Like many first time parents, when my daughter was born I signed her up for every activity, from baby yoga to music class, I could find. The goal was to make friends and to get out of the house, so as not to be too overwhelmed by the new normal of “parenthood.” What I found in those first experiences, was women who were willing to be more vulnerable and open their hearts to new friendships. Mamas bonded over breastfeeding, nutrition, sleep, play groups, and mama’s nights out to regain sanity. It truly felt like a community, where everyone was included and I felt lucky to be part of such an empowering group of women.

Fast forward to preschool. Groups of mom’s circle around each other after drop-off, chatting and sipping lattes. Even better are secret play dates with a select few families where allegiances form. Quickly, feels a bit like middle and high school cliques that you thought were a thing of the past. What happened to the empowering community you were a part of during those glorious baby years?

Suddenly, you fall into this trap of trying hard to fit in, if not for yourself, for your child—all in an effort to keep her from being a social outcast. You worry about inserting yourself into conversations without talking too much or too little. You stress about outfit choices and you spend copious amounts of time worrying about the number of play dates your child is invited to. It’s exhausting, and downright consuming.

But, then you somehow wake up from this fog, let go of the pressure to be perfect, and take on a whole new perspective. Maybe you don’t have to fit in with everyone and that’s ok! Maybe you’ll find your people while volunteering for a school event. Or perhaps your child has connected with a new friend and you invite her to a playdate at your house, and you find friendship when you meet her parents. You come to the realization that it’s fine not to be invited to every event, but focus on the people who include you and want to be part of your life. You make sure to greet everyone that you come into contact with and include everyone, even if you’re being excluded because that’s who you are.

All you can do is continue to shine and be your best self because in the end that’s really all that matters.