I haven’t really had the chance to take my son to any of these. So S and I quickly piled into the van together with my sister and her two youngest kids, and off we went to Monday playgroup.

For the princely sum of 50 cents, we got two solid hours of interactive play, food and drinks for the kids and an inside look at fascinating behaviour – and I don’t just mean the children’s.

S had no problem fitting in and enjoying – the place was a veritable mecca for small people. Think two rooms of open space with sections for different kinds of play – toy kitchens, a slide, mini sandpit, art area, cars and trikes (complete with mini gas-station) – the works. I, however, was flailing. As much as playgroups are for kids to develop their nascent social skills, they were also invented for parents to meet similar folk and have some adult “me” time in the company of friends.

So as the room filled with more parents and their offspring, I cast my eye about for a likely prospect to start a conversation with.

Should I perhaps go over to the Asian moms, who by virtue of former location or ancestry may have more in common with the likes of me? They’re speaking in a language I don’t know and looking like a pretty tight group.

Maybe the moms with toddler sons then? Surely we can compare notes on raising boys. That’d be great, only none of them stay still long enough, running after their brood. I doubt I’d get a word in edgewise.

How about the fathers? They seem a bit lonesome in the corner. But then what if they start thinking I’m hitting on them and their wives find out and then they form a coalition and I’m banned from playgroup even before my playgroup life begins? Aaaargh!

This is bordering on ridiculous. Talk to someone for goodness sake. Surely you can string a sentence together - you interviewed people for a living not so very long ago!

But for the rest of the two hours, I barely talk to anyone else except my sister. Sure I exchange a lot of nods and smiles. Even come close to telling some mom off – her much older son pushed mine down and refused to share a toy, and she pretended it never happened. But the swell of the crowd, the noise, the forms in constant motion make me slightly dizzy and leaning towards agoraphobic, so much so that I long for the quiet of the library just next door.

In my almost three years in NZ, I have not made that many friends. A sobering realisation. But settling in – getting a job, a house, arranging schooling for P, and then finding out soon after we were going to have a Kiwi; and the grind of daily life – the chores, the errands – all that somehow ate into the time for more social endeavors. Any free time was invariably spent with family. And mates at work don’t really count – there’s always internal politics involved, and in the sales environment we operated, there was always competition at play. It’s pretty hard to let your guard down in that sense.

Fortunately for me, I do have family I can call upon. And as one of them so brilliantly puts it, when you make space in your life, something always comes to fill it up.

Choosing to let go of my full time job – especially in these times – was not an easy decision. No doubt people must’ve thought me irrational, crazy even. After all, the earning potential was fantastic. The job, on good days, challenging and interesting enough.

But sometimes the right choices are meant to be made with your heart, not your head. And if it means not only surviving, but actually feeling alive again – well then, there was no real contest.

What’s your heart telling you to do? It may not be something as drastic…but if the message is insistent and strong, it may be worth paying attention to.

(Of course it helps to have the support of those around you – so to my partner in crime J – thanks for the love.)

Til next time.