It takes a village. A sense of community. Gal Pals. These are all popular buzz terms in mom circles. It’s great to have a group of supportive moms you can call on when you need advice, adult conversation, play dates, and babysitters. It seems that there is a push for mom’s to have a village too. But what if you don’t have one? I recently did a google search on creating a village and I came across an article that said, “It takes a village to raise a child, be a part of it!” I read another post on how to make mom friends and it said, “Just put yourself out there.” Umm, okay but it’s not that simple. What if you’re shy, what if you don’t know anyone, what if you’re not sure where to turn? So it takes a village, what to do if you don’t have one?
If you find yourself desiring to have a group of ladies to go through mom life with but don’t have one then this post is for you. Even if you are a mom surrounded by a village then this post is for you too.
More specifically this post is for those who are introverted, like me. This is for those moms who might be living in a new city or have had friends move away. This post is for women who may have had a change of seasons in their life. For moms who have great friends this post is to help you see that you’re surrounded by ladies who’d like to be your friend.
I’m not going to tell you to just get out there and strike up a conversation or join a mom group. Instead, you’ll be empowered and equipped with actual tools to help you seek out people for potential friendship and initiate conversation.
So are you ready to see how it takes a village and what to do if you don’t have one?
It Takes A Village
Having a good support network is incredibly helpful when you have kids. Friends can be there for the big things like welcoming a new baby or suffering job loss. They can also be there for the little things like when you’re having a stressful day and just need a quick pep talk.
In my work as a therapist, I’ve witnessed how wonderful friends and family are. Raising a child with special needs takes many hands, from providing transportation to appointments to providing respite for the overworked parents. My kids that thrived the best were the ones who had a great support system.
Personally, I’ve been blessed by a great group of friends and family. When my husband lost his job people were there to provide emotional support. When I was on bedrest and eventually lost our baby friends and family were there to offer prayer, meals, and babysitting. My kids got great socialization in their early years thanks to playdates and outings with my tribe of moms and their kids.
Without these great people, life would be a little less fulfilling and a lot more difficult. I don’t know where’d we be if God hadn’t placed our friends and family in our lives at just the right moments.
When There Is No Village
Life gets lonely and days get long. When I was a first-time mom we lived away from family. We didn’t have many friends and the few we had were not parents. It was pretty much just my husband and me figuring out this parenting thing. Looking back it was a good experience in that we learned a new way to work as a team and rely on God. Yet it was still lonely and difficult.
My son hardly slept and I couldn’t call my mom to come over to watch the baby so I could nap. My husband worked long hours making my days with just a baby long. We didn’t have sitters for date night. I’d go to coffee shops or walks just to get out of the house and got pangs of loneliness when I saw other groups of moms chatting and laughing. It was easy to feel like an outsider and a mom full of self-doubt. How come no one includes me I thought?
Outsider Looking In
Wanting mom friends but not having any can greatly affect one’s mental health or feelings of self-worth. Instead of having a confidant to talk to moms can often be alone in their thoughts. Spending many days alone can also bring on feelings of isolation and depression. Feelings of depression can bring about thoughts of low self-esteem which can influence one’s confidence in themselves.
A lonely, depressed self-conscious mom often find themselves feeling like an outsider looking in. They might be too shy or feel too awkward to simply smile at a fellow mom at the park. Witnessing other mothers enjoying the company of others may bring on feelings of being left out, like the outsider looking in. It’s like a teenage girl watching a group of popular girls in high school, longing to belong but doesn’t.
It’s Not A Popularity Contest
It doesn’t take a large group of other moms to create a village though. It’s not about having a huge number of women to establish a support network.
Quality over quantity. All it takes is one friend that is reliable, trustworthy, genuine, a positive influence and invested in forming a good friendship with you. If you find one person like that you have yourself a village.
What To Do If You Don’t Have One
So where and how can you find the kind of friend that has your back, that thinks your kids are great, that is fun to be with, that is uplifting, that is available, that provides equal give and take? First, let’s address the where and then we’ll address how.
Where to Find A Village
The first step is to go where the moms are. You’ll find them at places like:
- Story Time
- Formal mom groups like MOPS, Mom’s Club, church groups
- Classes or activities for kids like music, first sports, or toddler art
- Fitness classes or running/biking groups
But once you get yourself to one of these social settings where do you go from here?
It’s important to realize that finding a group of other mom’s to call friends takes time and requires patience on your part. It’s sort of like dating. Not every guy you met was Mr. Right. You probably had a few duds. The same goes for friendships. Not every person you meet will become a kindred spirit. You might not have things in common, might not click, it might be hard to get together. If you don’t become friends with a new person try not to take it personally, even if it’s disappointing. Just keep plugging away at it.
