Last week, I was sitting on a really comfy sectional with five other women, throwing around name suggestions for my new baby girl, who will arrive sometime in the next month. We laughed at some of the outrageous names listed in a baby name book. We ate cupcakes. We complained about our husbands (not really . . . ok, maybe a little). We talked about motherhood.
This isn’t out of the ordinary for most moms my age. But for me, this was kind of a first.
You see, I’ve never had a mom tribe. I’ve been missing that group of women, that support system, to walk through motherhood with. I have other mom friends, but no “tribe” to speak of.
When my oldest daughter was a few months shy of turning two and her little sister was only a few weeks old, we found out we were moving from Charleston, S.C. to Birmingham because of a job opportunity for my husband. Looking back, that time is now a total blur. I was concentrating so hard on getting my family settled, transitioning my toddler and taking care of a newborn that the last thing on my mind was finding mom friends.
That time in my life, which was lonely, stressful and exhausting, would have undoubtedly been more bearable with a support system, especially since we have no family in the area.
I did meet some other moms, and made a few friends. But friendship these days looks a lot different than it did pre-kids. Gone are the nights of bottomless margaritas and silly conversations (and maybe a few questionable selfies). Now, hanging out with friends often consists of small talk at the park or in someone’s playroom, when I’m never 100% invested in the conversation since I’m keeping an eye on my kids, making sure they don’t jump off the slide, eat dirt, or swallow their friend’s lego.
There’s also some level of mom judgement that goes on at these playdates. For me, I always wonder if I am raising my kids right when I get a glimpse of how other moms do things. I also tend to panic when my kid gets into a confrontation with another kid. And finally, I am so beyond exhausted 98.3% of the time, I can’t fathom doing anything outside of our daily responsibilities unless it involves my sweatpants and my couch.
When we found out we were expecting Baby #3 after living in Birmingham not even a year, I admit, I was pretty down in the dumps. I was already struggling raising my two girls and working full-time with a husband who travels frequently; I wondered, How in the world will I survive when we add another baby to the mix?
Certainly, there were many times that help was offered and I didn’t take it. Not because I didn’t want it, but because I didn’t want to burden anyone else with the needs of our crazy family. I was convinced I should just handle it myself, no matter how hard it was to do it on my own.
Fast forward to last week on the comfy couch. These women, who I met after joining a small group at my church, were throwing a diaper shower for me. I was floored by this, since I really don’t know any of them that well. But when I left that afternoon, I did so feeling like I knew each of them, maybe even well enough to where I’d feel comfortable calling in the middle of the night if I go into labor.
The day after the shower, I was struggling to get both girls in the car when I picked them up at daycare. I’m telling you, running after a three year old through a busy parking lot, while holding on for dear life to a flailing 19 month old, while 36 weeks pregnant is not for the faint of heart. As I grasped my younger one by her ankles while trying to shove her big sister into the van with my hip, someone tapped on my shoulder. I turned around and saw one of the women from the shower. She had picked up some artwork I had unknowingly dropped on the ground and was handing the pieces to me with an understanding smile. She has three kids. She gets it.
It was a small gesture, but it meant so much.
I thanked her and waved goodbye. After getting the kids strapped in and falling into the driver’s seat, I smiled.
To the friends I’ve made in Birmingham: thank you for seeing me, accepting me, and offering your help. Perhaps I’ve had a tribe all along, I’ve just been too to caught up in the chaos to recognize it.
We all have a tribe out there. We just need to let them in.