The Village 253 Story
I was 36 when my second daughter was born. I was an older mom with babies...it was tough to find people in a similar season of life. At this point we had lived in Tacoma for 5 years. For 5 years I pursued friendships like a crazy lady. I would hand my card out at grocery stores if I saw a mom with kids near the same age as mine; I would look for that one mom at the park who wasn’t on their phone and strike up a conversation. I joined MOPS, I was active at my church, I invited people over for playdates and dinner, I had pool parties. I succeeded in meeting tons of amazing women, but I struggled with getting passed the acquaintance stage of friendships.
The magnitude of my loneliness showed up in the 9 month PNW rainy season. Not being a PNW native, I went out of my ever living mind being home with my children all day when it was cold and rainy outside. Each day I would scroll through all the mom contacts in my phone to see who wanted to meet up. Nap schedules, fevers, Dr’s appointments etc usually prevented meet ups from happening. I was longing to do life along side someone in the same season of life as me. Instead, feelings of rejection and insecurity crept in...was something wrong with me. Did everyone just have their friends and not want any more? Was my age the reason I was having a hard time connecting? Was my desire for connection abnormal?
This hit me hardest when my husband and I were meeting with an estate attorney. Because Andy and I both come from very small families, when we narrowed down who would take guardianship of our girls if something happened to us, we ran out of family and had to name someone else. And that’s when it hit me.
I couldn’t think of anyone. I knew SO MANY PEOPLE, but I didn't feel known. I was devastated. Why was intimate friendship so hard to find?
What I discovered was that for many moms neck deep in diapers, tantrums, and dirty laundry, prioritizing ourselves is terribly low on our to-do lists, and because of social media, we feel superficially connected--often to women we don’t even know. Everyone's need for intimate friendship varies, but we ALL need close friends. For those who haven’t yet found their “tribe,” loneliness can hit at different times. It can happen when crisis hits and we find ourselves suffering through something without the support of a village, or a 3 day holiday weekend hits and we find ourselves without anyone to BBQ with. Or it surprises us in the form of jealousy when we scroll past pictures of a girl’s night or getaway and we long for something similar.
For me it was leaving a close knit community in San Diego and starting over in a new city. Plus raising two tiny humans without family near by or a baseline of college or high school friendships already developed. I needed help. I needed friends. I desperately needed a village.
That was the beginning of TheVillage253. On March 25, 2015 I started a private instagram group with the purpose of turning local online relationships into real life friendships. I understood that pre-motherhood it was easy to commit and follow through on plans, but post motherhood how pulling an all nighter with a crying baby, waking up with puking child, or simply a toddler tantrum/meltdown the second you plan on walking out the door can halt a well intended meetup in a moment. I wanted to create a space for gatherings and events that moms could loosely commit to and not feel like total flakes if they couldn’t make it. And for some reason the opportunity to gather with other women without feeling the pressure to follow through if something came up was exactly what moms needed.
Friendships can only develop so far on Facebook. Relationships of any kind wont develop when you see someone 3 times a year. Our childhood, high school and college friendships were forged quickly and easily because we saw our friends daily. We had lunch with them daily. We knew the inner workings of each other’s lives.
We don’t have that luxury as mothers, wives, employees and business owners. But after speaking to literally hundreds of other local moms, I know I’m not the only lonely mom here.
I get it, friendship takes work, especially new friendships, and building those friendships is hard. But loneliness is harder. Loneliness is becoming a health crisis; research has shown that it has the same impact on our health as obesity. The release of endorphins after hanging out with friends is a health benefit. You guys hanging out with friends and connectedness is good and important for our health!
My heart bursts so much for people to be in community. To do life alongside others. To find our ride or die friends who challenge us and keep us accountable. We need friends, mentors and support on this journey through parenting, marriage, finances and careers. If you are lucky enough to have your tribe, I would challenge you to widen your circle. If you are desiring connection, you have to do something about it and take initiative. I’ve been active about initiating and pursuing friendship from the day I arrived to Tacoma and it’s taken me years to develop intimate friendships--I practically made it my job! You have to try. And not just once. Over and over and over. You guys, I feel like an 8th grade boy asking a girl out to a dance every time I ask someone out for coffee or create a Village event. Will I get rejected? Will anyone show? Do people think I’m desperate? Will they like me? Will we have anything in common? Just like dating, we aren’t going to hit it off with everyone, but the more you get out there the likelier it is you’ll find a couple of gals you have the right “chemistry” with. Fortunately, unlike our spouse’s, you aren’t committed to them forever, and you can have more than one. Friendships and seasons change which is why it’s important to continue to grow your circles. Our circumstances like a move, job change, our kids and so much more can cause us to be in a new place at any time where we are starting over from scratch with friendships.
We were created for human connection. Not just Facebook connection. We need to role model to our children what healthy friendships look like. I want my girls to see their mom with diverse, intimate friendships and have them in their own lives. I want to go on girls trips when I’m 70. I want to navigate parenting toddlers, pre teens and teenagers with my tribe. When menopause and hot flashes hit I need to commiserate with other ladies. Most importantly, when, not if the next crisis hits, I can rest assured I will have a village of women walking along side me.