Happiest Mama Mondays: Find Your Tribe

I’ve been staring at this screen for a good five minutes and the truth is I have no idea what to write. I’ve actually been thinking about this post for a few days and I still don’t know what to write. To be honest, I’d rather not write this post at all.

I thought about not doing it. I thought about telling you all that I didn’t want to and blogging is about when I want to write (blah, blah) and since I really didn’t want to write this one I wasn’t going to. And that would have been that. I know none of you would have cared, in fact I’m sure you’d all have been very supportive of me.

I should write it though. Not because I said I would or because I feel some sense of obligation, but for the simple fact that I don’t want to. If I don’t want to write this post this badly, there must be a good reason.

And there is. I don’t want to write about finding my tribe because I haven’t yet and it makes me feel really depressed. There, I’ve said it, turns out I’m shit at finding my tribe. At least in real life.

I read this chapter last week and I have to say, it was the first in which I was disappointed. While she has some good advice and useful tips, Ms. Francis doesn’t really address how difficult finding one’s tribe can be. I remember at one point her saying that if you attempt to get together and it doesn’t work out, try, try again. Yeah, that’s great, but what if you’ve tried, tried, tried and tried and it never works. What happens then?

The chapter starts with a list of must-have friends. Every mother’s companion-arsenal should include the there-when-you-need-her friend, the pal whose life circumstances mirror you own, the veteran who’s a few steps ahead and can give great advice (and put things in perspective), the friend who will always tell you the truth and the friend-sans-spawn who can actually meet you for drinks at night. I think all of these friends sound great to have and I would love to enjoy women in my life who fit any of these roles. Heck, I’d love just one friend who lives in the general vicinity (because I do have some who live farther away) and wouldn’t be surprised to see my name on her caller ID if I needed to talk.

The “Making friends 101” section does have some good advice for finding new friends. She recommends tapping such resources as the parent-teacher organization at your kids’ school or mingling with other moms at sports games. If your kids are younger, like mine, the author recommends finding a mother’s group to connect with women who have similarly-aged babies and toddlers. Some places to look for mothers groups are hospitals, local baby boutiques and online forums.

I have to admit, I found this section to be a little frustrating. As someone who has been a part of many mothers groups, one that I even organized myself, I was woefully disappointed to find they all resulted in zero friendships. Despite spending hours with some of these women, and even being invited to a few of their kid’s birthday parties, I would not call any of them friends. I’ve never once called them to chat nor considered asking them for a favor. And while I’ve tried to initiate get togethers what feels like an infinite number of times they rarely work out (and no one has EVER initiated a get together with me). Even when a mother seems interested in getting together for a walk or a jaunt at the local playground the scheduling seems all but impossible. After months of trying to connect with moms in my area (both during maternity leave and after I went back to work) and having nothing to show for it I finally gave up. It’s a lot less painful to stare at a silent phone when you haven’t left any voicemails.

This past week, as an attempt to have something positive to write for this post, I decided that I was going to reengage the mothers of the group I started during my maternity leave. My earlier suggestions of a book club had been enthusiastically shot down so I went for something more simple and less labor intensive – I invited all of them over for a wine and cheese night at my place. A week later I’ve received two (of eight) responses. One yes and one no. So I guess if that one woman wants to come over by herself we can get together, but still, it’s not what I was hoping for, or expecting.

I found the sections on not creating a clique and “putting the ‘end’ in friend” to be pretty unnecessary for me. I don’t have to worry about getting cliquey with the friends I don’t have and I’ve always been a pretty inclusive person anyway. And while I have had to put the kibosh on past friendships I really don’t anticipate any overly eager new acquaintances at this point. Maybe I should send that paragraph to all the mothers I invited to the wine and cheese night so they can better avoid me until I stop pestering them.

For some reason I did appreciate the section on how to be a good friend. While I think I am quite considerate and I know I can be thoughtful, there were a few good ideas I might use if I ever end up finding someone who’s interested in getting to know me. I look forward to texting my friend from the grocery store to see if she needs anything or helping her fold laundry or doing things around the house. Maybe some day. A girl can dream.

There was one piece of information that I felt was relavant to me at this particular (friendless) stage in my life. While the author recognizes how powerful a tool the internet can be to strike up and nurture relationships, she warns against getting so involved in online friendships as to neglect your IRL posse. I sometimes wonder if maybe I’d be more inclined to find IRL friends if I didn’t have my URL buddies to placate me. I mean, without all of you I’d be totally and utterly alone (well almost) and I’d pretty much have to find someone nearby to hang out with. If I’ve taken anything away from this chapter it’s that maybe I need to be trying harder to make friends IRL, even though I don’t know what other avenues to explore.

