Fully Living

It Takes A Village: What To Do If You Don’t Have One

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:

  • Parks
  • 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 make friends when it's hard.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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10 Comments

    • admin

      Yeah, it seems like it’s hard to find the organic friendships now with people being busy. I’m guessing that’s why there are so many organized groups. I joined one when I was a first time mom, it felt weird to pay to join a friend group, but after a few meetups I was able to form real friends with some mom’s out outside of the group. I liked those relationships and dropped the bigger group. Sometimes groups can help lead to a new friend or two.

  • Racheal

    This is such an important helpful post. I have to admit some people make it look easy for us to go and just fish out mom friends. Finding friends is easy. Getting the real ones is tough. I really was looking to read about something like this. Thanks for sharing. Great post!

    • admin

      I know. If it’s easy for people great!! But for many its not. It’s a struggle for me so I’ve been reading up on it. I found a lot of the advice or there was encouraging but lacking too. Like “get yourself out the!” And I was always left with feeling like “how?” Hope this helped answer the how.

  • Josephine | Better as Us

    I can relate to this so much. It is SO HARD to find your tribe, and it’s so hard without one! We have so many mom groups in my town but each one has membership requirements and fees. I just want to meet up for coffee with some cool moms. Why is that too much to ask for?

    Josephine | Better as Us
    betterasus.com

    • admin

      Yeah, it seems like it’s hard to find the organic friendships now with people being busy. I’m guessing that’s why there are so many organized groups. I joined one when I was a first time mom, it felt weird to pay to join a friend group, but after a few meetups I was able to form real friends with some mom’s out outside of the group. I liked those relationships and dropped the bigger group. Sometimes groups can help lead to a new friend or two.

  • Angela Workman

    This is a great article. For my first kids I live fairly close to my mom and sisters and they were my community, but then I moved away for my last baby. Things got hard then. Sure I had my husband, but he was at work so much that I still found myself feeling alone a lot. I’m a very shy person so it is very hard for me to put myself out there. It has taken some time, but I’ve found my new ‘village’ to be apart of, but it took time.

    • admin

      That’s great you were able to find you group. I agree, our husbands are great, but when they are at work that’s where friends come in to help break up the day once in awhile. It’s hard to move away from family and you are right it takes time.

  • Sonja

    I love the specific ideas that you give instead of vague statements given in other posts. Getting into a routine can be tricky, but also so helpful in developing those mom friendships. Your list of places to attend are spot on for meeting other moms, as well as how to proceed in starting that communication. Thank you!

    • admin

      Thanks! I think it was the vagueness of other things I read that inspired this post. I wish I had a how-to manual.