Have you found your tribe?
“You know, the ones that make you feel the most YOU.
The ones that lift you up and help you remember who you really are.
The ones that remind you that a blip in the road is just that, a blip.
They are the ones that when you walk out of a room, they make you feel like a better person than when you walked in.
They are the ones that even if you don’t see them face to face as often as you’d like, you see them heart to heart.”
This lovely quote reminds me of how precious and impactful good friends are. I’m so fortunate to have a tribe of beautiful, loving friends around me. But so many mothers feel lonely and isolated, and are lacking support.
We need support and connection in motherhood, more than ever, yet, the transition to becoming a mother brings many possible changes to our relationships.
Some relationships grow and change with us, others fade away as our priorities change. New relationships are formed through the activities of mum life. Some can’t survive the fact that you don’t have as much time to spend together or that you now want and need to do different things. Motherhood can also highlight or exacerbate difficulties that existed in your relationships already.
People come and go from our lives. It’s ok to have different friends at different stages of life. You can choose to move on from a friendship, just as you can choose to start new ones
Every mum needs a tribe of people who love her as she is. We need social support, because this stage of life is so challenging and also because we were made for connection.
The support we need
Plato said that “People are like dirt. They can either nourish you and help you grow as a person, or they can stunt your growth and make you wilt and die.”
It sounds harsh, but who we let into our tribe, our closest circle of friends, has a huge impact on our lives and who we become. The people we spend the most time with, shape what we think about, talk about, and what attitudes and behaviours we’re exposed to most regularly. As an example, it’s hard to remain positive when you’re surrounded by people who see the negative in any situation.
The people we spend the most time with, also determine the type and level of support we have available to us.
As mothers, we need two types of support: practical and emotional.
Practical support is providing help with tasks, for example, cooking a meal, lending you something you need, looking after your children while you go to an appointment, or helping you around the house.
Emotional support is being there for you when you need to talk about life and the challenges you’re facing. Listening, holding space for you, encouraging you and helping you to feel understood and validated.
Not everyone in your life needs to provide emotional and practical support for you all the time. However, it’s important that you have enough people in your tribe to provide support when you need it. And when you’re able to support your friends in turn, you also benefit from being able to help someone.
Not everyone is right for your tribe
I’m often told I have amazing friends. It’s true. They are wonderful people. But it’s not by chance that my tribe is so great. It’s because I’m “picky” when I’m deciding whether to invest in relationships or not.
I’m always a little nervous to say this, because I’m aware that it can sound like I’m out to evaluate people, or I think I’m better than others. This isn’t the case at all. When I’m trying to decide if I want to really invest in a new friendship, I’m simply looking for how that person fits with me.
We’re all drawn to different people. Not everyone will like me and I won’t feel that connection with everyone I meet.
Our time and attention is so precious, and we need to be allocating them to relationships that are right for us.
Build your tribe: How to know if someone is right for you
I didn’t always have a great track record for choosing good friends. I have multiple examples to prove it! But I’ve learned a lot and these are the key things that I’ve noticed make really great friends. Keep them in mind when you’re out to build your tribe.
1. You feel like you just “click” with them
It’s hard to describe this feeling but you sense it within you. It feels effortless to be with them. You have fun together and could talk for hours. You seem to understand each other. It just works.
2. You can be yourself with them and they are themselves with you
Great friends accept you, flaws and all. You don’t need to justify yourself. You have some shared interests and values, and you both accept and respect the differences. You don’t need to compromise your values or your needs. They understand your situation and don’t get mad when you don’t want to drag your three kids to a busy café for lunch or when you forget to text them back for 3 days.
3. You feel energised and refreshed after spending time with them, rather than drained or stressed
This is very telling! Pay attention to how you feel. You may also notice that you look forward to spending time with them, rather than dreading it.
4. They contribute to the relationship as much as you do
Great friends don’t place conditions on your friendship or feel that you owe them anything. Both your needs are met, as you support each other. Support isn’t always equal, because one person may need more than the other at a given time, but in the longer term, it generally evens out. They follow through on their commitments to you. They don’t make it all about them, aren’t possessive of you and don’t get jealous about your other friendships. They make time for you, even when life is busy (the frequency, depends on your lives but the effort and commitment is there, whatever that looks like for you).
5. They are there for you through good times and bad times
You’re not an embarrassment or inconvenience to them. They love you when you’re not at your best, forgive you when things go wrong and don’t blow your mistakes out of proportion. They check up on you to make sure you’re ok and provide emotional and/or practical support.
6. They celebrate your successes and support you in achieving your goals
Great friends support good habits and growth in your life. There’s no competition and they don’t criticise you. They’re genuinely happy for you when you succeed, rather than jealous. They cheer you on and help you achieve your goals, even if those goals are different to their own. They don’t undermine or sabotage you.
7. You feel motivated, inspired and stretched by them
They help you be your best self and counteract some of your self criticism by reminding you of all your amazing qualities. They help you feel better about yourself.
8. You can trust them to be honest with you
Even when the message is something you may not want to hear, great friends deliver it with love and the intention to help you. They respectfully tell you when you’re in the wrong, just as they tell you that you’ve done something wonderful. They bring problems directly to you and don’t talk about you behind your back.
9. They really listen
I know we get interrupted a million times when our children are around, but nevertheless, they really listen, with interest and curiosity, to what you have to say. They hear what’s really going on for you, ask questions and show they understand. They give you time to talk and share.
Do you have people like this in your tribe, lovely?
You deserve friends like this.
What else would you add to this list?
It may also be helpful to think about what stage of life your potential new friends are at. You may love hanging out with people with no children. Or you might seek out mums with similar age children, so you have someone to share your challenges with and potentially some friends for your children. It might be easier to schedule catch ups with mums with similar schedules to you. Mums of older children could provide valuable insight about what’s ahead and help you feel like there’s light at the end of the tunnel. Older women can bring a wealth of life experience and confidence to your friendship.
There’s no perfect formula to build your tribe. It’s all about what you want and need.
Where to meet people who could be part of your tribe
If you want to new people to include in your tribe, you have to put yourself out there to meet people. Here are some ways you could connect with new people:
- Mothers groups or other support groups in your local area
- Online forums (I have found online friendships to be very supportive, but you may also be able to organise to meet in person if the forum is a local one)
- Neighbours, friends of your friends, other community groups or activity groups you are part of (exercise classes, art classes, volunteering groups, book clubs, etc)
- As you go about your daily routine – at the park, in a queue, at the play area at the shopping centre.
- Other parents at your children’s school or activities.
If you feel nervous about getting out and meeting new people, check out my blog on Making Mum Friends: Connecting with Confidence
You deserve to have a genuine, supportive tribe who love you as you are.
What’s one thing you can do today to start building that tribe?
And if you already have your tribe, what’s one thing you can do today to show someone in your tribe how much you appreciate them?
Lastly, I want to mention, that I run a beautifully positive and supportive community for mums on Facebook. If you’re looking for a place to connect, where you will be accepted and appreciated as you are, then I’d love to welcome you! It’s a truly special place. Come and check us out here.