I've written before about how migratory Americans and Canadians are (and always have been) compared to Europeans until very recently. We seem to have this feeling that we can just pick up and leave Chicago for New York or Toronto for Montreal, and everything will be fine. However, the older we get, the more difficult it is for many of us to make friends. Real friends, that is. Naturally we have colleagues at work, but those don't always turn into friends. (The test is whether you still get together after you have left the job.)
The Poles, incidentally, have at least two words for friends, differentiating between best friends and everyone else. I admire their hard-headed ability to reserve przyjaciel (m.)/przyjaciólka (f.) for the few and apply kolega/koleżanka to the many. I would not be surprised if there were further gradations, e.g. kumpel/kumpelka. I bet there are further gradations in Germany, too. Central Europeans are simultaneously blunt and sentimental. How they survive social life in the UK, having to cope with the Anglo-Saxon conversational stream of polite nothings, is a question.
Anyway, most of the people we native English-speakers call our friends are really just our colleagues or our acquaintances, and there is nothing wrong with that. What is wrong is to take our friends, first class (przyjaciel/przyjacióka class), for granted, and to assume we can make new friends in a new town right away.
Since I migrated to Scotland, I have made two attempts to have a social life outside of my husband's circle of friends and acquaintances. There was my writing circle, in which virulent anti-Catholics unintentionally made me extremely uncomfortable, so I quit, and there is now my Polish class. Besides Polish class, I have church, writing, travel and occasional forays into the Edinburgh art scene. Thus, I feel a bit isolated. At least there are more under-50 women at church now. There were very few when I arrived.
My hometown friend Lily suggested that I go to a local Novus Ordo Mass to meet more women, but I am such a Usus Antiquor junkie, I really didn't think I could bear that. Also, Catholic women my age (39++) tend to have complete social circles already. Women who don't move from town to town settle in among their relations, their grade school friends, their high school friends or their university friends, get married or get a partner, and divide most of their time between their place of work and their home. Many have children who take almost all the emotional energy the women have to give. And happy the partnered woman who does not spend 7 out of 7 nights keeping her man company in front of the telly.
After some dithering and feeling sorry for myself, I decided that I would stay put and see who God sent, and every once in a while God sends the parish somebody new and disposed to find new friends.Thank heavens for coffee hour. Every parish should have coffee hour, so it doesn't have to dread one day hearing, "I was a stranger, and you didn't welcome Me."
And those six paragraphs lead to my advice to the Single woman who wants to befriend families: give up your dream of meeting families and accept the friends God sees fit to send you. The truth is, I cannot imagine why a busy family with small children would go out of their way to befriend complete strangers, unless the parents of the family were unusually gregarious souls. Couples with children are emotionally stretched, sometimes to the breaking point, and if a mother of babies has any time to herself, she wants it for herself, or for girl-time with old friends.
I could be wrong, of course. But I honestly don't think a married woman with kids is going to bond with a new single woman just because the single woman seems to like her kids. There has to be something else to bond over. If the married woman is a keen tennis-player, and the new single woman is also a keen tennis-player, then that would be something, especially if the married woman has been stuck for some time for someone with whom to play tennis. However, only in chatting with a married woman can Single you find out if you have such interests in common, so by all means strike up conversations with married women with children after Mass or wherever else.
Birds of a feather flock together. With one hometown exception, my friends with children were my friends before they had their children. I have babysat for only two young families because only two young families here know me well enough to ask. Most of the people I socialize with are childless, like me. Most of them are Single. Most were not born in Edinburgh. We share the same interests and the same basic lifestyle. Orphaned by geography, I turn to two older friends for motherly advice, and childless by accident, I mother younger friends when called upon to do so. And maybe sometimes when not. And if sometimes I feel isolated and lonely, that's the price most migrants pay for migration.