Still Looking For My “People”

A few weeks ago, my husband and I took our daughters to the neighborhood swimming pool. I ran into a colleague and casual friend who was there with her two boys. She was chatting with another mom of two boys, and the four kids were splashing together happily while their moms lounged on the edge of the pool. (Note to self- bring a buddy to the pool next time to enhance Mommy’s relaxation experience.)

My friend introduced us, and explained that they had all gone to college together, and wound up moving to Colorado at the same time. “We’ve been here for 13 years,” she told me, “and we met their oldest son in the hospital the day after he was born. Our boys are more like cousins than friends.”

I felt a pang of jealousy. These were her “people.” A few weeks ago, 3 Things For Mom ran a post that included this tip: “Find your people.” The full post articulates the importance of surrounding yourself with a tribe, and when I read it, I immediately felt grateful for all the fantastic girlfriends I had in my life.

  • My best friends from college who all live less than an hour away from me. 
  • My two closest friends without kids who keep me grounded and know me as more than Mommy.
  • My fellow mom friends who listen without judgment and make me feel less alone.
  • The friend who “gets me,” sharing my sensitivity trait and even matching my exact Myers-Briggs type!
  • My blogosphere friends, most of whom I have never met, but who relate to my ambitions and frustrations so well.
Two of my college BFFs- we all have little girls of our own now.

Two of my college BFFs- we all have little girls of our own now.

But there is one thing that has always felt missing to me- my husband and I don’t have “that family.” You know- the other couple that you both like so much, whose kids are of a similar age. Maybe they live next door and you wander freely into one another’s backyard, understanding that the lack of shower and presence of pajamas is not a deterrent to sharing time. Maybe you’ve known each other since your wild college days, and you’ve navigated the transition into parenthood together. Maybe it’s your sister and her family, and a standing invitation for reciprocal baby-sitting.

We don’t have those people in our lives- not yet. It’s not that we don’t have friends with kids that we have suffered through birthday parties, street fairs, and carnivals with. It’s not that we don’t have neighbors with kids- we actually love spending time with the other families on our street. But there’s something different about having that couple that you know without a doubt would come stay with your kids if you went into labor in the middle of the night, or who can join you for dinner without inspiring that “hostess” panic. Those people. 

It seems like this type of relationship is very elusive- both the husbands and the wives have to like each other, or worst case, the husbands have to tolerate one another! It helps if the kids are close in age, so you can plan activities that everyone will enjoy. It seems like the kid:kid ratio should be close as well- the family with one child may not mesh well with the family who has two sets of twins. Then of course you factor in proximity, schedules, parenting styles- how can all these factors possibly add up to the perfect dual family friendship?

I don’t want to appear ungrateful for the fantastic, loyal, empathetic friends that I have. Perhaps our inability to align ourselves with another family has more to do with conflicting schedules; I work part-time, and often my children are in school or childcare when my stay at home mom friends are available to socialize. Conversely, my friends who work full-time may not have the same flexibility that I do, and who has time to get together during the infamous Crappy Hour- that mad rush from 4:30-8:00 that involves frantic dinner preparation, a sit-down meal (or not!) and the bedtime countdown?

One of my favorite HerStories essays, from Christine of A Fly On Our Chicken Coop Wall, shares the story of two families who had weekly community dinners. Reading that post filled me with longing; I have always envied people who had another family that they dined with, played with, and traveled with on a regular basis.

My cousin lives in a neighborhood with several families whose children are of similar ages; she and her next door neighbor have traded off caring for one another’s children during pregnancy, illness, the post-baby months, or even Get-these-kids-out-of-here-right-now! moments. They often show up in one another’s kitchen, not necessarily having bothered to call or even knock, and frequently join each other for a communal backyard BBQ.

I want that. My parents have a couple they have known since college; their names are Charles and Charlene, and my brother and I have always known them as Uncle Charlie and Aunt Charlie. They haven’t shared a city with my parents in over 35 years, and yet the lack of proximity did not diminish the importance of their role in our lives; we routinely traveled to visit them and their two boys, or hosted them at our house. “The Charlies” were a staple in my life, and a model of what an enriching adult friendship could look like with another family. I have often remarked that I am still looking for “Our Charlies.”

My parents with The Charlies at my wedding reception.

My parents with The Charlies at my wedding reception.

I wonder if I will ever be fortunate enough to have another family that I consider to be my tribe, my people. It is possible that I am romanticizing the idea, but I have the sense that for those who have found their “Charlies”, this type of friendship is life-changing.

Have you found your people? Do you have another family that you spend time with regularly? How has it affected your life? 

