Are you struggling to fit in with other moms? Painfully awkward and feeling dismissed? Does that sound familiar? You aren’t alone. I know how that feels. No matter what kind of mom group you’re in there is a mom in your circle who feels forgotten.
There is a mom in your circle who feels forgotten. She’s certain she doesn’t fit in. She longs for your friendship. How do I know? I am that mom.
I had been part of an amazing mom’s group after the birth of my oldest son. It brought me out of the postpartum depression that paralyzed me after giving birth. This amazing group is honestly what helped me find my feet as a stay-at-home-mom.
Early in its infancy, I attended nearly every meetup. I hosted events, sometimes four to six times a month to give the fledgling group a full calendar that would attract more people. I threw my heart and soul into it. I even made friends with an amazing woman named Jessica. God, I love her! Her friendship is invaluable to me. I felt like she understood me, right from the beginning and for almost two years, she was truly my best friend. My compatriot in the trenches. I could count on her for anything. But life threw a curveball for both of us. She moved six hours away. I foolishly thought nothing would change our friendship. Even though we stay in touch, it isn’t the same as being down the street. Honestly, when she left I struggled greatly. It was gut-wrenching. I totally failed to handle her leaving like a grown-up.
When I was pregnant with my second son I was grappling with terrible depression. I was off my antidepressants and striving to appear normal to everyone. But I was grossly overwhelmed. I had serious complications with my pregnancy. I was co-organizing the playdate group I loved, but was beginning to be burdened by it. I was drowning in my responsibilities at home. I was a human disaster.
After I had my son, the postpartum depression took hold of me and completely swallowed any joy I had left. The medications weren’t working. I slowly descended into a deeper, darker place. Those were scary times. My emotions were out of control. To top it off, I ended up having a major falling out with one of my fellow moms. The conflict broke me. Not just because of the harsh words exchanged, but because I had truly cared for this lovely woman. When I found out she had been secretly resentful and embittered towards me all that the time I thought we were friends, it just shattered my heart. Like broke it into a million pieces.
I was so broken, so embarrassed by what had been said, I withdrew from her and the group until I could get my head (and my soul) together. I didn’t tell anyone I was exiting. I just simply stopped attending events. I sought out a trusted friend seeking counsel on the matter, but it did not stay confidential and caused an even bigger rift. A few months after I’d left, word got back to me I was being talked about. It shattered me. I decided to stay away for good.
Only two ladies from the group reached out and asked if I was okay. Two. Two women who weren’t even all that involved in the group to begin with were the only ones who realized I was no longer there. The rest? Well, I was forgotten. I had been away for a few months when it dawned on me that no one even seemed to notice I was gone. No one cared. No one missed me. Once I realized that, well…it was crushing. I slowly began to realize that nothing, not my contributions, not my advice, my listening ear, my helpfulness, not all the playdates I hosted had mattered to anyone.
It was almost like in a romantic relationship when you realize that the relationship meant more to you than it did to the other person. It’s humiliating when you realize you were the one doing all the chasing and pursuing. I was embarrassed. I needed them a hell of a lot more than they needed me. The relationship had been largely one-sided and I hadn’t even noticed.
Over the past year, I’ve struggled to watch from the sidelines. They call each other. They go out. They spend mornings at each other’s houses. In the beginning, it was painful to see them on social media at parties and get-togethers. I’m absent. I’m forgotten. It’s taken almost an entire year to be okay with that. But I’m finally there. It’s okay that I only have a couple of true friends.
This isn’t about attention-seeking. At least not for myself. This post is actually quite embarrassing to share publicly. I hate admitting to anyone this is how I secretly feel. Lonely. Overlooked. But I’m sharing it because I don’t think it’s an anomaly. I think there are a lot of moms out there who feel excluded. Moms who feel invisible. There are women out there who long to be a part of a non-judgmental, drama-free mom circle and don’t know how to find it. Moms who are too socially anxious to make friends. Moms who are waiting for someone to invite them and include them. Moms who want more than just casual hellos in school hallways.
I’ve discovered something shocking in adulthood. The landscape of the playground hasn’t really changed since grade school. There is still a closely-knit group of inseparable girlfriends. And there is still an awkward girl watching and desperately wishing she could be a part of it. She wonders why she doesn’t belong.
Girl cliques still exist even in adulthood. You see them huddled together at the park or telling their inside jokes at Chick-fil-A. Being the mom who doesn’t fit in is a lonely road. There are lots of reasons she is the odd mom out. Perhaps she’s out of shape in a group of moms who live and breathe stroller strides. Perhaps she is just socially anxious or a quiet introvert. Maybe she is the single parent or the stepmom in a blended family who doesn’t fit the conventional norm. She’s the mom staring at her smartphone so she won’t look awkwardly alone. She probably drifts from mom group to mom group, always moving on and never feeling that chemistry she craves.
But being a lonely mom causes another feeling to surface. You worry about your kids being lonely – about them not fitting in. How can you possibly teach them to make friends when you yourself struggle with it? Worse still, how do you comfort your kids and tell them that the schoolyard shunning gets better as you grow older? We all know it doesn’t.
I’m grateful for this though. It has taught me a lot. There are lots of moms who quietly moved on from our group. Did anyone notice? Did they feel shunned or neglected? I’m convinced they did. Next time, I’ll be watching for the mom that leaves without a word. There is a mom in your circle who feels forgotten. She yearns for a genuine friendship with you. Save her a seat.