By Guest Blogger Angie Carson
My title may seem mean-spirited but I promise you that it’s not. I am writing this post to help you!
Yes, you – mom who complains that no one ever invites her anywhere.
You – mom who tears up about not having a group of friends to pal around with.
You – mom who envies others’ photos on social media and wishes you could be like them.
I am writing this to you because I wish someone had done it for me. Because I WAS you! I did all of those things. I wallowed in my misery of friend-less-ness. I went to a church, lived in a neighborhood, and was involved at my childrens’ schools, where I knew almost all the moms. I was friendly with all the moms. I was acquaintances with all the moms, but I couldn’t stop complaining that I wasn’t in their social circles or part of their groups.
My husband, bless his heart, was the one who finally had the guts to sit me down and tell me to put on my big girl panties and stop complaining because it was my own fault! What a jerk, right?
My husband isn’t a jerk at all.
What he was … was right.
During the talk with my darling husband, he asked me when the last time was that I invited one of those groups of women to do something. When was the last time I initiated a get-together, a dinner, or a playdate with our children? I had no answer because I had not done it. I may have asked one or two of the women separately to go out for coffee, but that was it. One time for coffee and I expected to be their number one gal pal. I had never asked them to my house. I had never planned a party, or Ladies Night Out, or even a dinner. So why was I sitting around expecting them to invite me on their girls weekends when the only effort I had ever made was to ask one of them to coffee?
I realized that the hubs was right. Women were not going to come knocking on my door asking if I would be their friend.
Friendship doesn’t just happen like it did way back in high school when we were all in the same classes and had no choice but to see each other every day. Now it takes effort. You don’t get to know someone on a deep friendship level by sitting next to them during a soccer game or PTA meeting. You need to initiate times to be together and get to know each other on a deeper level.
The best friendships are the ones that are cultivated and worked on from both sides. I hate to make it sound like a job description, but it in a way it is.
Going back to the social groups that surrounded me, I also realized when I looked at these groups of women that they were all “initiators” for lack of a better word. Each of them contributed to their own group. There wasn’t one of them who was invited to every social event without making an effort to organize her own social event at some point in time. They had all these groups of friends because they worked for their groups of friends. They didn’t sit around waiting to be invited somewhere.
So here is what I did:
I poured myself a glass of wine and sat in my favorite chair with a notebook. I wrote down three things I liked to do: read, exercise, and cook. I made three columns and tried to think of acquaintances who might also like to do these things and put them under each category. I thought of women in our church, in our school, in our neighborhood, and so on.
When all was said and done, I had created a list of five moms who I thought would enjoy being in a book club. I also had a list of five who I thought might like to start a running group. I then had three couples who I thought might enjoy a dinner club where we would host each other at our homes every few months and serve dinner. (This one was tough because I tried to list couples where the husband might have things in common with my husband also.)
I was pretty impressed with myself and my lists. I showed it to my husband and my mom, who were also impressed. But they then reminded me that not all of these women were looking for more social activities to add to their plates. Some of the women were already in many other social groups themselves. They were right. I think I was seeking out friends from women who might not be searching for more friends. Sounds harsh, but it’s true.
As our lives become crazier and our children become more involved in activities, we only have so much free time. And more often than not, people want to spend that time with those they already know well. Nothing against these ladies on my original list at all. They were all fabulous people, but I knew the chances of them wanting to add more events to their calendars might be slim. So I had to change up my lists a bit and seek out women who I wanted to get to know better who didn’t seem to already be part of a “group.”
I redid my lists and also posted on Facebook asking if anyone might be interested in joining a running group that I was putting together. I texted people and Facebook messaged people and within a week I had formed a book club and a running group. The dinner club proved to be a little more difficult so I decided to shelve that for another time.
I had to be the organizer right off the bat obviously since I started these groups, but as time went on other moms stepped up to organize and plan.
It was super cool to bring together different women from different areas of my life and I am happy to report that the book club group has now become “my gang.” It took a while, but as we all got to know each other, we realized how much we enjoyed each other’s company and started to do things together outside of book club with our families as well.
The running group has been a bit of a revolving door with members, but I have met some great women. It is surprising how much you find out about each other on a long run!
Here is my last bit of advice and I hope those of you reading this don’t take it as patronizing because remember I’m saying all this to help you! My last bit of advice is to follow the guidelines you give your children when they are making new friends: Don’t be the one monopolizing the conversation. Always ask about others (their family, their activities) and LISTEN as they answer. Friendship is a two-way street and you should reach out to others as often as they reach out to you. Return texts. Return emails. Return phonecalls. Be nice to everyone. Look people in the eye. Stay off your phone when you are socializing with others.
Best of luck to those of you who are ready to form your tribe! When all else fails, join a group on Meet Up and start there. As much as some days it may not feel like it, there are other moms out there just like you who are ready for a new friend!