to do a thing that we love to do and to be out on the water and to include our kids in all of that. So that is a much more sustainable adult and family friendship moving forward at least for me. Like that’s one thing that I can be like, yes, yes. Let’s paddleboard.

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Alex Alexander  45:44

The paddleboarding takes some of the pressure off, right? You’re not just sitting there only talking for an hour. Even if the conversation was kind of awkward, and you had to decide how frequently you were going to paddleboard, you still get out in the water. You still took your kids. There are positives to that time. And simultaneously, you might go out, it might be agreat conversation, you might learn that you both love flowers, like you both love nature and walking and looking at all the flowers and the types of flowers and the color. I’m saying this because I know you like this. And suddenly that would be a new thing you could do. You could be like, “Great. Let’s put our kids on bikes and we’ll go on a walk through all the paths near our house.”

Adrienne  46:23

Yeah. Or maybe we don’t and maybe we just paddleboard. 

Alex Alexander  46:26

Yep. And maybe just paddleboard. 

Adrienne  46:27

That’s still one step further into that relationship and one step further into an intimacy than a playdate.

Alex Alexander  46:39

How did the paddleboarding come up? I’m curious. Was this like an after school pickup conversation where you mentioned, “Do you like paddleboarding?”

Adrienne  46:45

I feel like we… were both at… I think we were having like an end of school barbecue. And our kids were playing on the playground after we’d all had hot dogs or something for dinner. And she and I were visiting and somehow it came up and and then we talked about our favorite places to paddle board. And you know, she’s taking both of her kids on her paddle board. She is just amazing. Well, she has… she has a two year old and a seven year old or two and six. So, I was in awe of the two year old actually staying on. So yeah, something to try.

Alex Alexander  47:28

Right. And then there’s conversation. How did you get your two year old to stop moving? Like good things to talk about that you actually want to know.

Adrienne  47:37

Exactly. And maybe that can model it for my four year old so that he would be more interested in trying because so far he’s not interested.

Alex Alexander  47:49

Yeah. He hasn’t wanted to come with us. I also paddleboard with Adrienne. We paddleboard together this is one of our shared experience roots as well.


Yeah. And now winter paddleboarding.

Alex Alexander  48:00

I know. We go all geared up. We’re not doing it today, but.


Next level.

Alex Alexander  48:06

So I was just thinking, you… you found this paddleboarding. A lot of people when they want to meet other parent friends or friends who also have kids, although this new woman is also a parent, I would say, this is like a paddleboarding friend. Because sure, maybe you get together and talk about parenting. But really, you’re… you’re getting together to do this activity. And you also overlap that you have kids of a similar age and that is a thing you can talk about. But what I think a lot of parents do is they try and join groups. And this is great. I’m not saying don’t do it, I just want to point out the difference. So people join a PEPS group, for example, that’s a younger, newborn baby. 

Adrienne  48:54

And we do have a PEPS group. 

Alex Alexander  48:56

Yeah. And that’s great. But when you have the PEPS group, that is your shared experience. So, you get together with those people for the group. How often does a PEPS group meet?

Adrienne  49:08

The first meetings are every week for 12 weeks, and then it’s up to the families who want to keep going, how often they get together. So then, we had moved to once a month. And then as we all started to have our second kids, it got less frequent and then the pandemic. So now, we haven’t seen each other for about three years, but hoping to get back together. But, again, if your kids aren’t going to the same school, they’re not in the same school district, everyone’s scattered. So we, all six families, have a different kid in a different school district, or a different state.

Alex Alexander  49:42

Yeah. So you had the 12 weeks where you saw these people every week, and you shared a really intense time of life. And then it spread out and you came up with a new cadence and that’s great. But now, the reason you would get together with these people is because you used to be part of this groups. You have to re initiate contact, talk about schedules, maybe decide if there’s going to be some sort of new cadence, you know, are you going to do a twice a year get together, a once a year get together? Is there a Facebook group? Is there a text chain? Like how are you staying in contact, or people just let it go. Nothing wrong with that. But the reason you’re initiating contact is to keep the group alive versus the paddleboarding, where it is something you love anyways. And you would want to go do anyways. So, you’re just messaging to say, “Do you want to go paddleboarding?” And it aligns, that your kids can be a part of it. So, I think that the groups are great, but I just think that it’s worth noting the differences.

Adrienne  50:51

There’s a spontaneity in it, which I think goes back to if you’re gonna call somebody up or message them that you need help with something spur of the moment, it also kind of worked out that you were kind of doing the same like, “I’m taking the kids paddleboarding today. You want to go?”

