I was mean-girled in public school….well, not so much ‘girled’ as mostly everybody, but I did have a few close friends that I still have. A few of us have kids, a few of us don’t, but we stay in touch and keep up with each others’ lives. I thought all of the insecurity of needing to be liked was behind me. Then I had a baby.
New moms have it the worst, especially if they are the first of their peer group to have kids (fortunately for me, I am pretty well the last, at 37 – but this also means most of my friends kids are much older), because they will have to break ground with new, mommy friends.
Like all new moms, I spent the first few months adjusting, then it was time to get the hell out of the house before I started talking to my dishes. My sister-in-law had her baby 4 months after I did, so it was nice that we had each other, and still do; but she also needed to spend time at home adjusting to her new life with my nephew. I relished going to breakfast with friends who cooed over and held my little daughter while I wolfed down my first hot breakfast in months, and slugging back a warm coffee before they handed her back (one friend ate her pancakes over my baby in her lap – I was ready with a napkin, and I think I even cut her bacon; I know, so generous).
You’d think I was getting ready for a blind date the first time I went to my library’s ‘books for babies’ group. The mom’s walked in with their little ones, and I clammed up. I was so nervous I could not believe it; it was like trying to talk to the popular boy at school in grade 5. Ridiculous, right?? But I couldn’t break out of it. No matter what I did, I still felt like the only one in the group who actually had no idea what the hell was going on and didn’t belong there. To a degree, I still feel as though I am pretending that I totally know what I am doing; I am routinely shocked to hear words of commiseration coming out of my mouth, followed by an actual piece of sound advice….so maybe I do know something?
Sadly, actually belonging is a lot different from feeling like you belong. Breaking in to groups of women who have been friends before you came along is hard on any day, never mind trying to do it with a group of women whom you are sure are going to judge everything about you. For new moms who already felt the pressure to belong, it’s tough.
I am not over it, and I still get nervous whenever I am going to do something new. The difference is that I have learned that if I smile first, say hello first, and offer the first welcome, maybe I am helping another new mom get past the same feelings, and that is enough to help me believe that maybe I do belong.