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A Tribe At All Costs – Really?

I read another article yesterday about the ‘need’ or ‘desire’ for a mommy’s tribe. Let’s be honest, there are soooo many of these articles from different perspectives, almost to the point of making me feel like there is something wrong with me because I don’t have a tribe. I’ve read a lot of them, but this one was … nice.

Dear Lonely Mamma by Audra Rogers for Babble

For those of you who don’t know what a mom tribe is, it’s basically it a group of like-minded mommy’s who you can call on for fun, friendship, tears, advice, companionship, coffee, wine, … whatever you need. A support group.

I don’t have one of those anymore.

I was briefly in a ‘baby group’ shortly after my eldest daughter was born. It was good fun. I met some really lovely ladies, some of whom I am still in touch with through the wonder that is Facebook. They definitely helped to just be able to talk to other moms who were going through all the same stuff I was as a new mother.

Then we moved back to my home town. That was also good. So many of my school friends all had at least one, if not two babies, and there was quite a big crowd of us. What made that group so special was that we were all intertwined  the way only people who have a history together will understand. Most of us went to school together, and then after school most of us ended up living in London and continued to maintain our friendships, socialising on weekends and sometimes even living together. What was really great was that we all seemed to gravitate back to our roots, home, picking up where we’d left off. We all knew each other’s background, families, husbands, connections, religion, etc. (I could go on but I think you get my point.) You never had to worry about putting your foot in it too deeply, and I never felt the pressure to pretend I was coping better than I was, or to try to impress anyone.

Then we moved again, to another country, a new city where I knew NO ONE, and I haven’t been part of an actual mom tribe/baby group again.

Actually, we have moved four times since then.

The first time, my youngest was five weeks old. I was quite depressed and unhappy. I eventually made friends with a neighbour who’s kids were the same age as mine. She spoke English but her kids didn’t, only Afrikaans, but that was fine, kids don’t even need to speak to be able to communicate.

The second move was to Jo’burg. I hated it. Despite the fact that my inlaws were close by, I was so anxious living there and driving in crazy city traffic that I didn’t venture out further than the supermarket or school very often.

The third move was to a small little town in the Northern Cape. I think I may have been the only ‘English’ speaking person in the town. 99% of the people I came into contact with only spoke Afrikaans. So much so that my eldest went into an Afrikaans school and my husband had to go to a parents evening alone (he can speak the lingo), and they even addressed him specifically and explained that he was there alone because his wife only speak’s English (Mortifying!). I used to smile in greeting to parents I recognised every day from school drop-off and collection, but once people realised I couldn’t understand them, they weren’t really interested in making an effort to try to communicate with me. It was very lonely. The only people who I communicated with were my daughter’s teacher, the waiters at the restaurant in town that had a little play area, and the car guard at the supermarket.

After that we moved to where we are now. We’ve been here for about 18 months now – the longest we’ve been in one place for the past five years. I have got to know quite a few people here, and everyone is very nice, but this is a small town. The exact reasons I loved being in my hometown apply here. These people all knew each other in high school. They were each other’s bridesmaids, they married brothers, they shared a room in hospital when they gave birth, you get the picture. It’s not that they aren’t welcoming, but their lives are already full. They have their friends, their tribes.

The other problem for me is that I don’t have any baby-sitters here. People have stopped inviting me to things because I always have the same excuse for not being able to go  – no one to watch the kids. In most cases here they have at least one set of grandparents happy and willing and able to run around after their kids, having them for weekends, or nights out, or whatever.

Another example – my husband goes out riding on his motorbike, almost ever weekend. Usually just for a few hours, and I’m glad he goes out. His job is very stressful, he needs a hobby that he’s passionate about so he can destress, relax, have fun and recharge his batteries for the coming week. I don’t begrudge him that. This last weekend he went away with a group of friends, they rode out, did some sightseeing, camped overnight, then made their way back home. Apparently all the other guy’s wives were whining that the next time their husbands go they also want to go with. Wouldn’t that be nice? Another activity of socialising where I can possibly meet new people, but something I can’t be part of because I have no babysitters.

