New Mom on the Block

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Let’s talk about the new mom on the block. We have all experienced being new. Even if you have lived in the same zip code your entire life, you have probably attended a new school, church, book club, mom’s group, etc. There is an awkwardness and uncertainty inherent to being new. You forget names and faces. You don’t know where you fit in or who you like. You don’t know if it’s safe to bring up politics with this person or if that person will appreciate your sense of humor. You’re trying to figure people out and you know they’re doing the same to you. Or maybe they’re not, because they don’t even notice you. (Which is worse, being scrutinized or being invisible?)

When I’m the new-mom-on-the-block, I find myself overthinking everything. Should I go talk to the three moms by the swings, maybe they’re having a private conversation and would resent the intrusion? What about that lady on her phone…is she just texting because no one’s talking to her or is this park date her only chance to get work done? Same with the mom reading. What to do? Maybe if I just walk around aimlessly someone will wander my way? Being in a new group can be uncomfortable, but if you’re also new to town, social events can be downright painful. You can’t walk away from a failed social event into the rest of your life because you don’t really have one yet.

A little history… I grew up in Flagstaff and loved it. I desired nothing more than to live there forever. I was serious about this, but life has moved us to four different counties in two different states in fourteen years. While this may not be what I had initially envisioned for my life, I wouldn’t change it. Moving repeatedly has changed me, I am convinced for the better. It has grown me into a more thoughtful and considerate person.

With every move, I have gotten better at adjusting to new things and building community for myself and my kids, but I still have days as a newbie that exhaust me emotionally. Sometimes, after attending a new event with new people in a new city, I spend the drive home blinking back tears of weariness. I have made a concerted effort to turn my experiences into an awareness of those around me and an opportunity to show love to them. I strive to keep in mind that I was not the easiest to love after moving, as it is very stressful to me. I remember my past selves and try to be patient with the people I meet. Me as a 22-year old (self-righteous, lonely, and depressed), me as a 24-year old (exhausted new mom whose husband worked long hours), me as a 31-year old (overwhelmed with balancing part-time work, homeschooling, and a toddler), and me as a 35-year old (trying to be flexible enough to support  my husband through a career change and stable enough to give my kids what they needed).

I’m no expert, but I have spent a fair amount of time being new, so I have compiled a list of tips that will hopefully help, whether you are new to town or looking for ways to befriend people who are. No matter your situation, remember that we all need community and friendship.

Tips on incorporating new mom on the block:

  • First of all, notice them! It is easy and natural to gravitate towards your friends, but don’t lose sight of those who might be in need of a friend.
  • I have heard many people say that it is the responsibility of new people to “put themselves out there.” Honestly, I couldn’t disagree more. This a responsibility we should all assume.
  • Try to remember names, but don’t let your discomfort at forgetting stop you from being friendly. Everyone understands, chances are they’ve forgotten your name, too.
  • Pace yourself. You cannot be everything to everyone, but you can choose to meet new people at a couple of your activities and try to include them in future events.
  • When you get someone’s contact info, telling them you’d love to get together, do you have a plan in place? A lot of people collect phone numbers because it makes them feel friendly, but it’s an empty act if you don’t follow up.
  • When a newcomer is sitting with you and a friend, give them the tidbits of information they need to understand the conversation: “Amy’s husband is a doctor” or “You haven’t met Sara yet, she’s been in California for a few weeks taking her mom to cancer treatments.” Snippets like these can give the newcomer a lot of context.
  • Remember what it was like to move and be new! If you’ve never moved, then know that there’s a lot of people out there struggling to build new lives. If it’s not new to you, then you have a lot to share!

Tips on being the new mom on the block:

  • Try to remember names, but don’t let your discomfort at forgetting stop you from being friendly. Everyone understands, chances are they’ve forgotten your name, too.
  • Be patient. The three weeks it took another mom to set up a playdate with you may have seemed an eternity to you, but in the midst of her busy life she felt like she was really on top of it.
  • Understand that the lives of those around you were full before you stepped into the picture. It takes time for you to become part of their lives. Don’t get discouraged and give up prematurely!
  • Find an activity to join that meets consistently. Your kids may enjoy library programs and VBS, but if you want to build community, you must see people regularly and repeatedly.
  • Be flexible. Don’t expect that the activities you loved in your last location will be the ones that make your life here. Be open to trying new things until you find the right fit.
  • Appreciate people here for what they are and don’t expect them to be anxious to hear about how the group back home did things. They probably have good reasons for operating the way they do and most likely they won’t jump at the chance to change.
  • Don’t sit around, expecting to be noticed. You have to do some noticing, too! How do you know that mom standing over there isn’t a first-timer, too? Go meet her and find out!

Abigail Lockard is a native Arizonan and has spent all but 22 months of her life in various parts of the sunny state she loves so much. She homeschools her three kids, teaches piano lessons, and works as a professional organizer. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, hiking in the mountains, getting rid of stuff, and blogging about minimalism and organization (www.organizeperfectly.com).

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