Confession: I barely made it out of the house until my first child was 6 months old. Most of this, to be honest, was because I found it difficult to coordinate everything: nursing times, nap times, and the inordinate amount of stuff I needed just to leave the house.
And once I did start getting out and making friends, it was kind of like high school all over again. Would the other moms think I was cool? Would I fit in? Not only was I looking for friends with similar parenting philosophies (or at least open minds), but they also had to be people I actually liked, and who liked me back.
It turned out, friends like these were surprisingly hard to find. Sure, there were plenty of moms I met that I liked well enough, but few that I wanted to actually hang out with on a regular basis; few that felt like true friends.
But finally, with a little luck and a bit of patience, I found my “mama tribe” at a breastfeeding support group, just as my son neared 12 months old. And while it definitely helped that we all had breastfeeding in common, it turned out we actually liked each other, too. A whole lot.
Soon, we started getting together weekly for play dates. Our kids got along well, and it was good to get out. But our real reason for setting up weekly get-togethers was about more than just that; it was about friendship.
To this day, I still consider these mom friends some of my best friends on earth. After all, we lived through the earliest years of parenting together — when self-doubt was strong, and when we were at our most fatigued.
We saw each other struggle through job losses and real estate crashes. We suffered together through depression, anxiety, miscarriages, and health crises. Some of our partners left us; some of us left our partners. But through it all, we had each other’s backs. We took in each other’s kids for a night when necessary. We showed up on each other’s doorsteps with food and hugs when the time was right.
There was no pretense, no one to impress. These friendships were — and still are — real, honest, and true.
If you’re still out there tirelessly searching for your own tribe, don’t sweat it — I’ve got you covered. Here are 10 ways to know for sure you’ve found your girls:
- You don’t have to dress up (or even shower) when you meet up. Yoga pants with five holes? No problem. Your friends probably know it was a small feat for you to even get dressed today.
- If you’re 30 minutes late to a play date because your toddler wouldn’t put on pants or get into his car seat without a meltdown, there is no need to apologize. Your girls get it.
- You can complain about how INSANE your kids sometimes make you feel, and no one will judge you or think you’re a bad parent for it.
- You can also complain about your partner and no one will think you suck at relationships or that your partner is a total jerk (unless he truly is, in which case your mama friends will call him on that).
- They won’t even bat an eye when your kid spits out the food they just offered — or pours Cheerios all over their kitchen floor and then stomps on it, spreading Cheerio dust all over your dining room. (Not that I’ve encountered this before or anything.)
- Your mom tribe will help you clean up at the end of a play date.
- Your mom tribe will band together when you’re in crisis.
- Your mom tribe will give you space when you need it, and not be offended by your distance.
- They will care for your kids as if they were their own, will take them under their wings when you need a breather (or if you desperately need to get to the dentist and your babysitter bailed at the last minute).
- A solid mom friend will feel like family; like a sister. They will love you through thick and thin, and without condition. And the same goes for you to them.
It’s been almost a decade now since I found my mom tribe, and in that time, things have changed some. Our play dates ended years ago, and our kids have since started school, grown up, and grown apart. Almost all of us have had another kid (or several). Many of us even moved away.
But that bond we formed way back when still hasn’t been broken. We keep in touch regularly, thanks to a “secret” Facebook group we formed, and we text and email each other in lieu of long phone calls (which, as busy moms, we all understand are next to impossible to pull off). And each time we reconnect, it’s like no time has passed at all — even if a few months of silence have gone by.
We met each other when parenthood was new; when our feelings about it were still raw and unfiltered. And yet even through that fog of those early years — of round-the-clock exhaustion and emotional yo-yoing, I knew they were for keeps.
Just like you’ll know when you’ve found yours.