Mom Talk: I’m Still Looking For My “Mom Tribe”

Written by

Jacquelyn Ford

9:00 am
08/10/18

PHOTOGRAPHED BY VANESSA MONA HELLMANN

We’ve talked about the importance of “mom friends” several times on Mother, and in today’s Mom Talk essay, by Jacquelyn Ford, the new-ish mama tackles the lonely feelings often associated with motherhood and reveals that she still hasn’t quite found the mom crew that she longs for. Relatable to so many others out there, we’re sure. -KHZ

I can think back to before I was pregnant with Thom. Everyone around me (including strangers on the streets) lovingly offered at least a couple pieces of advice for motherhood. One consistent piece of advice given was to have a solid support system in place, to go find your mom tribe. I reflected on this piece of advice, and decided when the time came (after Thom was born), I would go out there and find my group of mom friends. Never did I think it would be so challenging yet so critical.

Growing up, my circle of friends was small. I was an only child, and often hung out with mostly guys. I wouldn’t go as far to say that I was one of the guys, but I also did not have an extensive network of girlfriends. A couple of very close girlfriends helped me navigate my childhood, high school, and college. I am also what they call an extroverted introvert. I can be very social in certain situations but I tire easily from social interaction and need me time. For me, meeting new people meant stepping out of my comfort zone.

Before Thom was born, my husband and I lived in a tiny 5th floor walk-up studio apartment in the Upper East Side. We lived steps away from our favorite park, our favorite restaurants to order from, our dry cleaner, our favorite diner, our corner bodega, with a Whole Foods just a few blocks away. It had been home for more than 3 years.

As Thom’s due date crept closer and closer, we had to decide on a plan. We needed more space, a dishwasher, laundry washer and dryer, and to get out of the 5th floor walk-up. My nesting instinct was kicking in and I was anxious to get out of that apartment, to get out of the city. By the beginning of October, we were completely moved out and settled into a townhouse in Hanover, New Jersey. Leading up to Thom’s birth, I was too deep in nesting mode to even miss living in the city. I wanted to create the perfect space for my newborn before he got here.

Fast forward to after Thom was born—I was surrounded by family (my in-laws and my parents spent Thanksgiving with us) for a couple of weeks. Those first few weeks were an absolute blur. Everything happened so quickly, suddenly I was a mom and suddenly I was the sole food source for this tiny being. Amid all the sweet baby snuggles, there were a lot of sleepless nights, a lot of emotions, and a lot of breastfeeding struggles. His latch wasn’t right. It was painful. Every nursing session was high strung stress with him crying and flailing his arms about and me feeling unsure, frustrated, and alone. I reached out to my family and friends (sisters-in-law, childhood friends, college friends, past coworker friends), who were also nursing mamas and asked about their experiences. Everyone had slightly different experiences, but encouraged me to stick with it. One sweet friend’s words kept me going—“It will get better, I promise you.” I clung onto those words for dear life because I honestly didn’t know how much longer I could do this for. Though most of my mom friends live either a long car ride or flight away, the support and encouragement that I received from my small network was more than essential in this instance. I was reminded of the importance of having a group of mom friends locally.

I tried to put myself out there. I started to attend a local breastfeeding support group, which was immensely helpful in my breastfeeding journey. While attending this group, I no longer felt as alone as I did before, but for some reason I still could not connect with other mothers. This had me questioning myself. What was keeping me from making friends? Was it the sleep deprivation? Or had I stepped so far out of my comfort zone with all the life changes that I didn’t have enough energy to make new friends? Or was it the anxiety of trying to keep this little human alive, happy, and well-fed getting in the way of making friends? Did I forget how to make friends? Why did it feel so forced to reach out to other new moms? It took me back to that feeling of being single and yearning for a relationship, but cringing at the thought of putting myself out there for fear of rejection.

Once the breastfeeding issues had resolved, it seemed like a fog had been lifted. I began spending time with a childhood friend who also had a son, but it was difficult to coordinate playdates because our sons are 5 months apart with completely opposite napping schedules. I still felt like my lack of local mom friends was real. It made me feel more lonely and anxious. And I realized how much I missed the city. My mind finally came to the realization that we now lived in the suburbs, that the conveniences and inconveniences of the city were no longer mine.

Of course, at the same time, I reveled in those special moments with my little Thom. Kissing his soft chubby cheeks, witnessing his first smile and hearing his little baby giggles for the first time made everything better.

It still hasn’t been easy to find my group of mom friends. And it has lead me to believe that motherhood—though incredibly rewarding—can be lonely at times, that I might not be the only one experiencing this, and that there are other mothers out there who are still searching for their tribe. It makes me even more appreciative for the mom friends that I do have, even if they live far away. There are a few things I know for sure: Motherhood requires stepping out of your comfort zone. Motherhood is not for the faint of heart. And when mothers support each other, great things happen.

Leave a Comment

28 comments

deedee

I had my kids overseas: no close family and friends a very far train ride away. I was on my own for long days with no support network while my husband worked. I signed myself and baby up for EVERY activity available in our small city. Baby Massage, Baby Gym, Baby Montessori (????). I joined a parenting group, I hung out in cafés and parks with my baby prominently displayed in the stroller and tried to make small talk with anyone around with babies or toddlers. I basically flung myself upon anybody pushing a child in a stroller. I scoured the bulletin boards in the maternity ward of the hospital for new mom groups. I went to La Leche League. I gave up trying to find “like-minded” moms and just tried to find other moms. After this tremendous effort and really putting myself out there , I found a group of moms that I would have never hung out with if I lived in the US. We were all linked by our need for support. They helped me through those difficult, isolating first 2 years. I never would have hooked up with them had I not a) researched what was offered to new parents by the city b) stepped out of my comfort zone and ASK for help. You just have to.

    Jacquelyn

    Hi Deedee! Thank you so much for your comment! That is amazing that you eventually found your group while being overseas. It sounds like you really, really put yourself out there. I think what you said about giving up on ” trying to find ‘like-minded’ moms and just tried to find other moms” is such good, insightful advice. I think sometimes, we are so used to trying to find friends that we would ordinarily get along with, that we subconsciously close ourselves off. And yes, you are so right. It is so critical to look for what is offered to new parents, step out of one’s comfort zone and ask for help.

Michelle

Thanks this post is so spot on for me. It’s been tough being a stay at home mom and not having a community or friends to spend time with. Nice to hear I’m not the only one~ best!

    Jacquelyn

    Michelle, thank you so much for your comment. I’m so glad that you could understand and relate. It’s definitely not easy and you’re totally not alone!

Geneviève

I completely relate to this story. I live in Ottawa and most of my close friends and family are in Montreal, a couple hours drive away. Being a new mother over the fall and winter was incredibly isolating and I longed for someone to just come over for coffee and chat with. I did go up to a woman in a post-partum support group I attended and very uncool-y asked for her number. It was very awkward and desperate but we started carpooling to the group meetings and have now become good friends. It is far from a tribe but it’s a start. Thank you for sharing.

    Jacquelyn

    Hi Geneviève. Thank you so much for your comment. You are totally right. Being a new mother during cold weather months is so, so very isolating. I had a really bad case of cabin fever and all I wanted was some company. I could not tell you how ready I was to get out of the house once Spring finally arrived. And it seems like you’ve started to build your tribe. That’s awesome. I’ve realized that though putting ourselves out there is awkward and uncomfortable, I guess it’s the only way! Thanks again for sharing your experience.

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