motherhood

When You Don’t Have a Tribe

“Mom, I can’t find a friend to play with,” my son tells me a few minutes after we arrive. I’ve barely had time to get settled, find a seat, let his little sister down to play.

“There are a ton of kids here, babe. I’m sure if you ask, you can find someone to play with.” He begins the search and before I know it, I hear his laughter joined with the others.

I pass a group of moms, clearly there for a playdate. They all have babies the same age as my youngest, I notice as I awkwardly maneuver around them to get a seat and let my little one loose. I look over at my son, running and laughing. I smile and wave as I think to myself that I  envy his ability to be so outgoing and make friends so quickly. I find myself watching this group of moms, desperately wanting what they have- each other- and wishing I was more like my son- brave.

I really should take my own advice, find someone to talk to and start a conversation. Who knows, maybe a friendship could form from that. I’ve heard that happens: you meet in a play area and start a conversation and become friends. It is mostly heresy for me, I don’t belong to a circle of moms, I don’t have many mom friends at all. I don’t have a group that I can get together with, call if I need help, or drop off emergency diapers too, no one to vent to or empathize with. My son searches for friends to play with for a few hours, I’m searching for friends to do life with.

I always thought that I would get to do motherhood with my friends, but I was the first one to have children and many of my friendships dissolved with the addition of my second. The one person I long to share motherhood with is unable to become a mother herself, which is painful to accept. Even if my friends were mothers with me, I’d be the only one who stays home, I’d still be isolated and alone. I have joined mom groups through local churches and never connected with anyone. As hard as I tried and as much as I put myself out there, nothing ever formed. They were there for me when I needed them, we cried together and laughed together, but always within the confines of the church. These women, as wonderful as they are, weren’t meant for me.

I eventually gave up the search, accepting that motherhood was something I was meant to do alone, the isolation would make me a better mom, make me stronger. Everywhere I went everyone seemed so engrossed with their phones or were closed off. I figured they all had enough friends, enough conversations. They aren’t lacking in this area the way I am, they aren’t lonely. I pour myself into my kids, I cherish the time we have together, just the three of us. This life is what I always dreamed of, it is what my husband and I have sacrificed for and worked hard for. As fulfilling as this life can be, I cannot shake the feeling that something is immensely lacking in my life.

Motherhood is full of beautiful moments that I treasure, it is also full of exhausting and frustrating moments; to not have someone to confide in adds to the loneliness and emptiness that oftentimes overlaps with joy, beauty, and laughter. I realize that we aren’t meant to do this alone. When small children are your daily companions, when days are filled with needs and wants that you are expected to meet, when your days are filled with potty training and figuring out nap schedules for multiple kids, it becomes exhausting and isolating work. I realize that I can’t do this alone, not in this season I am in, not in any season I will find myself in through the years. Motherhood isn’t just lonely when you’re taking care of newborns, it isn’t just hard when you are taking care of infants and toddlers. At no point on this journey are we meant to go alone.

I put myself out there, which as an introvert is hard to do. I navigate my way through conversations with other moms and attempt to gauge where they are and what they need or want from the conversation. It is hard to feel like I am not overstepping or getting in the way, which is how I often feel. As an introvert, I feel awkward whenever I speak to someone I am not close with, because of this I struggle with taking it further, to be brave enough to ask if they’d like to meet here at the same time next week. I am kept silent by the voices in my head telling me they have enough friends, they don’t need me, or we live so far away, it would just be a burden to plan something.

We need each other, of this I am sure. We are all looking for someone who understands what our daily lives look like, who understands how beautifully messy motherhood truly is, someone to acknowledge that motherhood is a captivating contradiction, and that we aren’t losing our minds, even though it feels like it most days. I like to believe that we are all in need of a confidant, a voice of reason, a shoulder to cry on. I refuse to believe that I am the only mom in the world who has yet to find that. I know I am not the only mom still lacking in this area.

I also know that we have to endure certain seasons, in life and motherhood. For me, this season of mothering young children does not include a tribe to lean on and support and do life with, though that doesn’t mean I will give up the search. What it does include is a larger village of mamas in the same season I am, navigating the same issues with our children, and finding solidarity in the trenches; for me, that’s enough to keep me going.  Maybe once my oldest is in school and in sports or we add a few more siblings to the mix, I will find a group of moms that I can call my tribe. I want to believe that I will not always do motherhood alone, that this season I am in will not be my whole life. As hard as it can be, I remain grateful and humbled by it all. Even though I find myself lonely and oftentimes, alone, during the long days of mothering, I know I am not. Somewhere out there is a mom of young children, wishing to call someone on the phone and cry and vent, she wants to know she isn’t alone. I find solace in knowing that we are never alone.