Watch Who Your Child Plays With
If you’re at a park or library and your child starts playing with a new friend take note of who is with him or her. Did a mom accompany them? Your child, unbeknownst to them provides a natural avenue into meeting other parents. It’s a perfect setting to strike up a conversation. I’ll cover tips on what to say in a little bit.
Look For Commonalities
If you are joining a mom’s group it can be pretty intimidating to know who to talk to at first. Start seeking out the moms who have children the same age, number of offspring or gender as yours. If you get to know someone who is dealing with similar phases as you that gives you a big topic to bond over.
Look For Mom’s Who Have Been There And Done That
There’s something unique older moms can offer and that’s wisdom and proof that you can survive this mom thing. And by older moms, I mean women who have children older than yours. These ladies have walked in your shoes well before you and can share great advice. They also more than likely do not have to chase kids around and are in a better place to hold a conversation. They love to hold babies and if your kids are having a meltdown they totally understand because they’ve been there and done that.
Notice Social Cues From Other Women
My undergrad degree was in Interpersonal Communication and I learned a lot about non-verbal communication. 93% of the messages we convey are communicated through non-verbal communication.
When you are in a room, be it a mom’s group or story time, survey the crowd and take note of people’s nonverbal messages. Look at eye-contact, body positioning, and facial expressions. Do certain people give you eye contact or a slight smile? Do some people appear courteous by making room for others or display helpful gestures? Do you notice a difference between individuals sitting in a closed-off stance or nose buried in a phone vs. others have more of a relaxed posture and eyes engaged in the activity at hand? You can get a good idea of who to talk to based off of these social cues.
Gravitate Towards Others That Gravitate Towards You
If you’re the lone one out and you see a lively and fun group of ladies that you wish would include you but somebody totally different comes up to you, become friends with that person. Or at least appreciate that they took time to notice you. People like that show a lot of genuineness.
If there is a person who takes time to introduce you to their friends and is welcoming seek out a friendship with that person. They to display kindness and hospitality which is a good characteristic to have in a friend.
How To Find A Village
Once you’ve figured out where to find fellow moms and what to look for it is now time to figure out how to seek a friendship and village, or at least make an attempt. All you need to do is put yourself out there and try something new…and…go!
Yeah, it’s not that easy. You might feel nervous or awkward. You also might be putting a lot of pressure on yourself and feel like a failure if you don’t get yourself out there.
Meeting new people does require communication like greeting others and initiating conversation. With a little prep work ahead of time though you can be better equipped to handle a new social situation.
Create a Dialogue In Your Mind
Before you enter a social situation think of what you could say to a potential new mom friend. Start with different scenarios in which you would meet people.
- If your child finds a new playmate a good conversation starter to keep in your pocket could be “The kids look like they’re having fun, how old is your child.”
- If you are attending a group setting for the first time a good conversation starter could be “It’s my first time here, how long have you been coming here?”
- Sticking with basic information like names, ages and how many children are great conversation starters.
- Having a compliment in mind also breaks the ice. A nice generic one that can be used for almost anything is, “I really like your diaper bag/purse.”
Practice these sentences in your mind so you have something prepared to say. It’s sort of like role-playing. When I was in graduate school for counseling we had to practice our dialogue a lot because it can be nerve-wracking wanting to say something the right way. After becoming more confident with my prepared general statements meeting with clients was not so scary. The same holds true when trying to put yourself out there to talk to new people.
Display a Friendly Demeanor
Remember the part about non-verbal communication? Well, you to put off messages with your body language too. If you give eye contact and smile to someone that communicates, “hey I’m friendly.” If you cross your arms and scowl that communicates “leave me alone.” If you see a fellow mom that you’d like to talk with start with trying to give eye contact and see what happens. Smile at people. These little cues go a long way in letting another person know you’re approachable.
Take Baby Steps
It can be tempting to go to every story time and play group as possible to make as many friends as possible. I recommend starting small. Perhaps once you come up with a dialogue of what to say go to a place where there are not tons of other moms. Library story time might be a good place to start. A smaller group size is less intimidating where you can assess the people, check out social cues and perhaps try out your “pick-up line.”
If you didn’t talk with anyone that’s okay. Keep reading on to the next section.
Become a Familiar Face
If the group meets regularly it’s okay to go several times without talking to anyone. Eventually, people will realize you’re a regular and they might talk with you. Or you might feel more comfortable talking to someone because it’s not so strange.
Be Gentle On Yourself
Part of forming friendships has to happen naturally and it’s something you can’t conjure up. As mentioned previously not everyone clicks or becomes fast friends. That is okay. While you may be desperate for anyone, remind yourself that it’s better to meet someone who will be a true friend than someone who won’t be.
For the mom that wants a village but doesn’t have one, I hope this post gave you some tools to use to get a village of your own. For the moms who are blessed with a village, I hope this post gives you understanding what it can be like for fellow moms who long for friendships so that you can include new ladies into your group.
Yes, it does take a village and now you know what to do if you don’t have one.