We've all heard those mama buzz words about "mom tribes" and finding your mom BFFs. Sounds great, right? And maybe you're a lucky one who lives around high school or college friends you've kept in touch with, or you have great neighbors, or relatives nearby with a built in support system. But some of us (me included) moved to a new town and knew no one and started off from scratch. Add in being a touch on the shy side and a big heap of new mom insecurities and you have the recipe for a rough transition into finding your "tribe". But don't give up hope, I'm here to give you some tips on how to find some truly tribe worthy friends and how to grow into a tribe worthy friend yourself.
First off, making new friends as a mom is zero percent like making friends any other time. On the plus side, you've got this great buffer, the sweet little bouncing baby, who can help you break the ice and is a built in "thing in common" with a fellow mom. Especially when they are close in age, it can be fun to get littles together and watch them develop together and form a bond of their own. You already have stuff to talk about and you are on the same wavelength as far as the day to day ins and outs of motherhood. That alone can sometimes be the basis for a friendship, and it is only later once you get past that generic mom stuff that you realize something may be amiss.
On the not so plus side, you've also got some hurdles which can be exclusive to mommyhood. First up are the super fun motherhood insecurities that can rear their ugly heads. The great breastfeeding vs. bottle feeding thing, babywearing vs stroller pushing, organic vs conventional, the list goes on and on and on and on (and doesn't stop with babies). Making new friends can seem intimidating if you already feel like you are "doing it wrong" when it comes to parenting, especially if you come across one of those moms who uses the judging to boost her own self esteem.
Countless times I have heard women talk about someone who mom shamed them for whatever reason. Maybe it was a subtle remark about your parenting style, or what kind of baby food you are feeding them (or not feeding them), or what kind of shoes you have your new walker in (really that's a thing people get judgmental about I swear). The problem is, as a new mom, you take this to heart. REALLY take it to heart. It can feel like an attack on who you are as a parent, especially if you are dealing with some insecurities privately already. You take it personally, internalize it, and only see the reflection on you and how you parent. The thing is, the only thing that should be reflected is what that other mom is going through.
Now you're thinking, what?! Why should I feel bad for the mom who just shamed me? Shouldn't I come up with some cute, quippy comeback to put her in her place? Shouldn't I stand up for myself and my mothering?! I AM MAMA BEAR HEAR ME ROAR?!
Now, I get it, I'm very pro-mama bear, but let me suggest we all quiet down that mama bear growl for a minute and see things for what they are when it comes to mom shaming, because a lot of times, the one doing it is the one who needs the compassion, not you. Chances are, it has nothing to do with you. And chances are, your quippy comeback won't make you feel better, and it certainly won't make the other mom feel better, it'll just add more fuel to that always burning "mom wars" fire.
Just like that hard to learn lesson when you're growing up, when someone is mean to you it means more about them than it does about you. Sadly, this stuff doesn't go away when we are old enough to be adults. And there is another fun point, just because we are all in our 20s, 30s and 40s as parents doesn't mean we are all automatically "adults" or act like we are. Becoming a parent doesn't instantly mature all of us emotionally and intellectually. But wouldn't that be great?! Anyway, moving on...
We will always continue to come across people who put others down to boost themselves up, and sometimes the saddest form of this behavior is when one mom does it to another mom. Why? Because deep down the judgy mom is just really trying to find confidence in her own self as a mother, she's just going about it in the worst way. You can even feel compassion for that person, because she's struggling with insecurity and is using judgment as a life raft to stay above that sinking feeling of failure that can pool around some of us even on a daily basis. Thoughts like "Well I lost it with the toddler this morning but at least I know how to put a car seat chest clip on correctly, jeez" or "Man, her kid isn't even walking yet, she must be doing something wrong". Using comparisons to bolster up your own insecurities will only pull you down deeper. And the even sadder thing is, we all sort of do it, don't we? Be truly honest with yourself, and you'll find that on some level we have all judged, we just pretend it's just an "observation", or just being "helpful". But the truth is, it has turned into an integral part of modern parenting. Some of us say these things, some of us just think them, but the reality is the majority of us are practicing this type of mom shaming on a regular basis without even realizing it. Because we just want to feel better about how we are doing.
The thing is, there's a much better way to take stock of how you are doing. Are the kids happy? Content? Healthy? Good job mom. Are you content and healthy? Now I know what you are thinking, NO I HAVE SMALL CHILDREN I AM A LUNATIC HALF THE TIME. That's to be expected. But deep down you know if you are doing the right thing, right? So that's it. It doesn't matter what anyone else thinks, not your mom, not your mother in law, not your neighbor, not the other moms in mom group, YOU. You, and your partner in parenting if you have one, and your kids. That's it. Done and done.
So the next time you want to pull out the judgment card on someone, think to yourself, why am I doing this? What am I feeling insecure about right now that I need to protect? I promise you by looking inward and working on what might be unsettled in your life you not only will avoid tearing someone else down but you will build yourself up and create an even more solid foundation for parenting and teaching your children how to treat others, and how to treat themselves. And if someone does it to you, don't make them the bad guy. Take yourself to that place that we have all been, that place of feeling like we are failing, and hell, even throw in something positive, and who knows? Maybe you'll be the catalyst for them to stop using that tactic to feel better too. That's how you build a tribe. That's how you build community. That's how we can all help each other be better mothers.