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Four Ways to Build Your Mama Tribe

4-Ways-To-Build-Your-Mama-Tribe-3A few weeks ago, I was chatting with a mom I had just met at a basketball game, when my preschooler ran up, chomping away on something I had not given him.

“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.YourMamaTribe1

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!

YourMamaTribe3Be yourself

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!

Be vulnerable

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. mama tribe, mom support,

And lastly…

Be patient  

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.

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11 Responses to Four Ways to Build Your Mama Tribe

  1. Shmargs March 26, 2015 at 6:47 pm #

    any tips for finding your tribe when you are a renter, not able to buy a home in Portland, not sure you will be able to pay your rent after your landlords raise it again, so you don’t know if the moms you meet at the park will be your neighbors this time next year? Or what about if you are the youngest mom at the park because you had your baby as a teenager? Or what if you are the only single mom at the park, and you are having a hard time finding anything in common with the moms whose husbands pitch in at home?

    These have been my experiences as a Portland mom, and even though I am now married, and a bit more financially solvent than I was when I first came into motherhood (though still and probably forever a renter), I still find it incredibly hard to find a tribe here. I feel like it’s what I imagine rushing for a sorority in south must be like.

    • Jentompkins
      Jentompkins March 27, 2015 at 8:44 am #

      Shmargs, it can be so hard, right? I’m sorry it’s been so challenging for you. It’s definitely not instantaneous, and every mom you see is not necessarily interested in being in your tribe. That whole “Mean Girl” vibe is alive and well long past middle school! But, I honestly believe that there are other moms out there who are lonely and need friends, and who you are as a person and a mom are more important to them than your housing status or age. Don’t give up! Keep on looking for your tribe–I am convinced they are out there!

  2. DebbieW March 27, 2015 at 11:26 am #

    Great article Jen! One thing I wanted to add is, do not limit your Mama tribe by the age of the Mama or her children. I’m a fifty-six year old woman and have raised three men. And yet, I’m privileged to be part of a Mama tribe that includes Mamas with children from ages 2-18. When you add someone like me to your Mama tribe you get someone who can honestly tell you that you will survive. You get someone who has the time and energy to pour into your children when you are spent. You can get someone who has builds valuable relationships with your tweens and teens. I’ve had more than one coffee or ice cream date with a child from my tribe who is at odds with their parents. The parents knew they could trust how I handled the situation and I had the relationship to lovingly help the child see the truth of the situation. Plus, I’m often available for childcare, whether it’s for an evening out or that weeklong anniversary trip to Hawaii!

    • jentompkins
      jentompkins March 30, 2015 at 7:44 am #

      That’s so true, Debbie! I think the best Mama tribes have some experienced mamas in them to give us some encouragement! You had me at “childcare.” 😉

  3. Jill Nelson March 27, 2015 at 5:20 pm #

    great tips Jen! Going with your point about going first, I found it important to be the extrovert. Even if you aren’t an extroverted person, you have to step outside yourself if you want to make friends. When we started going to a new church, any time I went to an event/park day/Sunday morning, I just predetermined I was going to have to make the first move at meeting people. While yes, the newcomer shouldn’t have to make the first move, you never know when everyone else is new too. Or maybe they are total introverts and don’t know how to make the first move. So rather than be hurt, I chose in advance to be the bigger person. And my friendliness opened great doors of friendship. All it took was saying, “hi, I’m Jill” and they’d be friendly back! But if I’d shown up and self defined myself as the newcomer, I would have set myself up for disappointment. It took mental preparation, but overcoming the loneliness I had been feeling was worth it.

  4. Nickie March 30, 2015 at 7:40 am #

    YES! I love this. It is so important to find your tribe!

  5. jentompkins
    jentompkins March 30, 2015 at 7:45 am #

    Yes, Jill! I’m afraid too many times we wait for someone else to connect with us, and we could be waiting a really long time. It really does take a decision to be proactive, especially when you’re in a new place. But it is so worth the risk, right?

  6. Dreisy March 30, 2015 at 2:50 pm #

    I’m a new mom to a 6 month old and being 3,00 miles away from all friends and family has been getting to me. I wish there were people I could connect with to not feel so lonely. If only I weren’t so awkward and knew where to find these ladies!

  7. jentompkins
    jentompkins March 31, 2015 at 1:35 pm #

    Dreisy, that must be so hard to be geographically so far from your support system! Don’t give up! Other moms can be found at the library story time, outdoor park, indoor park, your local MOMS club, church moms group and all over. Be brave and be the first and I’m confident you’ll find your tribe!

  8. Allison July 13, 2015 at 7:14 am #

    This is just what I needed to read! I’m a new mom and building my tribe! Thanks Jen!

  9. jentompkins
    jentompkins July 13, 2015 at 8:08 pm #

    Being a new mom can be a tough season, Allison! I’m sure there are other moms out there dying for some adult company who would LOVE to be a part of your tribe. 😉