Once upon a time, within the span of a month, my life changed.
An abridged version of the story fits easily into haiku:
Had my first baby.
Quit my job.
Moved to the Midwest.
But the dirt is in the details, rounding out the narrative like a drop of ink in a clear glass of water.
My first baby came via emergency c-section while we were still living in New York City. The surgery left me in shock. Literally. There was an issue with blood loss coupled with the unfortunate discovery my body doesn’t respond well to traditional surgical pain medication, so the sensations I experienced during my operation and the immediate recovery were met with the equivalent of a Tylenol, a cold compress and a look of sympathy from everyone standing around me. Ouch.
Two weeks later, still weak with anemia and feeling like a crumbling, dried out shell, I waved good-bye to beloved friends and colleagues and took a cab with my husband, my newborn and our cat to JFK with one-way tickets to Minneapolis.
It was as though I blinked only to find myself away from nearly everything I held close – friends, familiarity, a job I loved and the city whose pulse I still feel in my heartbeat – to a townhouse in Fridley that hit its prime in roughly 1972.
Needless to say. My thirties were off to a rough start.
But as life settled down and I slowly came out of the fog of upheaval, I realized I was a new mom in a new city with no friends. And to top it off, I’m not from here. So, I didn’t have the fallback option of hanging out with my entire pre-school class from 1984. (No offense if that’s you. Cool! I’m so happy for you! But some of us imports still need to find our people…) And how on earth does a non-native introvert go about making that happen?
A year into my new life, I had gone back to my career, working remotely. My son had grown into an almost toddler and proven himself to be one of those rare birds born as a very laid back sixty-five-year-old adult in baby form. I had rediscovered a closeness with some of my family who also migrated to the Twin Cities over the years. But I didn’t have friends. Thus, I found myself bellied up to a table at a local moms’ group one Wednesday morning feeling like an awkward robot with a mannequin-esque smile plastered on my face. I was the poster child for postpartum desperation. And even though a morning moms club wasn’t (isn’t) my natural habitat, I showed up every single week, deciding to lean in and keep going just in case I found a friend.
Now before you start smiling and thinking you know the end of this story – Moms groups are the answer! – hold on a moment. Because in truth, I didn’t magically find myself with 17 new best friends forever after a few weeks of attending. In fact, I remember a year in thinking ‘what the *#%& is wrong with me?!’ that I am incapable of finding ONE FRIEND. One good friend. Not women I recognized enough to smile at each week while we chatted about the weather, nipple chafing and diaper blowouts. But a true, authentic, deep relationship. Someone who saw ME.
But, like so often in life, just before a final eye roll on the entire experience everything changed.
I overheard some women chatting about the struggle to make friends as an adult and my ears actually swiveled around like a cat trying to nonchalantly track a mouse to better eavesdrop. And in that moment one of them said the most profound statement. She said, “…just be the friend you want. Who cares if they think you’re weird? At least you tried and eventually, you’ll find your people.”
I was floored, because she was right. The biggest hurdle so many of us face in making mom friends is fear.
Fear of what she thinks when you introduce yourself at the gym.
Fear she’ll say “no thanks” when you ask her to grab coffee or have a playdate.
Fear she’ll roll her eyes when you tap her on the shoulder in line at the grocery store and tell her you noticed how beautiful she looks today.
Fear she’ll refuse to schedule a dinner date.
Fear she’ll judge you.
Fear she’ll … what? Yell at you? Turn around and run away? Gossip to her friends about the strange mom who tried to connect with her? Because really… none of those things are likely to happen. And in any case, who cares if they do? If she thinks you’re weird, she’s not your people. If she says “no,” it wasn’t meant to be. Not everyone is going to like you in life. And that’s okay. Because when you push through the fear and the discomfort and continue to put yourself out there to be the friend to others you wish for yourself, magic can happen.
And if I can do it, so can you. I don’t make friends easily. I just don’t. I’m an introvert to the core. Can I fake it? Yes. Do people generally tend to like me? Sure. But do they ever really know me? Not usually. Because I can be awkward. I struggle with social anxiety and PTSD. (A fun souvenir from a trauma.) And I simply struggle to make deep, authentic friendships because I don’t trust people easily. It’s just how I roll.
But the times I’ve stepped outside of myself to be the person I wish others could be for me, I’ve found my people. I’ve suddenly realized, I have friends. I have found my tribe. And a tribe of mothers is a fiercely wonderful thing to experience. So be brave. Be the friend you want to have and watch your life unfold like a flower turning towards the sun.
Let’s be mom friends.
Don’t know where to start? Here are some things I’ve actually done in an effort to find my people. Add your ideas in the comments and let’s make some friends!
- Smile and say hello.
- Introduce yourself and make a connection.
- Use the school directory to look up moms from your kids’ classes at school, invite them for coffee or a playdate.
- Share a table at Starbucks. I’m serious, ask to plop down across from her.
- Attend a local Moms Group.
- Attend community events in your neighborhood.
- Visit the library and ask other moms if their kids can join in as you read aloud to yours.
- Talk to people. If something strikes me about someone, I tell them. “Your hair is beautiful… Tell me where your bag is from!…” It may sound superficial, but sometimes we have to swim in the shallow end to get to the deep end.
- Offer to bring a harried mom you notice at a playgroup or church or work a meal or coffee.
- Start a monthly gathering – book club, wine club, shopping club. Basically any activity and slap the word “club” on the end. You’ll be surprised who turns up if you just invite them.
- Interact on social media. Comment, encourage, connect. It can turn into real life.
- Volunteer with your kids.