You’ve always appreciated the social aspect of your job. After a long day at the office, you’re game for grabbing dinner or drinks with colleagues at the end of a long day. You’re often quick to organize a happy hour to celebrate someone’s promotion, a big team win, or making it through hump day.
But that was before you became a parent and your out-of-office responsibilities (and your priorities) changed significantly. Weekly post-work drinks turned into fun family dinners. And book club at the cafe around the corner turned into snuggly bedtime board books. You love your new activities but you miss engaging in the social events that your non-parent colleagues are all about. You don’t want to be all work and no fun or abandon the relationships you’ve formed just because your priorities have shifted.
It’s not an all or nothing situation. Just because the bar seat you used to keep warm now belongs to someone else, it doesn’t mean you have to be all-business all the time.
There are plenty of opportunities for fostering work friendships without neglecting your little one(s).
1. Plan a (Long) Lunch
No, lunch in the middle of the workday isn’t the same as shooting pool at the pub when the sun goes down, but it’s not nothing. And, granted, your meal probably won’t include martinis, but no matter—lunch is still a great opportunity to get beyond the office walls and get to know your colleagues.
Whether the conversation centers on work or your weekend plans, it’s the effort you’re making that counts. Maybe on a more relaxed Friday, you opt for the cushier lunch spot as opposed to the fast-casual joint you often frequent so that you can re-connect with a colleague in a comfy booth rather than just while you stand in line.
A lingering lunch with a few laughs will likely have you feeling less envious at the end of the day just as everyone’s getting ready to throw back a few pitchers.
2. Do a Walk Around, Or Temporarily Relocate
Step back from your standing desk and simply take a stroll around the office. Stop to chat with friends and introduce yourself to unfamiliar faces. You can do it any time of day, and you can chat for as long (or as little) as your schedule allows.
Especially if you’re a newbie and trying to meet people, this is a great way to get to know and acquaint yourself with the full team, particularly those you’re not working with directly. Since offices are becoming more and more open with lots and lots of outlets, you can also meet new colleagues—and reconnect with old ones—by relocating for an hour here or there. Grab your laptop and settle into work in a different space, maybe a couch or an open seat at a community table.
3. Find a Caffeine Comrade
Who doesn’t want to take a break from work? Many offices have distinct coffee cultures, and going out for a late morning or early afternoon cup of joe is standard. Try to remember: Is there someone you used to hang with at happy hour who gets as excited as you about trying new coffee shops (or tea cafes or smoothie places)?
Reach out to someone you miss connecting with after office hours and get in the habit of spending some time together during the workday every couple of weeks.
4. Flex Your Muscles—With a Partner
Gather a group of friends to do a lunchtime yoga class, a midday run, or even a morning class every now and then. You’ll burn some calories, connect with others in search of an endorphin boost, and you’ll even get your workout behind you, leaving more time for qualitiy time with your kiddos when you get home.
5. Go Digital
Sometimes as new parents (or old parents for that matter), the to-do list is simply too long both at work and at home to even dash out for lunch, let alone linger, or find time for a coffee or exercise outing. But snagging 30 seconds here and there to chime in on Slack or another group chat room can give you just the check-in you’re looking for, whenever you have time in your day (or evening) to contribute.
6. BYOK (Bring Your Own Kid)
Of course, this will totally depend on your company’s policies—but if it’s flexible, why not bring your little guy or gal to the office every so often? If there’s an in-office happy hour gathering, you can enjoy a drink, mingle with your colleagues, introduce them to your kid(s) and jet before the party really gets going (and your little guy starts to melt down).
And if your company throws parties and hosts events around the holidays, ask if they’re kid-friendly. Halloween and Valentine’s Day, especially, are prime opportunities to turn the conference rooms into craft rooms and allow families to have together time at the office.
There’s no need to become a hermit when you become a parent. You just have to think about the day a little differently. These ideas will help you stay focused and friendly at work, and will still have you home in time to answer to your cuter bosses.