As much as I used to complain about mom groups when my boys were babies and toddlers, I did make great friends there. Not with everyone, because that’s just not realistic, but still: I had a good group of friends to do playdates and moms’ nights out with.
Events on the groups’ calendar that everyone was invited to and everyone chatted to everyone else. Sure, you might end up with your people more than those you didn’t know as well, after you’ve been a part of the group for a while, but still- you talked to others, others talked to you. There weren’t weird looks of why are you talking to me, I don’t know you.
A few moves and several years later, I’m far removed from those friends I made in my mom group days.
Being an introvert, a big group of friends has never really been my thing. I like time alone and reading books way too much for that. And as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized I’m extremely lucky to have a small group of people I can truly call friend. Some whom I get to see on a regular basis and others whom I don’t get to see often but whom I know would immediately head to my side should I need them and vice versa.
But that doesn’t mean that I don’t sometimes feel out of place. Awkward when I’m in a social situation where others are talking and I’m on my own.
And I know: we find our people and often don’t intentionally leave others out, but it happens.
And it’s really easy to say that well, others would be absolutely welcome to join our conversations if they wanted- they don’t have to wait for an invitation. I don’t have to wait for an invitation.
But take the Zumba class I’ve tried a few times recently. I used to go all the time and it was so crowded- I didn’t really notice if there were groups of friends, I was just trying not to injure others or myself as I attempted the steps. Now, the class isn’t as popular as new classes have taken its place and it’s very obvious that there’s a group who’ve taken classes together forever and chat before, even during, and after class. I felt a bit like the clumsy, unwanted weirdo in the back of the class. Not a huge deal since I wasn’t there to make friends but to workout, but it’s hard to want to go back when you feel like the odd person out.
I was resting my sore muscles in the sauna after class one day when a few of the ladies who were finishing their water aerobics class joined me. And asked who I was and told me I should try their class sometime and then continued to chat, but included me.
I tried their class the next week. The new person in a pool full of people who have been taking classes together for a while. And they made sure to all introduce themselves, to talk to me, to make sure I knew what each exercise was since it’s hard to tell under the water.
I’ve gone back to that class and will continue to go back. Because it actually is a good workout. But also because I feel welcome.
You’ve probably guessed that I’m the young one in that class, with other women in their 60s-70s and one fabulous 85 year old.
So, are we doing it wrong? Us, the “younger” generation. Does it take until you’ve hit a certain age to welcome everyone? To realize that everyone has a story to tell? That you don’t have to keep your friends circle small? To know that a kind word can mean so much?
I don’t have the answers and I know I’d have some work to do myself, but spending time in water aerobics made me rethink mom friendships.