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Comments

  1. I think we’ve found our people, Stephanie, but it took a long time. Our boys have been friends since kindergarten (they are now 12). But we don’t spend time with them regularly – life is just too busy. But they are easy to be with, we are relaxed with them, and I expect to be friends with them as empty nesters and beyond. At this point in our lives, my husband and I want to cultivate our own (adult/couple) friendships, because sooner than we’d like our kids will be grown.
    Dana recently posted…One Direction is in town – have you seen my earplugs?My Profile

    • That is so good to hear, Dana. I always cling to your perspective- you help shine a lot on what lies ahead on the parenting path! You make great points- thanks so much for sharing them with us.

  2. Chris Smith says:

    What an accolade to friendships.

  3. I want to find our Charlies! My parents had the same type of friends when we were young – there were actually three families that seemed to continually overlap for dinners, weekend afternoons at the pool, barbecues and sleep-overs. My husband and I haven’t done the best job of finding friends like that – those we could call when we both have the flu that skips my son. I’m looking for them. I also think I’ve done a poor job of maintaining my tribe. Most of them live far away (near you, actually) and I just haven’t found the same type of friends here in DC. While part of it is blamed on the transient nature of where I live, the fault really lies with me. When my son was small, I’d begun to cultivate some close friendships and even travelled together with a family who has a little girl three months younger than my son. But then, when Tucker began to show signs of delayed development, it got too hard to try and facilitate play between our kids. Instead of taking the opportunity to educate and explain, I withdrew. Thanks for this post – I think I’ll reach out to them and see if they’d like to come for dinner this weekend. I needed this reminder. How will I ever find my Charlies if I don’t have lots of people over and see how it works?
    Kristi Campbell recently posted…The Our Land Series – Part of your classMy Profile

    • Weeellll… maybe you should move back to Colorado- I know a whole bunch of Charlies just waiting for you! :D
      I agree with you, though- it takes a lot of effort, and energy that most parents don’t have. It used to be easier, didn’t it? In the 80s???

  4. Since we’ve moved to Buffalo, we’ve yet to find our “people.” You’re right, Kristi. This is a great reminder to keep looking. There are so many more variables to consider once you have kids: schedules, personalities. My inlaws here in Buffalo have tons of friends like this, and I too want this when I get older. I love this, Stephanie!
    Jessica Smock recently posted…Still Looking For My “People”My Profile

  5. I so relate to this! I grew up with a tribe. 20 relatives within four blocks, cousins all around, built in friends. We were all in and out of my Gram’s house every day. She passed away yesterday and I have been reflecting on how lucky I was to have it all. I have been searching for the same comfort where I live now (about an hour away). We do have a few “couple friends” but distance and schedules don’t make for the every day interactions I grew up with. Thanks for this great post on this very important component of life.

    • Oh, wow, your “growing-up tribe” sounds heavenly! I am so jealous- I wish more people could experience that. I’m so sorry to hear about your grandmother- I think that when our grandparents pass away it often brings up so much introspection and reflection. Thanks for your comment!

  6. This is spot on! I want a tribe…of course a couple of good friends would do right now. My hubby was finishing his medical training the last 7 years and we have had to make 3 moves to different states, two of them large cities. We both grew up in the same small town, surrounded by a tribe of friends and family…so much that no matter where we reside, that is STILL home to me. We have lots of great friends spread over four states. but I miss what we had in our hometown, where at any time you could have someone knock on your door to visit. Moving every two to three years have been tough because seems I finally work out people to do playdates with or comrades to have some momtinis or a GNO and hubby comes in with plans for the next big move. We also have weird age gaps with our four kids that are nearly impossible to match 18, 12 and 4 yo twins…. sigh, maybe we will find someone who fits the bill!

    • Moving is SO hard. I moved a lot as a child, and it is an experience I’d like to avoid as an adult. It seems like all the factors that add up to success in forming mom friendships can be so daunting. Thanks for reading and leaving such a thoughtful comment. Best of luck to you- and all of us!

