Today I went to toddler story time at the local library. I entered the familar space, falling quickly into the 5-years-long routine. My toddler and I sat where we usually sit. We smiled at familiar faces, clapped along to songs I could sing in my sleep, and chatted with a handful of friends. As I left, I remembered that things were not always so familiar… so comfortable.
I remembered back to when I was a first-time-mom with a fussy baby who awoke every 45 minutes to nurse. I remembered I was working part-time with a long commute and felt like I was hopelessly failing, straddling two worlds of motherhood: stay-at-home and working. But what I remembered most of all was the loneliness.
I remembered story time days being marked on my calendar. I remembered carefully choosing my outfit and my daughter’s. I remembered telling myself that this would be the day I’d actually be brave and reach out to one of the fellow moms. I remembered hoping to find a connection. To befriend someone who shared my journey.
I remembered so often 10 minutes before we were supposed to leave, my baby would want to take an unexpected nap. I remembered feeling that sinking disappointment as my first-time-mom self watched the time tick by as I nursed my little one to sleep, imagining what I was missing. I remembered changing from jeans into well-worn yoga pants with tears in my eyes, thinking I’d never find mom friends.
I remembered, on days when the stars alligned, I attended story times. I’d see fellow moms, thinking perhaps one would be a possible friend. I remembered seeing twosomes and threesomes of moms chatting; I longed for that bond. I remembered being too shy to start a conversation, too self-conscious to bridge the gap. I remembered walking away wishing I had. If only I could be different… more outgoing, more confident.
I remembered joining mom groups to meet friends. I remembered the awkward feeling of not quite belonging. I remembered when I met one sweet friend at a group gathering and feeling light and happy in our chatter. I remembered our little ones playing happily side-by-side as new toddlers do. I remembered the sadness I felt when she moved away.
I remembered making my first story time friend. Her growing brood was just 6 months ahead of my own duo. Our herds grew up together, story time being our shared stomping ground (literally and figuratively) as our children increased in both years and numbers. I remembered that friend sharing her maternal wisdom. I remembered growing more confident in my mothering abilities and, consequently, in myself.
I remembered the old feelings of loneliness back when all I wanted was a solid night’s sleep and a mom friend. I wanted to hug my former self. I wanted to reassure that harried, anxious, self-flagellating first-time-mom me that things would get easier. That I’d not only find my way but myself… and a beautiful collection of dear friends who shared in my journey.
Now I have a cluster of treasured mom friends, all who bring their unique joys, insights, guidance, and influences to my life. Now — as a mom of a kindergartener, preschooler, and a toddler — I am confident. I am outgoing. I am unapologetically me. I am happy. It just took time, patience, a little self-confidence, and some good friends.
If you’re like the old me, know you’ll get there too. You’re not alone. Be braver than me… bridge that gap. Say, “hi”, smile, be you. Soon you’ll find your path, yourself, and your tribe.