I have always wanted a tribe of friends during my mothering years. You know what I’m talking about. The ones who plan field trips to local educational hot spots and post pictures on Instagram of a harem of kids having fun. The ones who meet for coffee and lament their recent parenting mishaps and laugh along with you when you recount your latest toddler story.
Navigating the social terrain of friendships among moms reminds me so much of middle school. That deep desire to be asked to sit at the “cool” table at lunch and be invited to sleepovers now translates into a longing to be welcomed in to the circle of moms at the park and having a calendar filled with playdates. We all want a belonging place, no matter how old we get.
After my husband accepted a job in Madison, we packed up our things and moved our family from the east coast to Wisconsin. I said good-bye to my community of friends and became “the new girl” at the peak of the little years with my two sons. I clearly remember taking my boys to McKee Farms Park and admiring the circle of women that formed while their children played on the playground. I admired how they went in and out of conversation with each other with such ease as they were interrupted by their kiddos. I felt like an outsider witnessing the intersection of motherhood and friendship at its finest.
I knew that being a mom to little ones could be a hard and lonely season so I was determined to find other women and moms who were open to friendships and figuring out this parenting thing together. As a natural introvert, I purposely had to put myself out there. I started conversations with the other moms at library times, organized play dates and kid-friendly events, and got connected with local community groups. It took time and intentionality, but slowly I started building lasting friendships with other moms as my little boys built friendships with their children too. There were weeks when every day was full of fun adventures, and other times when well-intended plans with someone we had just met ended in melt-downs by our kids and promises to reschedule.
Recently I found myself thinking about the tribe of women who have become my close friends and who are often times life-lines when things are hard as a mom. The ones who noticed I was alone, introduced themselves, and welcomed me in. I think about the women who invited me into the fold of their existing friendships and extended invitations and grace when I needed them. I’m so thankful that they were willing to reach out to me when I needed it.
As I get my footing in Madison, I hope I will be able to do the same when I see a mom who needs an extra hand or is in need of a friend. It may be as simple as introducing yourself to someone at storytime or giving an encouraging word to a fellow mom in the checkout line at a grocery store. Community is often built on the small risk of saying “hello” to someone new. When it comes down to it, we’re all in this together and in my mind there is always enough room at the “cool” mom bench at the park.
Michelle is a graduate of UW-Madison and met her husband, Daniel, while in Denver, Colorado getting her master’s degree in clinical and school counseling. She worked in the local schools and in private practice on the east coast before moving back to Wisconsin earlier this year. She owns a counseling practice in Madison and specializes in depression, anxiety, parenting issues, behavioral concerns in children and adolescents, eating disorders and body image issues. While counseling is her passion, being a wife and the mom of Caleb and Joshua is her joy. She loves family dance parties, conversations over good food, and finding beauty in the mess of life. To learn more about Michelle go to michelleowenlpc.wix.com/counselor.