Recently, I saw a Facebook friend from a friend of mine who moved out of state. She was lamenting the fact that it was so difficult to meet new people and make friends, especially when you have two kids under age 5 at home.
Only a couple of comments in, someone had given her the expected advice, “Join a playgroup. Go to the gym, the library, church.” My friend replied that she had, but none of those things were working.
My heart goes out to her, because I’ve been there.
I spent four years in a large city, full of all sorts of people, and I felt sure that if I put myself out there enough, I’d make a mom friend. I signed up for playgroups, religiously went to story time at the library, went out of my comfort zone to introduce myself to other moms who seemed to have something in common with me.
I went to the gym, to church, the park. Although I’d occasionally manage a small-talk conversation with another mom, the connection never happened and I never had a real friend while I lived in this city.
I normally had longer and deeper conversations with the teenage girl who was the checker at my favorite supermarket. I was heartbroken and lonely.
I spent all my time looking after my daughter, and although my husband is great, I needed a mom friend in my life.
Any time I lamented on the phone to an old (usually childless) friend, I would get the same advice that was offered to my friend on Facebook. Just put yourself out there! It’ll happen! Although I knew that my old friends were trying to be supportive and encouraging, I was upset because I knew that I was trying.
I wasn’t hiding at home 24-7; I made it a point to go out into the world and be at other places where moms were. After so much effort, I was beginning to feel that the problem was me–maybe I wasn’t very likeable, or maybe I came across as needy. After all, I really did need a friend, and maybe I did seem desperate to other moms. I don’t know.
All I know is that I tried; I followed advice, and it didn’t work.
Being a mom is like that–there is lots of advice coming at you. Some of it is solicited; much of it isn’t.
Strangers at the grocery store tell you to just do this or that, and your baby will stop crying.
Your relatives tell you stories about how they did all these things when they were kids, and they survived, and they just don’t understand why you aren’t doing things the same old ways.
Friends with kids recommend sleep methods that worked for them when you mention your child waking in the night.
The advice is endless.
Sometimes it is welcome, sometimes it isn’t.
Sometimes people give advice to commiserate with you, even though it doesn’t always come across that way.
For me, I usually welcome advice. I try to treat it as it is intended–which is to say that I normally give someone the benefit of the doubt and assume that they are giving advice to be genuinely helpful.
Of course, it is impossible and unwise to follow everyone’s advice. I take some here, some there, do my own research, and ultimately make the choices that I feel are best for me and my family.
But sometimes, despite the best research, the best advice, and the best decisions, things still don’t work out.
Maybe your baby still won’t sleep through the night, despite following the most sound and celebrated research. You probably just have a baby that is different from your sister’s baby, who slept all night from the beginning.
Maybe you eat healthy and exercise and still can’t lose that last 5, 10, or 20 pounds. Maybe you are just made differently from your friend who eats worse, exercises less, and still manages to look like she did when you both graduated high school.
Maybe, like me, you made your best efforts to put yourself into the world, to try and make that connection with another mom, and it simply never happened.
So here is what has helped me cope when I felt like I was giving it my all, but it (whatever it is) just isn’t happening.
(You knew advice was coming, didn’t you!)
I try to do my best at whatever I am trying to accomplish, but then I have to detach myself from my emotions and remember that this is just a season of my life.
I know that my small children won’t always be small. One day (as far away as that may seem), they will both be in school. I’ll be able to actually focus on things I need to do at home, or else find a job outside the house.
I know that babies just don’t sleep like adults–even the best sleepers, and this, too, shall (eventually) pass.
Yes, you absolutely have to do the work, but sometimes the other obligations or circumstances of our lives can play such a role that things you want might not happen at that time.
But it is sometimes true.
I write this because I believe that if you are reading this far, you are probably in a situation like that.
You might be trying your best, but whatever you are trying to do still isn’t working.
You might be to that point, like I was, where you feel depressed and like the problem is you.
I’m here to tell you that it probably isn’t. This might just be a tough season of your life regarding that goal.
So what ultimately helped me?
I kept putting myself out there. Three years after living in that city and feeling utterly isolated, I finally connected with another mom.
It turns out, she wasn’t from there either, and she was also having trouble meeting people.
She was very pregnant when I met her, and she had a toddler between the ages of my two children.
We were able to get together for play dates and even a couple of moms-only coffees before my family moved away. I was able to bring her a meal after her sweet baby girl was born.
Although we have since lost touch, that relationship reminded me that I was, in fact, a likeable person and a good friend. Much of the problems that she and I both had were cultural differences in that particular city, which made it difficult to connect with many people. It wasn’t her, and it wasn’t me. It was our location.
She did have family there and work, so she had connected with more people than I had, which is great. She had a network, however small it may have felt at the time.
For me, it was such a relief to meet someone who got me.
But I also realize that relationship never would have happened if I had given up.
If I had stopped putting myself out there, I never would have made this friend.
So even though it can be discouraging when things don’t work on our Plan A timeline, remember that there is always another timeline that we can follow, even if we can’t exactly see where it is going.