Baby happy hours, communal living: how to make parenting less lonely

New parenthood can be isolating, but these solutions are helping some people feel happier and more socially connected.

A few toddlers and their parents walk into a bar.

By about 5pm, it’s popping off; thirty-odd children play on the floor while parents, many with babies in arms, mingle, sip cocktails and order tacos from a food truck outside.

This is baby happy hour. This monthly pop-up event in Vancouver, British Columbia, hosted by local magazine editor Stacey McLachlan, 36, has briskly sold out a 50-ticket capacity since its October inception. “Demand is there – you could do one of these every night of the week,” she says.

Perhaps that’s because, unlike in Germany or Spain, where gated playgrounds often feature bars or cafes, or Australia, where restaurants frequently have play areas, parents in North America don’t have that many kid-friendly third spaces they enjoy hanging out in, too.

McLachlan launched baby happy hour because she wanted to have fun and be normal. “You can have a civilized drink and socialize and network and your kid can have a good time. All those things can exist together,” she says. Yet opportunities to do so are scant. “There is this perception of a dichotomy between being a parent and being a person,” she says. But events like hers demonstrate how that gap can be bridged, and how early parenthood can be re-conceived as a more socially connected, communal and joyful time. 

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