When our babies were young, there were anywhere from six to eight of us. We met at Christi’s house every Monday morning with all the kids — the babies in arms or just learning to walk, the homeschooled bigger kids who ran up and down the stairs and taught the toddlers how to climb the baby gate.
We all brought some kind of food. The most popular mom brought a nugget tray. We ate cake. We ate cheese. We drank sweet tea and we talked. Christi taught one girl how to nurse on her side so she could get some sleep. They all taught me how to wear my baby and how to wrap him on my back. We talked about co-sleeping and feeding and nursed each other’s babies. This was a serious mom tribe.
Then Christi moved, and it wasn’t the same.
I used to have some moms from my local babywearing group, but I stopped wearing as much, and my 5-year-old home-schooled son kept getting yelled at during meetings, so I pulled back and it was over. That was sad, as we’d weathered one of the women’s daughter’s deaths together. But when the dueling Facebook message threads started, I ran fast and hard from the negativity.
So here I am without a mom tribe, and it sucks.
That doesn’t mean I don’t have mom friends. I have plenty of those. One to kayak and hike, one writer buddy, one who always makes me laugh, and one whose deep friendship has stood the test of time and drama. I have a few homeschooling moms. But I don’t fit in with the homeschooling crowd who are always too busy, busy, busy to hang out. I don’t feel comfortable with the moms in one home-school co-op, who are super sweet, but, I suspect, only because they’re trying to see Christ in me. We don’t have a lot in common, and again, homeschooling busy.
Three of my favorite moms, including my BFF, have moved in the past year and a half. The last one just up and fled to Ohio, and she was one of the last people I could just call to meet me at Target. I only have one mom now who will meet me at Target. The moms who moved were all my Target moms.
We used to go in droves, as recreation more than shopping. Now I shop alone with my kids. It’s a much crankier, much whinier experience. I buy less random clothing that turns out to look fabulous on me. I spend less money at Starbucks and less time in the makeup aisles. No one else has the patience to cruise the back endcaps (you know, the ones where all the good clearance deals can be found). My kids don’t give a shit about clearance deals.
Worse than that, though, there are very few people I can ask to watch my kids. Before my mamas moved, I always had three trustworthy, easy babysitters. Now I’d have more if moms weren’t so busy. But I feel bad asking home-schooling moms to watch my kids. I know I’d be disrupting their entire school day. Some of my mom friends I trust with my oldest (almost 7) but not the baby (barely 3).
Scheduling my own doctor’s appointments have become nightmares. I have to make sure they’re after 4 p.m. on the days my husband gets home at 4 p.m. or when he can at least manage to meet me at the doctor’s to take the kids. I am still missing a ductal plug in my eye because I can’t manage to schedule an appointment with the specialty eye doctor. Forget the gyno, the regular eye doctor, or a therapist. Or, God forbid, a chance to get my nails and eyebrows done — that ain’t happening in this life.
Most of all, though, I miss the advice. Any good mom group, like Christi’s, has moms with older kids in there or at least kids of the same age. A mom tribe is a good barometer for “normal” kid behavior. Is 6 supposed to be this full of tantrums? When do I put up the cloth diapers and consider my 3-year-old potty trained? I need someone to remind me it’s normal that my 5-year-old doesn’t know his letters and my 6-year-old can’t tie his shoes yet. At the same time, I want moms to tell me how well he can read and how kind my kids are to each other. I miss the advice. I miss the compliments, too. We all need that validation sometimes.
The internet can substitute, in some ways. I have a fierce group of moms who have each other’s backs, who cheer each other on, and who answer each others’ questions. But there aren’t any playdates. There aren’t any nights out. The screen stays between us, no matter how much we care for each other. It’s both a blessing and a curse.
There’s no way to really consciously cultivate a mom tribe. It either happens or it doesn’t. I’m sort of doomed to be nice to everyone, sit on my butt, stay away from drama, and hope one spontaneously forms around me, like a hurricane in warm water. Formula feeding, co-sleeping, disposable-diapering, public-schooling, home-schooling, unschooling, or too-young-to-be-schooling — I don’t care anymore. As long as you can hang at Target, you’re in.