Confessions of a Marriage Therapist: When Your Mom Tribe Doesn't Exist
What is it like to feel like you don't belong? Or, to feel like everyone else makes friends so much easier than you do?
I talk to my clients all the time about how important it is to have a community--a tribe--a circle of other mom friends to support you, laugh with you, lift you up, or let you fall apart in their company. Moms who “get it” and don’t judge you for your struggles or imperfections.
I know when you're in school it's easy (or easier anyway) to meet and connect with people, but once school is behind you, it can be so much harder. And moms...Well, I think that can be a special kind of hard. I know because I talk to moms who tell me this, cry tears of sadness because of this, and are terribly lonely because of this.
Part of my passion for my work comes my from wanting to help change this issue by providing a safe place for moms and dads and giving them the tools they need to find their tribe.
But sometimes in the midst of helping others, we sometimes overlook ourselves. (Yep, guilty here.)
See, I have a great tribe of awesome business mavens. We bounce business ideas off each other, vent about our struggles and frustrations, share fears and triumphs in our business goals. It’s an incredibly supportive and nurturing circle to have, and in some ways, starting and nurturing a business is not unlike motherhood.
And, when my son was in preschool, there was a group of moms I became close with. We'd hang out after school at the playground and chatted while our kids played. But once my son started elementary school, we all kind of went our separate ways. Though we still check in with each other and occasionally meet, it is so much more limited now. And, it happened so gradually (and we all get so busy) that I didn’t even notice that void in my life.
A little over a year ago, I started talking with another mom, Tara*, from his school (...well frankly that's not accurate. She started talking to me). She was friendly, fun, and was the kind of person who danced even when there was no music. One day, she invited herself to ride with me on a school field trip to the pumpkin patch, and from then on, that was it--we were friends.
How awesome is that to have someone see you, talk to you, like you, and from then on you’re friends with this person? Like it was the most natural thing in the world. So easy. So refreshing. So needed, and I didn't even know it. I hadn't even realized my mom friend group was limited. My heart needed that connection, that acceptance, that love.
Now as they say all good things must come to an end. Sometimes, an abrupt one.
My dear, sweet, crazy, fun, inclusive, and loving friend died recently of ovarian cancer. To say my heart hurts would be an understatement. And not just mine-- a whole community of hearts are broken.
Several months ago, she was teasing me about this big, beautiful trifle bowl I have (is "bowl" even the right word? I'm not sure). My husband and I received it for our wedding almost nine years ago. Yes, it was on our registry--I really wanted it. I've used it as a fruit bowl before, but never for it’s intended purpose. Seems frivolous, but I love that bowl. I don’t even care.
She told me I should have a trifle party: She suggested I invite the moms from school and have everyone bring an ingredient to assemble into a trifle in that beautiful bowl I almost never use. I said, “Sure, I'll do that.” Then summer came. I never did it.
But now I am.
I KNOW I'm not the only mom that finds motherhood hard or needs support or encouragement at times. So we are planning our first of what we hope to be a bimonthly occurrence: A time where we can all come together, make something delicious together, and just spend time TOGETHER. We'll share. We'll laugh. We'll cry. We'll inspire one another. We'll love one another. Just like Tara would.
It's called Tara's Trifle Tribe. Everyone comes and brings an ingredient, and maybe even invites another mom who hasn’t found her own tribe yet.
So in memory of my extraordinary friend, who do you know that needs some extra love? Who haven't you spoken to in a while?
I know (because I talk to moms all the time who share this) that these moms are your neighbors, you child's classmates' moms, the working moms, and the stay-at-home moms.
And if no one has brought you into their circle, can you plan your own Trifle Tribe? The moms I told this story to in the therapy groups I run loved and embraced the idea, and are adapting and expanding on it to create the tribes they need in their own lives.
Because we all need love. We all need kindness. Motherhood is too hard to do on our own.
*My friend's name has been changed to protect the privacy of her family and friends.
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