How many of you remember your first day of high school, particularly walking into your first class? I remember so vividly searching for a familiar face to soothe my anxiety and motion me to sit next to them. My first hour was vocal music, and at my particular high school the room was expansive, and covered wall to wall in banners, chairs, and young teenage girls. Terror.
I managed to find one familiar friend and made a beeline for her! She was a grade older than me, but I didn’t care. She was talking with a group of friends about the summer, and in my boldness and simultaneous fear I attempted to join the conversation. She was gracious and introduced me to her friends, who would later become my own, but the conversation quickly resumed among them, excluding me almost instantly. The awkwardness loomed over me like a cloud, and I began scanning the crowd for just one more friend, or even one more hormonal, apprehensive teenage girl standing alone to rescue me from my humiliation.
Fast forward ten(ish) years.
Now a wife and mother, my family and I walked through the door of a stranger’s home to visit their church group. And apart from a quick “Hello. Welcome. Nice to meet you.” I found myself feeling the same as that first day of high school. I longed for someone to come over and ask me how I was doing, my children’s names and ages, what I did for a living. But once again I was left alone, feeling terrified. Wanting so badly to make a new friend, and leaving with a heavy heart. Why did no one talk to me? Who will be my friend? How do I change so people will like me better?
I don’t know about you, but I’ve found myself faced with this situation so many times as a mom that I have lost count. At the park. At birthday parties. At the pool. And even at church! Each time trying to make an effort to join a conversation and feeling the “you don’t fit here” vibe. It doesn’t mean I quit attending those events or trying each time to make an effort in conversation. I owe it to myself and to my kids to keep going! And sometimes persistence pays off! Many of my very best mom friends now have been made by pushing past the initial awkwardness and anxiety of starting a conversation.
The parallels between motherhood and those high school days are in many ways uncanny. It’s amazing how, if you took a sample of mothers and asked them if they would return to high school if they could how many would say no way! (I count myself in that camp!) Yet, moms tend to form their own cliques, perhaps without even realizing it, and the message it sends to our kids is alarming.
By showing our child that we are willing to exclude, even if we don’t intend to but especially if we do, we are teaching them that they can do the same! Have you ever watched a little kid tell another “No! You can’t play with us!”
As a former elementary school teacher, I can tell you that it happens every day! And it is heartbreaking. How did these innocent, precious little people learn to be so mean?
Now think back to a time in high school when your lunch table was full with your friends, and you had to find another place to sit. Maybe someone could have scooted over to make room for you, but they didn’t. Who remembers the movie Mean Girls? Do you remember the scene where Kady enters the lunch room on her first day and is given the “you can’t sit here” stare by every person at every table, or when Gretchen told Regina after she broke one of their petty rules,”You can’t sit with us!”?
I think of this movie almost every time I go to an event, wondering if I’ll be in or if I’ll be out. And while I certainly am not saying every mom is her own version of Regina George, I do wonder if our attitudes, intentional or otherwise, toward other moms create the same attitudes in our children toward their peers?
I’ve read articles and watched viral videos like this one, depicting the “types of moms” out there, and while they are hilarious I wonder if they don’t perpetuate the clique mentality. There’s also an exorbitant amount of mom shaming going on these days, and it generally comes from the direction of OTHER MOMS! What the actual heck? Can we just all agree that motherhood is the hardest job on earth, and it wouldn’t hurt any of us to make an effort at the next play group we sign up for to encourage one another, perhaps even a stranger, rather than close ranks in our own little groups. We need all the help we can get on this difficult journey!
So, the next time you see me at the park, at the party, or in the pick up line at school, I will smile and wave to you. I will ask you to sit next to me, ask you how you are doing and what you’ve been up to, and I will do my level best include you, hoping you will do the same.
Have you ever struggled to make mom friends because you felt like you couldn’t “break through” the group?