Motherhood is a lifelong journey and a continually evolving process. As a mom of two teen boys, sometimes I think back to the beginning of my mothering journey: The anticipation and nesting, the excitement of bringing a brand-new human into our home, the years when I was blurry-eyed for lack of sleep, the times when I wished for just five minutes of peace and quiet to myself without another human attached to me, playdates, pre-school, elementary and middle school…
Even as long as some those early days felt, they did in fact fly by. One day, it seems, I blinked and watched my son get in a car and drive his brother to school.
There are innumerable joys and challenges at every stage of motherhood. But there’s one challenge we don’t often discuss—and that’s the loneliness and isolation which moms feel to some degree throughout motherhood.
Reflecting on the various phases of my children’s lives, I’ve come to realize that for me, what has kept that loneliness and isolation at bay, are the connections I’ve made with other moms.
I remember being a new mom and how getting out of the house and meeting a friend for lunch was a major event—an appointment that could easily be derailed by nap time or a cranky, teething baby. Many well laid plans got cancelled in those days.
But what kept me from feeling completely isolated during those first sleep-deprived years were the moms I met at mommy groups, neighbors, park friends and pre-school moms. If I didn’t have an activity on the calendar, sometimes I felt like I was spending the day waiting for my husband to come home and wondering if I’d made the right decision to be a stay-at-home mom (fully realizing how fortunate I was to even have that option).
I met women I am still friends with today at one of those mom groups. All those women were my first mom tribe and we all needed each other! Getting out of the house at least once a day became my sanity saving mantra (showered or un-showered!).
In elementary school, PTA and volunteer opportunities helped me forge friendships with other moms, but it was the after-school playground time that was best. As our kids burned off pent up energy running around, we moms got to catch up, share stories, connect and make plans. These precious minutes with other moms always gave me the little bit of extra energy I needed to make it through the rest of the day’s routine. I was part of a tight tribe and since we were mostly dealing with the same issues, we had each other’s support.
When our children left elementary school and entered middle school, we lost that after school playground time spent connecting with each other. In middle school many children also began to specialize in their sports teams and extra-curricular activities leaving little time for playdates or hanging out after school.
During this phase my time to connect with other women shifted from after school to earlier in the day—but I had to make a concerted effort to make plans! Many moms went back to work and some of that isolation and loneliness resurfaced. If there was a kid issue in our house, I no longer had the built-in playground time to talk to friends about it. There are no official mommy groups for moms of middle and high school aged kids and yet parenting becomes so much complex during this age!
I continued to connect with friends one-on-one, whether going to the gym or on walks together. But I really found the connection I needed when I attended a Happy Parent Happy Teen workshop put on by a parenting coach in Kirkland, Washington. Here were all these other moms who also have teenagers who sulk, roll their eyes and who walk straight through the house and close themselves in their bedrooms. We were all sharing slightly different versions of the same experiences we’re having while raising teenagers!
I loved feeling part of a tribe again. A tribe of moms whose kids have one foot out the door (some already had kids in college), all of whom craved to hear how other moms were coping.
The high school years are yet another brand-new phase of motherhood. In high school we rarely know the parents of our kids’ friends. Other parents are less likely to show up and be chatty at our kids’ sports games. Kids are driving and, in some ways, need us less than before. But in other respects, this phase of motherhood has been the most challenging yet and the roadmap is even vaguer than before.
I’ve attended a few of these workshops now and I will continue to do so. I need those connections with other women. I need my mom tribe more than ever. This new tribe of moms is different in that we don’t all live in the same neighborhood, our kids don’t all go to the same schools or play on the same sports teams.
Among the group, there are a broader set of experiences and challenges. The big thing we do have in common is the recognition that together we are stronger and that cultivating these connections with one another helps us be better moms and helps us be happier individuals.
In late April I’ll be attending a women’s retreat in Bellevue called Luscious Mother. I am looking forward to the connections I will forge and the insights I will gain. I am looking forward to learning from the coaches and the other women. It’s the best way to care for my self as a mother and as a woman.