Making new friends at any age is hard. I remember first realizing this truth of life in the 6th grade when I started my first year at a new school. Middle school can be tough on anyone, but add in the pressure of being the “new kid” in the class and it feels like complete torture.
Everyone in my new school had their own “group” and I didn’t belong to any of them. I didn’t even know HOW to belong. For the first few days of school I remember spending recess alone, walking aimlessly and awkwardly around the playground. I’ve always been an outgoing and extroverted person so eventually I realized that if I wanted to make friends, I’d have to make the first move.
So, I did. I remember this vividly–like it was yesterday. Funny how that works, isn’t it?
I walked up to a group of girls who were playing on one of the fancy pieces of playground equipment. Having previously been introduced to one or two of the girls, I felt a bit more confident than I would have otherwise.
But as I approached, one of the girls leaned over the swinging bridge and yelled down to me, “Why are you coming over here? Are you following us? Go Away!”
Fighting back tears, I sputtered out some excuse of why I was wandering in their direction. As she kept yelling down at me, I turned around and awkwardly walked away. Alone.
You might be wondering why I bring up this decade(s?!) old experience and what it has to do with motherhood. Well…I’ve come to the conclusion–right or wrong–that being a new mom is a lot like being the “new kid” in middle school. Mean girls are replaced with mean moms; and the playground is where it all goes down.
While I was pregnant with my son I had all sorts of ideas what motherhood would look like for me. Working part-time, I thought we’d go for plenty of walks around our neighborhood and meet other moms/kids for play-dates at the park. I envisioned sitting around chatting with other moms over our tea or coffee while our kids ran around playing together freely.
I naively imagined that along with the birth of my son I’d magically gain a gaggle of new mom-friends. I kind of figured that it was a package deal, something I wouldn’t have to work for. Unbeknownst to me, it doesn’t quite work that way.
We live in a pretty diverse neighborhood with a lot of young families. There’s even a small neighborhood park a couple houses down. It seems like the perfect environment for new friendships–both my son’s and mine–to flourish. But they just haven’t materialized. And it’s not that I haven’t tried.
Just recently I took my son to the park before my husband returned home. It was a beautiful spring day in Minnesota–I wasn’t going to let it go to waste! As we got closer I noticed there were a couple moms hanging out on the benches and a couple boys playing with trucks in the sand. Perfect!
Once we arrived, I said “Hello” to the other moms, coaxed my son away from my side–he’s 2 and a bit shy at first–and thought I’d sit on one of the benches and just let him play. Only the benches were full of stuff–each one being occupied by a single person and their belongings. And the moms were obviously already friends. As the “new mom” it was quite apparent that I was intruding. You know how sometimes you can just “feel” it?
I couldn’t help but overhear their conversations and finally, I chimed in. I thought maybe they’d realize they were taking up all the seating (they didn’t) or they’d introduce themselves and invite me into their conversation (definitely did not happen) but instead, they flat out ignored me and started talking even louder to one another.
I got their message, LOUD and clear.
Maybe it’s my own insecurities, but I was feeling a bit out of place and wanted to leave. Since dinnertime was approaching, I thought It’d be a good time to scoop my son up and head home. Only he was having too much fun playing. In typical toddler fashion, a massive meltdown ensued. Fun!
“I could see eyes on me and hear snarky comments being made about how to deal with toddler tantrums. I wanted so badly to turn around and ask them how many parenting books they’ve authored and where I could purchase a copy?”
But I didn’t. I bit my tongue. Grabbed my son, kicking and screaming, in my arms and pushed his wagon home while trying to calm him down.
Moms sure can be mean.
In all my optimistic ideas of what motherhood was, I thought that all moms would be welcoming and supportive. I never thought motherhood was about competition or having to learn to fit in–in my mind that all ended in middle-school. But apparently mommy-cliques are a thing and it doesn’t seem like they’re going away any time soon, although I wish they would.
I know not all moms are like this. Eventually I’ll find my tribe. Until that happens I’ll continue to be happy with the friends I have. We might not live in the same neighborhoods and our kids might not be the same ages but it doesn’t matter. I can be myself and I am welcomed.