When you become a mom, so many things change, including your place in the world. You’re suddenly faced with an entirely different perspective and whole new way of looking at pretty much everything. It’s like being handed an endless maze which is constantly changing, no matter which path you take. On top of that, you are immediately put in a “Mom” category, which carries all sorts of connotations with it, which might, or might not, apply to you.

When I had my kids, I did have some playdates where I hung out with other moms. It helped to have them around just to vent, and to learn the hundreds of things you are supposed to know when you first have a kid, but I never really felt “mom-enough.” I didn’t add sweet notes to their lunches, take pictures of them in matching outfits, or sing them to sleep. That last one was particularly unsettling as I realized I didn’t know any lullabies because clearly my parents just shut the door and told me to “go to sleep!” In this social media frenzy of the cool mom, wine mom, yoga pants mom, crafty mom, healthy chef mom, and of course, the mom who is trying really hard to look like they are not trying at all, I never really felt like I fit in.

During this time with young kids, I started going to the local gym where the owner was an incredibly intimidating strong female who would yell across the room to me in spin class “Liza! Pick it up! You out late last night or something??!!” (My name is Lisa but there were already enough Lisa’s at the gym, so it stuck—my gym name became Liza, which I embraced whole-heartedly.) This gym was full of amazing women who accepted me for who I was, and I quickly realized I was just being myself when I was there because I felt comfortable in that environment—no mom act, no trying to fit in. I thrived on being pushed to do my best and started going every day. Some days the woman next to me would plunk her Dunkin Donuts iced coffee into the bike’s water bottle cage, look at me and ask, “How are you doing Liza??” And she meant it. And other days the owner would bring me her turkey chili recipe, and invite me to Friday wine night with the ladies. I finally felt like I fit in somewhere, and just having that, made me feel better as a mom.

I realized I didn’t fit into any of these other mom groups because I wasn’t being myself around them. I was just acting the way I thought moms should act—whatever that is—I am not sure anyone really knows. I took a step back from the whole mom label that is applied the minute you pop those kids out, and just tried to be myself and to do what I enjoyed, and that was working out, something I have always considered important and enjoyable. (I know many moms who would think I was crazy.) Turns out, that was my community and I just hadn’t realized it.

So if I had one piece of advice for moms out there searching for their community, it would be—just be yourself, don’t try to keep up with anyone, and see what happens. If you feel most comfortable going to the craft store and creating amazing pieces of art, then go for it. If you feel more comfortable hiking a trail and planning your next backpacking adventure, I guarantee there is a community out there for you too. If there is one thing I have learned, it is you are not alone in your interests and needs as a mom—there is a group of people out there just like you. Be yourself, and the community will find you.