I’ve never been much of a social butterfly. I’ve had the same best friend my entire life and always feel more comfortable sitting in a corner grabbing coffee with her than in a big, group setting where there are tons of people standing around discussing everything and nothing all at once.

Still, when I had my first baby, I found myself desperately needing, no craving, that solidarity that only other moms can offer. Still, when I was invited to a mommy and me class at our church, I initially scoffed at the notion.

What would we do, sit around and dissect what our children should be eating, who is sleeping through the night and who isn’t and which craft to make next? I thought it sounded sweet but honestly, I was bone tired, hadn’t showered in days and just wanted to sleep for more than three hours without being interrupted. I was in no place to paper mache.

Then, on a whim, I decided to give it a try. To my surprise, I wasn’t greeted by totally put-together women who looked fresh from the powder room with brand-name duds and perfectly coiffed hair. Rather, they all looked a little like me. We were sleepy. Our hair was in a sloppy bun. We were carrying coffee cups filled to the brim. We were happy. We were anxious. We were moms.

Since then, I’ve found my tribe in those women and I owe them a debt of gratitude for how they pulled me out of a funk, gave me something to look forward to and revealed to me the beauty of this season of life. Whatever yours looks like or especially if you’re still searching, here are three things to look for when establishing your mom tribe.

1. The golden rule: They do not judge.

This one is paramount and let me tell you why. As moms, we already judge ourselves enough. Whether we want to admit it or not, we’re picking apart our clothes, our skin, our hair, our parenting skills, our daughter’s wardrobe, you name it. We don’t need other women doing that job for us.

If your tribe makes you feel inferior for serving your kid spaghetti-o’s instead of organic, free range chicken, it’s time to re-evaluate a few things. Of course, any great tribe will kindly and gently point out areas where you could be going down some seriously wrong roads. However, letting your kid wear the same outfit three days in a row? They better be biting their tongues.

2. There’s a shared respect, even if interests differ.

One of my closest friends in my tribe is an avid crafter. Her house looks like a real-life Pinterest board, chock full of the greatest DIYs you could dream up. She has three different sewing machines for different fabrics, custom photo coasters, cork boards full of memories down the hall. You get the picture.

Me? I’ve never held a pair of crafting scissors in my life and until she told me about it, I had no clue what Mod Podge was. I’d rather hire a professional than DIY just about anything and she knows that.

Still, she lets me sit on the daybed that she upfitted into a play space for her son, prop my feet on his custom train table and share with her every worry that’s lying on my heart. That’s true friendship right there, even if our idea of what we’d do with a free day is vastly different.

3. They encourage and bring out your best.

As moms, it’s so easy to get down on ourselves and wonder if we’re doing a good enough job (head’s up: you are). That’s why surrounding yourself with a positive, encouraging tribe is essential. No, you don’t need to be coddled and surrounded by compliments all of the time.

Yet, your tribe will be the first ones to notice if you dyed your hair (sometimes even before your husband) or got a new mani-pedi. They’ll congratulate you on that new job and genuinely smile when you talk about wanting more babies or being totally done. They’re uplifting, bright spots in even your hardest days.

Maybe your tribe is simply your own mama, or maybe your sister. Maybe it’s your best friend from college or your neighbor down the road. Or, if you’re like me, maybe it’s a group of girls who started out as strangers but who you now group text about leaking breast milk and strange-looking diapers. Whoever they are, wherever they are, I hope they’re all you need them to be and more.

Featured Photo Courtesy: Chris Murray via Unsplash