Alex Alexander  51:05

Yeah. And if you were a part of that PEPS group, and you found out that somebody also loved paddleboarding, you might start paddleboarding with that person, which is a new route, which is great. And it would probably be a lot easier to maintain that one connection. Because you can keep paddleboarding whether or not the PEPS group continued to meet. And if they did continue to meet, you would show up. But then you would also have this connection where it’s like, “Oh, like, how was your last week since I saw you?” And then people might say, “Wait, you two saw each other?” And you’re like, “Yeah, we went paddleboarding last week.” Because you have built additional ways to spend time together. And it can go either way. You can find the group or you can just organically find the person somehow that shares a similar interest. But I just think it’s important for people to look at the upkeep, I guess.

Adrienne  52:01

I think proximity is a huge part of that as well for upkeep. And I know other people have an easier time bouncing over to this area or traveling over here to see whoever it is. But that’s not me. I don’t have that capacity. And so, I need people nearby. I need things to be close by and easy. Otherwise, I’m not going to continue to do it. So the PEPS group, let’s say that there’s somebody I enjoyed doing a thing with. If I have to drive to Bellevue each time, you know, something like that, then it’s not going to last nonestly. Not at this point. Not at this stage of life.

Alex Alexander  52:57

Yeah. Especially if it’s something where you are having to put in all the work as well to initiate and keep it going. Like I would say Bellevue is kind of similar to you and I and distance, however, we have our frequency, we have our cadence, we do a shared interest we enjoy, I do live near your shop.

Adrienne  53:19

Right. Like I’m already driving to the shop.

Alex Alexander  53:21

Yeah, like there’s a lot of things that work in our favor. But I also think this is great, because you just know, in this season of life, what does and doesn’t work for you. And that is so important, not only for meeting new people, but just in your expectations of how you’re maintaining other relationships. Like right now, if you have people that live far away, no matter how supportive they are, kind of letting yourself off the hook for not staying in touch, and maybe being kind of honest with them of this season of life. I just don’t have that flexibility.

Adrienne  53:53

Yeah. And capacity. I think it’s really important to be honest with yourself in that way. I think I used to be really hard on myself for not keeping up with certain friends or not always being the one to be there when a friend needed something, or to just be like, “Sure, I’ll drive three hours.” But I won’t. And I know that now. And just be honest with yourself to say, “I just… I don’t have that in me right now.” And then you can communicate that honesty with your friend groups. And just say like, “This is not me right now. And I hope it will be in the future. But at this point, I need convenience and proximity.”

Alex Alexander  54:46

And you’re pouring a lot of energy into building something you need right now which is that support system for your family and the variety of dynamics that are nearby.

Adrienne  54:58

Yeah, I think it’s important to note, we also moved to the area where at like three months before the pandemic, so it was winter. And so like, not very many people are out playing or hanging out or going for walks, and then pandemic. And we were pretty stuck for a couple years of really not knowing any of our neighbors, it was a weird time to move.

Alex Alexander  55:30

I mean that in just you two trying to manage parenting, two businesses, kids at home all the time. And that didn’t leave a lot of space. And that would have been a great time to have the support system you are building right now. Which I think is kind of where you were at, what a year ago, where you said, this is a priority. If something ever happened again, I can’t, we can’t do this again. So we need to pour energy into building what we need. So we have it.

Adrienne  56:01

Yes, we couldn’t get through another pandemic, the way that we did the first time.

Alex Alexander  56:09

I think you are not alone in that. I think there are a lot of people out there. 

Adrienne  56:15

I also think that it killed what energy I might have had. And so I think that that’s why like the proximity and the ease became so important post pandemic, because it just sucked every bit of energy I had, and I don’t think I’ve gotten it back. I need the ease and the proximity to create these relationships and friendships and to be able to support my kids and their relationships and their friendships and, you know, also encouraging my husband for his relationships and his friendships. So,

Alex Alexander  56:53

I mean, it’s almost like you’re building a foundation right now. I’m just realizing. You’re… it’s like you’re building the foundation. Because if you can build this foundation with the people that are nearby, that might actually be the thing that gives you the space to say to yourself, “You know, I can get on a plane or drive a couple hours and be gone for one night.” Because even if something came up, your partner would have people to call. He’s not all alone.

Adrienne  57:21

Yeah, and I think that there’s a definite shift of a searching for another city or a city that had more family support. And then not really seeing how that support was actually going to work. And realizing that we’d be just fine staying where we were at, and not much would be different. But that we had to be different. 

Alex Alexander  57:48

Yeah, I mean, I’m watching you. You are building what you need, which is not so different than what I have built for myself. 

Adrienne  57:57

I will say it’s really slow, though. 

Alex Alexander  57:58

Yeah, like little bit by little bit.

Adrienne  58:01

I think I had hopes that it would go faster, or that it would be easier. Or that everyone would be like, “Yes, we need that too”, and dive in with my level of enthusiasm. And so, it’s been a little bit of like, oh, okay. Well, this takes time. 

Alex Alexander  58:23

But that’s the hope is that we’re starting to peel back those layers, record things like this.