My husband and I have discussed me going back to work. He never says “Yes, it’s time you went out and got a job.” Never! I am very grateful for that. He never even brings the subject up, it’s always me. The other day we were tossing the idea around … again, and I asked him outright, “Do you want me to get a job?” His reply, “I want you to get out more and meet other people.” The reality though, is that I’m not prepared to do that if it means I can’t be there for my kids, if me claiming allegiance to a tribe is the only reason to do it, it’s not necessary.

If you read my blog the other day about Never Backwards … Always Forwards where I talked about how we try to constantly check ourselves and question what we are doing, why, and whether the pros outweigh the cons. This is a BIG con for me.

I don’t want anyone reading this to feel sorry for me. That is not the point of this post. Apart from not having a social life, I do have a lot going for me, my kids and home keep me busy as well as my studies and this blog (which I love). I do actually have friends too, but they are all very far away so contact is maintained by email, facebook, texting, whastsapp etc.

The point of this post is that just as there is pressure from society on almost all aspects of parenting, be it breastfeeding vs bottle feeding, or natural vs c-section, homeschool vs public school, the noise around being able to claim you are part of a mommy tribe is getting louder for me.

Should I listen to it and frantically attempt to install myself into an existing group of friends even if they are not my first choice of people, or maybe I should run around trying to establish a new group of people handpicked by me? Quite frankly I’d rather become a hermit and maintain my dignity and self-respect. I won’t turn myself inside out to claim an attachment that is forced.

Or, should I ignore the noise and accept that my life is the way it is for now, be grateful for the lifestyle I live, what we are providing for our children, and that the plans for our future are working for now?

It’s frustrating. It’s upsetting. Most of all, it’s very lonely. But, we all make sacrifices, this is mine for now.

Besides, wine tastes the same whether you drink it with friends, or with the cat. At least I don’t have to share it with the cat!

 

 

6 thoughts on “A Tribe At All Costs – Really?”

  1. I found the same being all the way here in Perth, most people I am around all grew up in this area and went to school together and all have the fun memories (that we had – but we are all split up). They all have their family’s around which means their kids have lots of cousins and friends of friends and lots of people to help with the babysitting which means the parents almost have a life outside of being a parent. I used to get a bit upset seeing all that and how easy their life was compared to mine.

    Thank goodness for my mom moving here as that has changed things so much for us and at times Alistair and I can have a ‘life’ every now and then which is so nice!

    Why don’t you invite some of the moms that you do enjoy for a Friday afternoon drink and play for the kids. A small group of us have started doing this every week now and it’s so nice! We all look forward to it now. You have to really put yourself out there to get some friends and get to know them but like you say you don’t click with everyone. I joined a playgroup at the beginning of the year for Dannii and I and I didn’t gel with any of the moms, they were easy enough to talk to but just not my cup of tea at all, none of them made me feel excited to go to playgroup.
    This new group of friends make me feel so excited to see them and catch up so I think if there are of the moms you kind of enjoy invite them over for a play as you will enjoy some mom company.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I have had the “mommy-tribe”, it is over rated. I don’t mean to sound jaded, but we depend too much on other people to make us who we are. I have found many women are so overly judgmental of other women- these “tribes” are no different. I raised my kids with a group of “friends” for 12 years. In thee end, it was like being in school, lots of back biting, judging and being fake. I now have cut ties with them all.

    Am I saying that you shouldn’t have support? Certainly not. But you are better off with a few good friends, whether long distance or local then to worry over having a large tribe. And working towards growing self and figuring out who you are as a mom and wife, while not losing sight of YOU is also very important.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It sounds to me like you have already started to build your own community through this blog and that’s a good thing but ultimately real people would be better! You say you don’t have a babysitter and yet your husband does, he has you when he goes out to get some motor bike time. It seems that he wants you to be happy and I’m sure he would allow you some time out to pursue an interest, join a local group, take an online writing course? The wives of his friends may not necessarily be the type of person you’d like to hang out with anyway and I’m not sure about the wisdom of only hanging out with other moms. I do think it is essential to become part of a community though and not just a virtual one. We made the decision to find a good church when we first arrived in a new town, in a new country far away from any family and support. That has been essential and a central part of our lives, they are our ‘new’ family . I hope you find ways to build good strong ties, even if it’s only one person at a time.

    Liked by 2 people

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