I wish I had something more positive to say about this chapter. I ache to tell you how awesome finding your tribe can be, but I can’t, because I haven’t. I have met some really wonderful people through my blog and I do now have two amazing friends who don’t live too far away. But I know that when a distance of 30+ minutes separates you and someone you enjoy, you’re not going to see them much even if you’d both love to.

I have found motherhood to be so isolating. I’ve lost or become distant with almost all my childfree friends (and almost all my friends are childfree) and I find it almost impossible to meet and stay connected with other moms. Maybe as Isa get’s older it will become easier. Maybe it will always be this hard. The truth is I really don’t know, I can only hope for a future rich with friends despite a present in which they are sorely lacking.

13 responses

  1. Aww, hun, I just want to give you a big hug. It sucks, it really does. I feel like I don’t have a cohesive group of friends either, at least not ones that I could call up with an issue..and most of my friends in the area are through my husband while all my old close friends have faded since they’re far away.

    I would love to come over for a wine and cheese night, that sounds amazing. I hope that the responses suddenly start to come in and you end up with a great turnout. Maybe the women are trying to arrange babysitters for their children?

    I’m lost on how to do this as an adult too. the only time I had an easy time making female friends was in college, besides that, apparently I’m horrible at it.

    • I’ve always been pretty shitty at it too. Even in high school and college most of my friends were guys. Funny how it’s harder to be good friends with them as you get older (at least that has been my experience).

      I don’t think the moms are going to email me back about getting together and that is okay. This is officially the last time I reach out to that particular group. I guess I need to find some different people who are interested in making connections, because these women obviously aren’t. At least not with me.

  2. I am also so sorry. And I’m with Al- a wine and cheese night sounds amazing! How rude that the majority didn’t even respond.

    I think you are right- I think it will get easier as Isa gets older and starts having a social group of her own- you will probably fall into friendships with those other moms.

    What is the reason you aren’t hanging out with your childless friends anymore? I’m just curious. Is it a time issue or is it that you (or they) don’t feel like you have enough in common anymore?

    • I know, right? It is rude. I feel like people are kind of rude these days. I feel like the internet give people the right to inconsiderate – at least a lot of people seem to feel that way.

      I hope it does get easier when Isa gets her own social group. She is very social. If anyone can find me a few friends is’t that girl. 😉

      As for the childless friends, the reality is I don’t have that many of them. Many of them are guys and that seems to be harder to do as we get older. The few that are girls don’t live up in the city, they are almost all on the peninsula which isn’t too far but far enough. Sometimes I see them but I feel like I just have nothing to say to them anymore. And it’s not even because of having Isa, it was happening long before she came along. We’ve just changed a lot in the 10+ years since we’ve hung out frequently.

      My good girlfriends all live far away and distance has changed our relationship (emotional distance, not physical). I’m trying hard to reconnect with them, as my loss is one of the big things that created wedges between us, but it’s hard. We have very different lives and passions. The things we used to bond over are gone and it’s hard to find something new to base a friendship on. There are only so many times you can relive past glories.

  3. I’ve been thinking about this post all day. While I think Ms. Francis has some helpful suggestions, I don’t think you should beat yourself up if they don’t work.

    When I lived in the city, I had pretty much the same problems as you. There are some unique challenges of living in SF and trying to make friends, that I found:

    1. SF is a transitory city. The vast majority see their sojourn there with kids as temporary, until they can move to the suburbs or somewhere else. So they are reluctant to put the time into what they see as a temporary friendship.
    2. A lot of people have relationships already with other moms, either people they worked with or friends from before. Those relationships take precedence.
    3. There is something ABOUT living in SF. I never have had more difficulty making friends anywhere, either before kids or after. Maybe it’s the transitory element in general. I’m not sure, or maybe city living in general. But it doesn’t feel very friendly to me. And I’m FROM here!
    4. A lot of people who live there either choose to live child-free or put off having kids until their mid-thirties. So there may not be very many people your age who are moms around. Now, obvs that’s not a problem in terms of making friends, as WE are friends 🙂 But it might be one more obstacle.

    It wasn’t until the kids went to preschool that I was able to make a few good friends. And that’s because you see these people every single day. Eventually you form bonds.

    Kudos to you for really putting yourself out there and trying.

    • Strangely, it makes me feel better that you had similar difficulties finding friends in SF. I think you’re right, it is a transitory city, especially when people have kids, SO MANY OF THEM MOVE AWAY! It’s not so bad when they have younger kids but as soon as they hit school age they all leave. It’s crazy. I just read a bunch of articles about it. San Francisco has less kids per capita than almost all major metropolitan areas in the US. It’s nuts.

