“Mom! I found gum! I pulled it off the ground!”
I could feel the color drain from my face as my jaw dropped. My new friend stifled her giggles semi-successfully, and I panicked and made him spit it out.
She grinned and said, “Don’t worry: my kids do that stuff ALL THE TIME.” I smiled back sheepishly and thanked her. It was the birth of a mama connection.
CS Lewis once said “Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one.’” I don’t think Lewis was talking about two moms at a park bonding over the fact that both their toddlers picked their nose and ate it (also true story), but I think his theory is right on. In order to survive this season of raising little people into big people, we need other mamas. We need girls who really understand what it’s like to love these little humans SO MUCH, and yet be SO DONE with the poopy blow-outs and goldfish crackers stuck to your bare feet.
We need a mama tribe.
But how do you get one? Especially if you find yourself distanced (emotionally or geographically) from your pre-baby besties, it can be overwhelming to think about making new friends. Here are a few simple tips to help you build your mama tribe, one friend at a time.
Be the first
Be the first to smile. Be the first to say hello. Be the first to give a compliment. Have you ever been standing near another mom at the playground and both of you are talking to your kids, but you never make eye contact or acknowledge each other? She could be your future best friend, but you’ll never know unless you get past the awkwardness and just be the first. Even if it doesn’t blossom into true friendship, chances are, that mama will love some adult company while she’s pushing her toddler on the swing. There’s a great quote floating around lately: “Your vibe attracts your tribe.” If you are looking for fun, friendly mama friends, BE a fun, friendly mama!
Sometimes when I am first getting to know another mama, I have a tendency to accentuate anything we have in common. If she’s a runner, I talk about that one 5K I did (even though it was 2 years ago and I hate running.) Or if she loves the Bachelor, I’ll talk about the single episode I saw last season. But this isn’t doing either of us any favors! (Especially when she invites me to run a half marathon with her.) Be confident in who you are! You, just as you are, are ENOUGH. The strongest bond in your mama tribe will be your love for your children, not necessarily your hobbies or entertainment preferences. Any differences will just add flavor to your relationship!
After a few play-dates, we can usually tell if another mom is tribe-material. If you truly desire to build close friendships, it’s time to be the kind of friend you want to have. You have to be vulnerable with your new pal. Be honest about a struggle you are having with one of your kiddos, or tell her a fear you have about parenthood. Are you finding it difficult to balance work and home life? Share that with her. Chances are she’s got some struggles too, and will be grateful to find someone who GETS IT. Move past the glossy Instagram pics of you and your smiley kids and get real about the challenges and joys of being a mommy.
The kind of moms we need in our tribe are the soul-sister kind, the kind you can panic-text at 10 p.m. and she’ll be at your door with an Oreo cookie blizzard and a shoulder to cry on. That kind of friendship doesn’t happen overnight. Don’t give up on those casual acquaintances, especially if you see potential for something more. The investment of your time and your heart can reap amazing rewards.
And if you see a little boy eating boogers or dirty gum, go over to his mom and say, “Yours do that too? I thought mine was the only one!” She’ll love you forever and claim you for her tribe.