We receive daily reminders that we moms are missing out on something. Headlines equating happiness with friendships clog our Facebook feed, shouting about the importance of “squads” or “clans” or “soul sisters.” But when you’re a busy mom, finding your tribe is easier said than done.
In the mid-90s, my view of an inner circle was forever changed with the introduction of Friends. After watching the first few episodes, I began to dream of neighbors who would pop in unannounced and best friends who would argue about who got to be in my wedding. But when I moved (a lot), changed jobs (frequently), and got married (just once), it was difficult to make new friends. Still, I held onto hope that when I settled in one town, I’d build an inner circle that would rival Monica Geller’s.
Well, this never happened. In the nearly 13 years we’ve been in our home, I haven’t expanded my core group beyond one local good friend. Which leaves me asking, “Where are my people?”
Where are the moms I’m supposed to have cocktails with as we laugh at the inappropriateness of Cards Against Humanity? Where are my besties who will whisk me off to Napa for a weekend getaway? The ones who understand my pain around parenting? Where is my Rachel Green? My Phoebe Buffay?
But here’s the question we really need to ask: “Why do moms have such a hard time making new friends?”
I’ll tell you why. It’s fear. We’re terrified of being judged. It’s too easy to be seen as a bad parent or a bad person. So we put up protective walls and edit our updates for fear of being discovered as someone who doesn’t drink wine and sweats at the mere mention of taking her kids to the playground. Someone who doesn’t cook and winds up feeding her children horrible things like mac & cheese or cereal for dinner (both with organic fruit, of course, lest CPS show up at our door).
The internet doesn’t help. We rarely see authentic updates from other moms. Instead, we are subject to parenting raves and perfectly orchestrated photos. Absent are the flops and failures, leaving us to question our parenting and housekeeping abilities. But the true pain sets in when you see pictures of women you know huddled around a patio fire, toasting to friendship without you. Why weren’t you invited?! Not that you’d go. You know those aren’t your people, and you also know how exhausting it is trying to fit in. Still, wouldn’t it be nice to have a glass of wine because you want to and not because you need to?
We can find ourselves in this state of motherhood solitude for many reasons. Maybe you relocated to a new city? Work from home? Got divorced? Left the 8–6 to be with your child who has special needs? How you got here doesn’t matter. How you get out does.
Yes, motherhood can be isolating, but only if you let it. The truth is, making friends isn’t easy for everyone. It can be brutal and reminiscent of those uncomfortable middle school years, but we have to find a way. We desperately need support from other women. You need to be held up by other moms, and they need you to hold them up, too. Female relationships are a necessity because that’s what going to keep us going when all we want to do is sit this one out.
Finding your tribe requires honesty and intention. But more importantly, it requires dedication and a stubborn ignoring of the flock so you can focus on the few. Don’t get sidetracked by all the shiny perfection others are claiming. Stay true to yourself, and you’ll become the beacon.
These three things will help expand your inner circle:
1) Fast track friendship by taking the time to understand what you need (and why).
If you go the store without a list, you wind up filling your cart with random groceries and forget to buy food you actually need. Don’t make the same mistake when it comes to your sister tribe (because the only thing worse than having no friends is being surrounded by the wrong ones).
Ask yourself these questions:
Burn those answers onto your brain. They’re what’s going to make the next two steps worth the effort.
2) Make the first move by showing who you really are.
You won’t be able to connect to your future tribe if you continue carefully curating what you show the world.
Decide that it’s more important to be honest than it is to be popular. Step out of your comfort zone and share who you are, because you won’t connect with the right people if you’re running the same Pinterest-perfect game as everyone else.
Instead of apologizing for the sticky walls, try asking if anyone feels the same pressure to live an overly tidy life?
Show the mayhem as well as the magic.
3) Wildly search for possible matches.
We’re all beyond busy, and we don’t have the luxury of “dating” several moms at once, but we can cut to the chase by narrowing down the field of possible contestants.
Scour your FB or IG feed for someone who posts similar stories or photos. You probably have a few members of your inner circle waiting to be discovered. But don’t stop there. Look around the playground or schoolyard. There are moms ready to be a part of your fold (yes, even for you self-proclaimed introverts).
Make the time to make new friends, and once you find them, talk to them. Actually talk to them. Ask questions and listen to the answers. Share your losses as well as your wins. You’d be surprised how quickly this will help you make friends. Showing your lows lets them know that they’re normal. They realize that their kids aren’t too wild, their home isn’t too messy, and their love is loud enough.
When we’re desperately seeking approval from the outside world, it’s easy to get lost. It’s our job to shift the standard to authentic and forget about perfect.
Your people are out there. It’s time to find them.
Originally published at medium.com