      I have heard that when your kids are older it is easier. I guess I’ll just hang on and hope for that. I do worry that by the time she’s that old it will be even hard to find people around here with kids. I worry they will have all left. I guess we’ll see.

  4. I sympathize. I moved to my city 3 years ago and I don’t have any friends here except one person I went to high school with and one I met on twitter. I can’t even seem to make the kind of calling/texting twitter or blog friends that everyone else seems to have. At least I still have good friends in my hometown, even if I rarely see them. I really hope you find your tribe someday, somehow : )

    • Ugh, that sucks. Three years in a city without good friends would be realyl hard. I seem to have enough “acquaintance friends” to get by without going crazy. I can’t imagine how hard it would be without them.

      I also don’t really have the call/text blog friends that I’ve seen some people make. I do have two blog friends that I met and I do call/text them some, but I’ve never called or texted a blog friend that I haven’t met. I have gchatted with a few of them though. That is nice.

      I hope you find your tribe. It is so much harder than I thought it would be to maintain adult friendships. I always wondered why my mom didn’t have any friends – now I know! It’s damn hard! I hope we both find our tribes. I wish we lived closer and could make our own tribe together!

  5. Maybe you could combine your internet friend success with your IRL search. I found a great group of like minded and local mom friends through a FB group. Perhaps a search of your area + moms + something relevant to you and your philosophies could result in some wonderful friendships. Like internet dating for play dates!

    • I did find that mothers group that I created through a local (and very large) online mother’s group. They have a huge message board and thousands of members in the city. I have met quite a few women through there but I’ve rarely, if ever, connected with anyone more than once. I’m getting kind of tired of the meet and greet play date. I’ve introduced myself and my daughter so many times this past year and it’s hard to have nothing to show for that. But maybe if I keep doing it I will find that one person who fits. Maybe.

  6. I want to give you a hug here, too, and say that I’d be happy to come over for wine and cheese if I were local! I’m with Sarah … sometimes it takes longer than a year. One thing that really helped me, oddly enough, was organized religion. While I’ve never been a fan of dogma, joining a UU fellowship with some young families has helped me to find women–and friends–who share my values in a way that many of the other SAHMs (or even WOHMs) on my block and in my town don’t, exactly. It’s less that we share an interest in activities, and more that we share goals for what we want our children to be … which makes getting together for shared activities easier.

    However you do it, it’s NOT easy, though!

  7. I want to come to your wine and cheese party… 😦

    I’m experiencing the exact same thing here in the south in the suburbs. My problem is that I have NOTHING in common with my mommy friends. (They are all conservative, closed-minded, very religious, exactly what you’d expect to find in Birmingham). The thing is, they’re great women and awesome moms…but I just feel like the conversation doesn’t flow. On the other hand, with my childless friends (you know, the people we choose to spend time with because we have everything in common but our kids!)– we can talk forever about everything… that is, until Liam needs a diaper change, a snack, a nap, etc. I have a few that are very baby friendly and never make me feel bad for needing to tend to him…but I still feel like the odd one out since I’m the only one with a baby. (And just a note: No one in our group wants a baby right now.)

    It’s so tough– I have one sweet girl bringing her baby over to play tomorrow. She’s a former co-worker and while I like her, we really don’t have anything in common except for our kids. To me, playdates should be just as much about mommy being socially stimulated, as it is about baby! I’m glad that Liam will have a playmate for the day (he needs to be socialized more) but this is not my tribe.

    BY. ANY. MEANS.

  8. This is something I’ve struggled with a lot since I moved here, and before when I lived in Providence (so basically every since college). I’ve actually given up trying to find it and tried to take solace in the fact my tribe just happens to be spread out across the country. It’s not as ideal, but I know the people I’ve met here (up here, not you!) just don’t compare to that tribe and I know in my heart of hearts, that they will NEVER be what they are to me. So I feel like it’s not even worth it. Like you said, I would absolutely love to have the friend that I could text to see if they need anything or go over to fold their laundry, but I just don’t feel like I’m going to find it at this point in my life. At least, I don’t feel like I can actively look for it. Those women in my past that have turned into that for me, just happened by chance. But then again, things were different then I guess.

    You know what stinks? I honestly feel that connection with you and Jjiraffe….but we can’t have that kind of relationship because of distance (damnit!). So maybe we can all convince our husbands that we should all move to the same town? How’s that sound?

    And actually, I just read her comment and it reminded me that my sister didn’t find her tribe until my nephew went to kindergarten, and now she has such a great friends that she’s met through them….but it took that long. So I guess we should try and retain some sort of hope.

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