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  • Jennifer Welvaert-Koch, LCPC

Finding My Mama Tribe


This afternoon one of my besties of nearly 20 years and her kiddos are en route to visit me and my family for a few days. I CAN'T WAIT! However, rather than frantically cleaning our house spotless or even showering I am on the couch with our two year old writing this blog post and watching Thomas the Train because 1. my friend will look past the baskets of laundry, smashed crackers, and unwashed hair and unconditionally accept me, my imperfections, and my current phase of life, and 2. the notion of making adult friendships and finding a mama tribe has been weighing on my mind and I know my friend would support me in expressing my feelings about it.

I recently took the opportunity to network with other moms specifically to befriend one another. Okay, it was literally "A Momma Speed Dating Event" hosted by Quad Cities Moms Blog, and it was awesome! The fact that it was clear all the mamas in the room were open to making friends, it didn't feel weird approaching them, it was expected, and structured. I didn't have to worry about encroaching on quality time with their kiddos at a children's event, or intruding on a closed mama tribe, or feeling rejected that the other person is not looking for a friend. It got me thinking how my three closest friends who all happen to live out of state got to be my besties, and when it comes to making new friends, what do you do post introduction.

My friendships, even my closest ones took a hit once I entered parenthood. Responsibilities of being an adult and parent sucked the time and energy I used to set aside for cultivating meaningful friendships. My friendships that have stood the test of time have done so mostly because we had already seen each other through so much; art shows, school, moves across the country, relationships good and bad, grief and loss, health scares, babies, and the list continues to grow. We've given each other permission to show up unannounced, be whoever it is we are that day, send birthday cards/don't send birthday cards, text anytime, answer texts right away or three weeks later, and call even if it's only for a few minutes 'cause that's the longest time you have without being interrupted by a little one in perceived crisis mode. I wonder if new friendships can create that kind of space for one another without seeming like a major flake.

Cultivating new friendships definitely involves a certain level of vulnerability and risk. It can be a challenge investing in a new relationship time wise not knowing the pay off. Yet, if we never invest much, we'll never get much out of it - mostly acquaintances or Facebook Friends. And speaking of social media, is that kind of engagement enough to develop a real life friendship?

Obviously, movies romanticize romantic relationships, but I think to some degree they romanticize female friendships too and that can be a tough ideal to live up to - think Sex and the City or The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood. Ever feel like you're lacking if your real life friendships do not resemble the ones you see on t.v.? I don't think you're alone.

Now that I feel like a total Debbie Downer and highlighted what I think are some challenges to finding our mama tribes and making friends as an adult, I do have some ideas to offer on how to surpass these challenges, or at least some ideas I wouldn't mind trying myself.

1. Say yes. Say yes to playdates, morning coffee, or getting a drink later. Say yes to meeting in person instead of online. Say yes to the possibility of looking uncool asking someone else to be your friend. Brené Brown writes in her latest book about Americans sorting ourselves to the point of only socializing with people that share our exact views. How boring. Saying yes means being open, curious, inviting, inclusive. Say yes to friends who may not share your exact views on everything you have a view on. Saying yes feels like a gamble, a risk, vulnerability at its finest, but at some point it will pay off big.

2. Be you. For me, being anything else feels exhausting, and not a good use of my time. I encourage you to do the same. Being a parent is tough as it is, no reason to add pressure to be anything else other than you.

3. Be patient. I have to remind myself that my besties didn't become my besties overnight. We started as ping pong partners in a high school gym class, or inviting them to dinner at our college cafeteria, or just hanging out in our dorm room. You can't hot-wire connection by oversharing. I love what Brené Brown has to say about marble jar friends. We earn one another's trust with small moments of connection, and thoughtfulness, adding one marble in the jar at a time until it's full. If I can be patient during the time if takes my four year old to go potty, brush her teeth, get a drink of water, tuck all her stuffed animals in, and say goodnight to her toy horses, I can be patient in developing a friendship that could potentially last a lifetime.

Thanks for reading! I would love to hear from you! How do you continue to cultivate meaningful friendships as an adult, especially as a parent?

#mamatribe #parenthood #friendship #connection

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