  7. Oh, I hear you!!! We totally had “that family” in our old neighborhood, the ones we would just pop over to see, the ones who babysat at a moments notice….. And we’ve both since moved! We moved into our current house just a year a ago, and luckily there is a great family, with kids the same age as ours, right across the street. And in the last few weeks it’s starting to feel like it could be “that family…” So hoping the relationship deepens…. so funny how even as adults, new friendships can sometimes be challenging. Great post…. And if I lived in CO, I’d be in your tribe! :) I think our daughters are just a few months apart!!
    Sarah | LeftBrainBuddha recently posted…This is Mindful ParentingMy Profile

    • Oh, man, leaving “that family” must have been brutal! Isn’t it funny how we approach forming new friendships or deepening existing ones- it’s almost like dating sometimes, don’t you think? It’s nerve-wracking! And I concur- if we leaved nearby, we’d definitely be each other’s tribe! ;)

  8. We’re still looking for our Charlies, too. Neither my husband’s parents or my parents had close adult friendships when we were growing up, although we did have cousins that we saw often. After moving to a new city, it gets harder to build adult friendships, since we’ve all already got our tribes. And making friends as you get older just seems harder, period.
    Melissa@Home on Deranged recently posted…Unique wedding invitations by MintedMy Profile

    • You are so right, Melissa; it seems that in general it gets harder to form friendships the older we get. And moving always complicates things. Thanks for reading and commenting!

  9. *grin* I’m guessing your husband can’t tolerate my husband ;)

  10. I think I’m in your same place, and I so want to have that great family-family connection as well. I feel like we have a few potentials, but it’s been challenging to foster and grow the relationship with our crazy schedules. I hope we eventually find our 2nd family. I hope you find yours as well. In the meantime, it sounds like you already have the makings of a fabulous tribe.
    Kerry recently posted…Why So Many Movie Previews … Especially at Kid Flicks?My Profile

  11. What a lovely post! I’m certain that you will find a tribe over time. It’s so hard to find the right “chemistry” and the right “situation.” In the meantime, you are fortunate to have other types of friendships and relationships.

    Also, once you know what you are looking for, it makes it easier to find!

    Best, Irene
    Irene S. Levine recently posted…In the Media – I sent my friend a ranting text (Self Magazine)My Profile

  12. Great post about friendship. Growing up my family moved a lot and so my sister’s were my friends. We are still best friends even though we all live in different states and in different situations. It’s always been hard for me to make friends with other women. Fortunately my husband has good friends and we are finding out that our families play really well together. It’s really fun. I like the other moms, just need more time together to bond I guess.

    It sounds like you already have an amazing tribe. When you have something good it draws people to you. They will come.
    Shannon recently posted…Running ups and downs: 12 weeks to go 13.1 by a newbieMy Profile

  13. When I was teaching preschool, my coteacher had the life I really envied. She was in the new house in the neighborhood with all of the young families that got together and did everything together. I live in a very old house in a neighborhood of mostly elderly or older people. There are not really any children around my kids’ age. So despite the fact that I am an introvert by nature, I am looking for that same “people” that you are!
    The Sadder But Wiser Girl recently posted…July Secret Subject Swap: If I Could Turn Back Ti-ime (Read it in Cher’s Voice)My Profile

  14. Great post! I know what you mean! Love you!

  15. Thank you for writing this. I just took a minute to think about “my people,” and–for now–I feel like I have all those bases covered: the kid-free friends that know me more than Mama; the college girls/BFFs, etc. We actually just found “our family,” too, and I don’t know that I would have taken the time to really think about it had I not read this. So, THANK YOU!!! xo
    whencrazymeetsexhaustion recently posted…Oversharing: Hair (AND a Vlog!)My Profile

  16. This is a great post, my parents had that too. I have my sister and her family. We are always together, but we can get sick of each other too. I read Kristi’s comment and have to say that we have similar experiences frequently. My son has Sensory Processing Disorder which has no physical signs, but man…when he get’s over stimulated, it frustrates even me. So when it’s a family with a child who is having a hard time seeing eye to eye with my boy, well – we usually don’t see them again. Explaining to kids exactly what’s going on with the boy is really hard. So…we have our family, and maybe when he gets older and can understand himself what’s going on. Maybe then.
    Jen recently posted…SabraMy Profile

  17. I completely relate to this. I often feel that I am on the outer edge of friendship circles. I hear about acquaintances of mine going out for a Girls’ Night out, but I don’t have “those people” in my life. Same goes for my hubby & me. We have couple that we know and talk to at church or on Facebook, etc. But we don’t have other couples that we hang out with regularly. I, too, envy those relationships but haven’t been adept at cultivating them for myself yet. I thought by my age & stage in life I would have found “my people” but I haven’t. I can’t even blame it on moving or anything. Hopefully, someday I will find my Charlies too!
    Lisa @ The Golden Spoons recently posted…Summer SlumpMy Profile

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Also on Thursday I wrote a post for The HerStories Project about how I am searching for my parenting tribe: Still Looking For My “People” [...]

  2. [...] Things That Took Awhile To Get Back After My Baby Was Born Still Looking For My People (on my other website, The HerStories Project) What I’d Like To Tell My Childless Friends, But [...]

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