Adrienne  58:31

Have a cultural shift.

Alex Alexander  58:32

Yeah, open people up to the possibility that they could also have this. And I do want to close this episode. But I just want to say that even if you live near family, and you have a great family, with a lot of support, you still might benefit from some more of this community type support in certain ways. Like just because parents, grandparents, people live nearby, doesn’t mean they have to be the sole support system. Especially if you feel like they’re small, certain areas where it might be nice to have different support where it feels a little forced. But second of all, if you are somebody that has all that support, maybe you have little to give. Maybe you don’t need as much, but maybe you could be the, ‘I’ll go to the bus stop’ parent for a few people in your neighborhood. And on those random days, offer that.

Adrienne  59:37

I mean, I think it’s also important even if you do have the support to think about, are these the relationships that fill my buckets? Because you might find yourself so reliant on family that you’ve forgotten to prioritize your own friendships and your own relationships. So, I’d say think about that, too.

Alex Alexander  1:00:00

Yeah. I mean, I’ve said this before. I said this in the episode with Sarah. The family piece was one of the biggest pieces. When I started doing this, that I thought people were going to push back on, that we thought people were gonna say, well, but I’m fine. And some people do do that. But even people that have strong family systems have told me time and time again, that rethinking this and just seeing more possibilities, has taken all the pressure off their family system. And even if it just means they’ve shifted one or two things to somebody else, to a friend, it maybe has released the main things that were causing a lot of arguments or strife. And then what you’re saying, which is also, even if you have a strong family system, are you nurturing your friendships, as parents and doing that modeling piece, but also just nourishing yourself.

Adrienne  1:00:55

Right. Those friends that I have that have moved, let’s take the Midwest friends, as an example. They have a lot of family support now. But I see them missing their friendships. And because they’re always with their families, like they go on a vacation, and then the grandparents and aunts and uncles have their kids, and you know, all of a sudden, everybody’s like, coming on their family trip instead of maybe going with another family on a vacation and getting what they need.

Alex Alexander  1:01:30

Yeah, and it’s definitely a balance, right? Everybody’s got to surround themselves with whatever feels like the right balance of people. And for some people, that might be more friends. And for some people, that might be more family. But I’ve had a few people tell me that if I had to give one motto, it’d be just don’t put all your eggs in one basket.

Adrienne  1:01:46

Yeah, I think that’s basically like, your gospel.

Alex Alexander  1:01:51

Like variety is positive. Sure, it takes a little bit of work, but the benefits are so vast that it’s worth it. Just like having that option. Well, every time I think this is going to be a short episode, it’s not. So I think we’ll let this go here. Adrienne, thank you so much. I’m sure I will ask you to come back because some topic will probably come up in one of our weekly chats. But I appreciate you and your perspective, especially as a parent who’s trying to implement this in your… your life and your family’s life. 

Adrienne  1:02:26

Thank you. And thank you for all of the coaching and support over the years, how I could implement this or how I can do this. And I mean, I was nervous to be on here. But it feels nice to be able to share some of what’s working, some of what’s not, maybe somebody needs to hear it. 

Alex Alexander  1:02:48

Yeah. I mean, you’re you’re living it, you’re doing it, and letting other people know that it’s possible for them too if they feel really low and like they have no support and no option, and they’re wondering how they’re gonna make it through these parenting years. There are other ways. Thank you all for listening in to today’s episode. Man, this one just was so jam packed. And it was full of things that.. I’m gonna add some heavy hitting topics in here. So, I just want you to know, this is definitely not the last time we will talk about these things. Please feel free to message me. We will definitely have more episodes that involve building your own support system, not only for yourself, but for your family, modeling these relationships for your kids, balancing your own friendships with your kids friendships are not going to stop talking about it. So take some time to digest today’s episode and I will see you next week.

Alex Alexander  1:03:58

Thank you for listening to this episode of Friendship IRL. I am so honored to have these conversations with you. But don’t let the chat die here. Send me a voice message. I created a special website just to chat with you. You can find it at alexalex.chat. You can also find me on Instagram. My handle, @itsalexalexander. Or go ahead and leave a review wherever you prefer to listen to podcasts. Now if you want to take this conversation a step further, send this episode to a friend. Tell them you found it interesting. And use what we just talked about as a conversation starter the next time you and your friend hang out. No need for a teary Goodbye. I’ll be back with a new episode next week.

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Hi! I'm Alex.

I am just a person who has spent an extraordinary amount of time trying to understand some of the relationships that I hold most dear. I invite you to join in on the conversation below in the comments section below.

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Hi. I'm Alex.

I'm just a gal who cares deeply about community + friendship. Why? Well, I didn't have a healthy support system growing up.

So I built one... out of friends. I believe a healthy support system is the ultimate self-care.

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