Recently one night as Amit and I got ready for bed we were talking about life. I was flipping through my phone, oohing and ahhing at how cute Summer was. I usually look at photos from that day before bed, soaking up my last few moments of Summer before falling asleep, but I also often flip back and look at newborn photos. “Look how cuuuuuute” I cooed at Amit as I shared an almost unrecognizable photo of Summer at 2 months old. “Look how she’d just fall asleep on me like that, don’t you miss that!?” I said. Amit, always the more logical of the two of us looked at me and said “…do YOU!?” Clearly Amit didn’t miss what I was missing. See while Amit ultimately agreed that those newborn days are awfully snuggly and sweet, he was also quick to remind me that they’re also really hard and often pretty isolating days too. Blunt maybe, but Amit was right. I let the thought of the first few weeks of parenthood sink in and realized maybe they weren’t quite as dreamy and ethereal as one lone photo of a sleeping newborn would trick me into believing. Don’t get me wrong, the newborn days are incredible and special and I can’t wait to do it all again one day, but I have to admit…The Gressel family is a lot happier these days.
See, as I round the corner on my first year of motherhood I have been reflecting a lot on what my life looks like now, versus those first few weeks and months. I have been pretty open in sharing that those first few months were rough. I was stressed and tired, I lacked confidence in what I was doing. I lacked sleep, and
most importantly maybe not most importantly (that would be sleep…sleep would be most important)…but pretty dang important… I lacked mom friends. As the first in my gang of girlfriends to enter into motherhood I not only had very little clue what I was getting into, but I also had very few people to talk to about it once I was there. But now, almost a year into this gig I realize finding your support system makes all the difference. And there are so many ways to find that support. I want to share some of my experiences in finding a supportive mom community because for a long time I felt so overwhelmed and honestly…pretty alone. So my hunch is some of you have been there too.
Step 1: Putting Myself Out There
Those first few months were hectic. In the weeks that followed Summer’s birth Amit had law school finals, then studying for the bar exam (both of which rendered Amit pretty much out of commission. He even slept in a separate bedroom to keep a strict sleep schedule to stay sharp), then we picked up our life and moved 300 miles away where Amit then started a new job and I started a new venture into working for myself…all before Summer was 3 months. I had been so busy I hadn’t had time to seek support. But once things calmed down and we were settled in LA I quickly realized I was in a new area, with a brand new baby, and no one to really share that experience with outside of my husband. So I got metaphorically cooking and started searching for every possible way to get involved in my community. I joined online Facebook groups, joined activities like a Stroller Bootcamp workout called “Stroller Strides”, I went to breastfeeding support groups seeking mom friends and and I even signed up for two different sets of Mommy and Me classes.
When I got to these various classes and meetups I tried to be as outgoing as I could, but it was hard! I started to feel frustrated after a while. Week after week I was shlepping my kid to a million activities and ultimately I still felt alone. In fact, the conversations I was having with my baby-less kids sounded almost identical to their dating stories. I’d agonize over whether or not the other moms in my classes liked me, if I should text or call…was it too soon to text or call? I’d get embarrassed over how much I had talked in class…or maybe I hadn’t talked enough? Was it weird that I was the youngest mom in class? What should I wear!?
Step 2: You’re Trying WAY Too Hard…
After a while I started to get tired. The Facebook Mommy groups in my local community freaked me out. And the Mommy and Me groups were starting to feel tough too – while one of my mom groups was informative and helpful, the other kind of had a group therapy vibe (which while great for some, wasn’t feeling like a fit for me). Still, I felt like I had to make it work. Not only did I want to make a community for myself, I also wanted Summer to find friends her age. But trying to click with other moms was emotionally exhausting me. I felt like I kept putting myself out there and ultimately I still always felt like the new kid (which FYI…makes no sense. ALL the moms in these classes were new at it.) Finally I said FUCK IT. I would go to my classes, get the parenting info, let Summer play and if I made friends great, if I didn’t that would be ok too. It was the mommy equivalent of going to the bar on a Friday to grab drinks with friends purely for the sake of getting drinks with friends…no hopes of boyfriend finding.
Step 3: Things fall into place.
And ya know what. It really was just like dating. I think I had been so tense about making a community for myself that I had been totally closing myself off to actually making friends. I had been agonizing over things like was I too young to make friends with some of these other moms? When I stopped putting so much pressure on myself I started to attract some really awesome mamas into my life. Ultimately only one of my two Mommy and Me classes felt like a fit for me, but even in the class I stopped going to I made friends with 4 or so moms that I now regularly text and meet up with. I reconnected with an old work pal who also had a baby and we did things like go one family walks and have brunch with our babies and husbands. And after I stopped putting so much pressure on myself, I found it so much easier to have a really good time with the moms in the better fitting Mommy and Me class. Now we all meet up outside of class and go to the zoo, or the park, I even went to a Passover sedar hosted by a fellow mama. Going to that class each week is now the highlight of our week because I know not only will I get awesome information, but I’ll also get to meet up with my mom tribe. And that mom tribe has introduced me to more classes, more places to hang out, shared babysitter info and parenting tricks. One day as I was gushing about how much happier I’ve been and Amit looked at me and said “You found your village.”
I guess what I am saying is I wish I had taken a chill pill from the start. Making mom friends is a big deal, but it’s kind of like joining OKCupid and then throwing a fit if you’re not married within a month. Friendships take time! I am still building mine with my new mama friends as we all get to know each other, but now I feel way more relaxed about the whole ordeal. And while the local LA Mommy Groups on Facebook weren’t for me, I have found more international groups that do feel like a fit where I can now ask questions and get dozens of responses.
So mamas, tell me about your tribe! Or your struggles to make the tribe. I’d love to hear about it 🙂