A few years ago my husband and I packed up our apartment, buckled our infant son into our car, and journeyed across the country to live a life I didn’t plan for.
We moved to be near his family, which was wonderful for him (and for our family, in the long run), but it meant I had to start over.
I wasn’t familiar with the region or the climate; I knew no one except my in-laws, and at the time I hardly knew them. To say it was a lonely first year would be an understatement.
I allowed myself to wallow and grieve for a while – after all, I had lost all familiarity; my rote memory was useless here. In addition to learning how to be a mother, I had to learn an entirely new place with its own particular culture and goofy local television ads. I had to meet new people with their own peculiar traditions and habits. All I wanted was for someone to befriend me – to approach me, to seek me out.
I wanted someone else to build the life I wanted for myself.
After an isolated winter spent mostly inside a 900 square foot apartment with a baby as my daily companion, I realized no one was going to rescue me, not because they didn’t care, but because they were waiting for someone to rescue them, too.
And then it struck me: Be the change you wish to see in the world.
I recently spoke with a seasoned mother whose children are all grown now and having their own babies, and she remarked on the loneliness of my generation’s mothers. When I asked her thoughts on what has changed, she offered some theories: people move around a lot more frequently than they used to, we all like to claim we’re “too busy,” and simply put, we’re uncomfortable. She asked me how many of my neighbors I know by name.
I was ashamed to respond with zero, but “we’ve only lived in our house for a couple of years!” I fumbled my excuse.
“A couple of years isn’t long enough to make the acquaintance of one neighbor?” Yikes. “Community,” she continued, “is intentional.”
She’s right. Friendships don’t form out of nowhere. Communities don’t assemble out of thin air. They are purposefully set into motion by people who take initiative – whether this is propelled by extroversion or desperation is irrelevant.
After that first lonely winter I knew I needed to build the life I wanted for myself. I nervously entered the world of mom dating, and it led to a friendship I truly cherish, which prompted me to host a moms group, which led to more meaningful friendships, and then book clubs, and then… you can see where I’m going with this.
To the mother reading this: you are not the only mom who feels the pang of loneliness, desiring community and belonging.
You are not the only one waiting for someone to reach out.
That woman you frequently see at the park, who you think could be your best friend because she’s around your age and has similarly aged kids – she’s lonely, too. That woman who always shows up to her child’s ballet class still dressed in her professional suit, so you know she also works outside the home, thus you probably have a lot in common? Yes, indeed, she’s also waiting for someone to approach her.
Are we all just waiting around to be rescued by one another?
What happens when no one is willing to make the first move? We all stand still.
My fellow moms: if you find yourself lonely, desperately yearning for community and friendship, you just might have to be the change you wish to see. Approach that mom you’ve been eyeing at the library. Ask her how old her kids are, how long they’ve lived in the area; ask her name, for crying out loud!
I’m sure the introverts reading this just felt a knot tighten in their stomachs. “That’s easy for you to say, I don’t make friends easily.”
I hear you.
The fear of rejection is strong and can be crippling, but the only thing worse than rejection is indeterminate loneliness. You know when you have chemistry with someone. Follow that intuition. Each time I reach out to a fellow mom, all I hear is gratitude. It’s simultaneously gratifying and heartbreaking.
How can you make the first step?:
- Host a Social Event. Could you spare a single evening once a month to host a knitting circle or a wine and cheese get-together at your house? Oh, you’re in an apartment and have no space to host? Check your local library for reserving a gathering space, or maybe organize a book club to meet at a coffee house. Perhaps a local church has a meeting room you can use for a single hour once or twice a month.
- Set up a Playdate. Invite ONE – just one – mom over for a playdate. No room in your home either? Meet at the library, the park, a McDonald’s play place, even if it’s just for an hour.
- Volunteer. Can you spare an hour every so often to volunteer at your children’s school? Maybe volunteer through a church organization, or coach a sport and meet moms that way.
- Social Media. Use social media to join moms groups in your area! Reach out! Put out a single thread saying: “Who lives in the xyz area that wants to get together at such-and-such park on Saturday afternoon?” So many moms are happy to get together and meet other new moms when something is planned for them.
Be intentional. Make the first move. Reach out in friendship to the mom you want to know. Be the change you wish to see in the world.