I’ve known many dads who’ve lost connections with their friends when their kids are born and the weight of work, bills, child-raising overwhelm them. But in order to be a fully invested parent, dads must work to stay connected to who and what they are.

One of the ways to do that is by building solid, sustainable friendships with others dads. Believe it or not, that can be easier said than done. I found that once my kids were born, my friendships transitioned from my single and newly-married buddies to the husbands of my wife’s mom friends. It was strange, having to make all new friends with guys that I shared little in common with other than a routine of midnight diaper changes. But that’s what parenting does.

These new friendships are important because they connect us to other people, give us a person in a similar life stage to feel comfortable speaking with, give us an outlet to get out of the house and away from the demands on our life, and enable us to learn more about ourselves.

There are some steps that you can take to begin fostering fulfilling friendships with other fathers. 

1. Search for common ground

This is how we always search for potential friends, and it’s no different when we’re six, 16, or 36 years old. We try to find shared interests in politics, religion, music, sports teams,etc. It’s likely this foundation will extend past the fact that you are dads and allow you to delve deeper into who you are.

2. Be honest

We all go through many of the same trials and tribulations. It’s challenging to raise kids and there are many emotions we encounter that are foreign to us. Reaching out to another father in a similar situation can provide us peace of mind, comfort, and the knowledge that we are not alone.

3. Go where dads are

Volunteer at your child’s school, if you can fit it into your schedule. Be present and involved in your child’s activities. This is where you’ll find other dads in the same stage of life that you are in.

4. Keep in touch

It seems that women are much more comfortable reaching out to other women via text or social media. For busy dads, it might feel unusual or uncomfortable to do that with another man, especially someone you might have just met. But one of the keys to friendship is the ability to keep in touch. You might need to take that first step in texting your new pal and seeing if he wants to get a bite to eat or catch a ballgame.

5. Don’t always complain

I hear other dads complaining a lot. They complain about their wives, money, their kids, and their jobs. Nobody wants to hear complaints all the time. That’s just not cool. When making friends, it might feel therapeutic to unload your problems on them because you might believe they share your mindset. However, that might not be the case, and complaining constantly will get old.

6. Become a vault

When you tell your buddy something about your relationship with your wife, you can assume that he’s probably going to share it with his wife. If your wives are friends, that might not be a good thing. Even though this new friend might seem cool and completely trustworthy, you still need to be careful about what you share with him. If you don’t want certain information to get back to his wife, it’s probably best to keep it to yourself.

7. Make a group

Sometimes there’s power in numbers. If there are several new dads that you’ve met and you seem to all get along, make an adult playdate. Go golfing. Go bowling. See a movie or play cards. Sometimes one-on-one time can be too intense or anxiety-producing so a group of guys with shared interests might be more enriching and more fun with less pressure.