Finding “The One”: The Difficult Task of Befriending Other Moms
A lot of people will tell you it’s important for stay-at-home parents to drag themselves (and their child) to playdates to develop their social skills and prevent them from becoming little sociopaths. But it’s equally as important for parents to socialize as well.
I work part-time from home as a writer and editor, and the majority of my day is spent caring for my toddler. This means that I don’t get a lot of adult time. But the social aspect of it is only part of the equation. Being part of a loving, supportive community of other parents, friends and family members is–in my opinion–the most important thing you can do for yourself, and it’s the most challenging task to accomplish.
Of course, if you live near family and friends, and if they have families of their own, then this task may not be challenging to you at all. But if you’re like me, separated from family and friends by hundreds or even thousands of miles, being part of a community is a bit more difficult to achieve and even more important for your sanity than usual.
Here are some of avenues I’ve tried in my pursuit of a “parent community”–and their pros and cons:
- Meetup.com- For a long time, this was my only method of meeting other parents. I joined several “mommy groups” and attended countless events for the first year of my son’s life. But meeting other parents is a lot like dating: It’s not enough that you and another parent both have kids around the same age; you need to have non-kid things in common in order to be compatible. Unfortunately, after all the groups I joined, all the events I attended, and all the parents I met, I never met “the one.” So while it was good for my son to get out of the house and play with other kids, it started to come at a steep cost. Despite having met great, childless friends through other meetup groups, I felt lonely and depressed. I need to be part of a supportive community of mommas who have each others’ backs and would never hold you to a specific arrival/departure time or mind if you flaked out altogether at the last moment, and would care enough about you to make sure you were okay when you don’t show up, and who were always down for sharing an impromptu bottle of wine. So I began searching outside of meetup for fulfilling momma relationships.
- Story time- All of the local libraries in my town offer story time on a weekly basis. This is a great way for kids to get out of the house and mingle with other kids, and my son gets a kick out of hearing someone else read to him for once. But while story time allows you to recognize other parents who regularly attend, it does not provide you the opportunity to get to know these parents simply for the fact that you are there to quietly listen–not interact with each other. Plus, it’s getting increasingly difficult to convince my son to sit still for the duration. So I started lurking around other kid-friendly venues.
- Parks- There are a number of wonderful parks in my town, and slowly but surely I’ve ascertained which parks are the most popular with my son’s age group. I’ve had a handful of opportunities to strike up pleasant conversations with other parents while I push my son on a swing or encourage him not to fling himself off the top of the jungle gym designed for 10-year-olds. But inevitably one of our kids runs off and the conversation ends, never to be picked up again. What I need is a more structured, recurring activity so that I can develop more meaningful mommy friendships.
- Church- I’m not a church-going person. I stopped attending before I finished high school. But there’s something about living far away from family and friends that makes you reconsider. I decided to try a Presbyterian church since that was the denomination I grew up with (familiarity is underrated). Going into it with the conviction that church is a fine way to become part of a community–even if I’m not a Christian–helped me accept the good things about attending church and not worry about the details. The sermons were good and helpful in my daily life, and the moms’ group that met separately was fantastic. But then those little details I was trying to dismiss blew up in my face. The pastor of the church devoted an entire sermon to defending his decision to not perform gay marriages in his church. Let me back up a little. The governing body of the Presbyterian churches of America recently changed the wording of their bylaws to allow for gay marriage and gave the individual churches the ability to choose for themselves whether or not they would perform gay marriages. Yes, the Bible clearly states homosexuality is a no-no… as is divorce, amongst a number of other things. And yet, as divorce has become the status quo in our society, churches have evolved their stance on it and pastors officiate over second and third marriages all the time. Homosexuality is on its way to reaching divorce status (in terms of acceptance) in our culture, but it’s not there yet. As a result, there is this messy conflation of religion and politics that manifests itself in defensive, homophobic sermons. When I realized what the pastor was saying, I knew I had a choice to make: stay and belong to a community that I was benefiting from, or stand by my principles. In other words, I had to decide if I was going to spend my time communing with people who chose to discriminate against and ostracize an entire segment of the population. I no longer attend this church. There are gay-friendly Presbyterian churches in my area, but I haven’t yet taken the exhausting step of attending and meeting new people. So my hunt for a community of mommas refocused on another familiar place…
- Facebook groups- A momma friend of mine introduced me to a locally based parent group on Facebook. I’ve attended several events and have found the mommas there are right up my alley. They’re friendly, engaging, have interests outside of their children–it’s been great! But it’s a loose-knit community; in fact, it’s less like a community and more like a dating site. The events provide opportunities to meet other like-minded moms that you may decide to go out on a second date with.
There are still times when I pine for mommy friends of mine who live in another state (I envision us all living in a utopian hippy commune, with a community garden, daily playgroups and built-in sitters for date nights). But this isn’t reality. I’ve got to work with what I’ve got, and that’s a loose-knit group of moms who probably yearn for the same supportive momma community that I’m seeking.
It’s hard to parent in a vacuum: trying to accommodate the child-unfriendly plans of your childless friends, or just trying to find a sitter so that you and your spouse can enjoy an evening alone. That’s why finding a community of other parents is so imperative to a happy, balanced life. And if you can’t find a community that’s well matched to your personality or needs, then create one!