A few weeks ago, I found myself alone, with my two children, at Alum Rock park in San Jose without cell coverage. I had been having an off day with my kids – and because of that, we ended up separating from the group we were with and just doing our own thing. My husband had no idea we were there, and, as we were having an off day, my friends probably assumed we had just left and gone home.
We walked toward these really pretty mineral springs. It was nice to get some mental space after the tantrums and whining of the day. Breathe in, breathe out. Rock cliffs rose up on the one side, and the sulfur-scented water was blue-green and crystal clear as it babbled along underneath low-hanging trees. It was hot and dry and we saw a couple small snakes. Before becoming a mom, seeing a snake would have put me in cardiac arrest – but now, some kind of mom-instinct kicks in and I’m able to stay unruffled while I manage a possibly-threatening situation. I calmly picked DK up and we continued on pushing V in the stroller past the snakes. DK wanted to go down to the springs to throw rocks in, but at this point, I felt uneasy at being all alone out there without even cell coverage to call for help (there are rattlesnakes at Alum Rock!), so I trusted another important mom instinct and we got out of there to rejoin civilization.
We are meant to raise our children in community. This is how humans have been raising their children for thousands of years. The saying “it takes a village” is cliché for a reason. I think that’s part of why my instinct to “get back to where there are people and we are safe” kicked in when we were out there, just the three of us. Hunter-gatherers 5000 years ago didn’t have cell coverage either, but they also probably didn’t peel off the group with their kids into an unfamiliar territory.
And yet, it seems incredibly hard to find a true village to raise your family with. We live in an age with nuclear families, private homes divided by yards and roads and driveways and dual-paned windows. We live in an age when you go to the park with your children and the other parents aren’t looking around for someone to talk to, they are looking down at a 3×5 inch screen and talking to someone across the globe. And, we live in a very transient time – people chase dreams and jobs across state-lines, across the country and across the world. This trend is especially obvious in Silicon Valley where people come, make their money, and move back to a place with a lower cost of living. Eight of my friends moved away in 2018. In 2019, three of my friends have left. So far in 2020, I’ve said goodbye to 4 dear friends. It feels like a never-ending cycle of meeting people, getting to know them, welcoming them to my inner circle, and then saying goodbye.
So how do I find my tribe? How do I make mom-friends again and again? What’s the secret?
The secret, actually is quite simple: Join an online local moms group (Facebook or Meetup.com are good places to find one), put yourself out there and host events at times and locations that are convenient to you. When you do this, you might be surprised who will show up AND the best part is they will show up because it is a time and location convenient for them too. So you can do it again. And again. And again. And slowly, through the repeated events, you will get to know each other, your kids will learn to play together, and you will have built your tribe.
Once, I organized a playground play date in a local moms group at 7:30 in the morning. I thought no one would show up. But a girl with a baby the same age as mine and who lived nearby came. That day I met my friend Pav, because she too was up with a baby at 5:30 am and by 7:30 was ready to get out of the house. Because I said “Hey, does anyone want to join me?”, she is still my good friend. Don’t just wait until someone else hosts an event and try to fit it into your schedule. Host it yourself. Do things you want to do, that you are prepared for, and you will meet other moms who want to do the same things and who’s kids have the same nap schedules.
I wanted to meet other moms who were interested in getting outside with their kids. So I started hosting weekly nature walks at times and locations convenient to me and my kids. It started by connecting with a couple of moms through a local moms group about Charlotte Mason, and over the year, we have gathered quite a large group of like-minded mamas through word of mouth and friends inviting friends.
Over the past year of doing these nature walks, I have discovered another important secret: doing things that scare you is always better with a community. Take going to the beach for example. The beach isn’t that scary normally. But it is terrifying to a mom with more than one young child to keep track of. Honestly, it’s kind of out-of-the-question to go to the beach with my kids alone. How could I keep both kids safe from waves and eating sand and drowning? I need my mom tribe. Together, we approach parenting as if we are playing zone defence. I liken it to being a Canada goose. If you’ve ever seen a bunch of goslings and geese, you’ll notice that the geese stand in a circle, facing outward, surrounding the goslings. Going to the beach with my mom tribe seems a lot like that. We have some moms standing near the stuff and the sand toys, we have some moms standing near the water. We have some moms standing near the cliffs that are oh-so-fun to climb. In basketball terms, we are playing zone defence. Man to man is impossible anyways when you have more children than arms.
I am beyond grateful for my mom tribe. Together we have caught frogs, scared away snakes and backed away really quickly from a mysterious growl in the bushes that one five-year old said was “a bear” (we actually think it was a mountain lion). Doing things together has taught me a lot about parenting, about patience, about how to pack a lunch, when to put bug spray on, and what poison oak looks like.
So much of motherhood feels like I’m just fumbling along. But with my tribe, at least we are all kind of fumbling through it together and carrying one another through moments of doubt.
How can you start your own mom tribe today? What kinds of things do you like to do with your kids? Which times and locations could be convenient for you to invite others to join you in that activity?