For most of our marriage we had a variety of friends spread out in a variety of places. I had lots of mom friends and Travis had his work friends and it was nice but also lonely. While we had friends we did not have a community, and it was a community that we were really craving.
At the time we were still living in The Dump and we knew we wanted to move. We had put our eldest in the parochial school one town over and the thirty minute, round trip drive twice a day over country roads was killing me. We lived in a town that didn't have a grocery store, a public library, a Catholic church, or even another young, Catholic family. We knew we needed to move closer to Travis' job, L's school, and all the other amenities we missed.
But really, my family moved to different a town so we could be more active in its parish and the parish school. We saw that the parish had good priests, solid ministries, orthodox faith, and a true love of Christ, despite its hideous mural behind the tabernacle.
Once there, I committed to the weekly moms' group - approximately 13 women who meet with all their non-school aged kids to work through a study.
Travis joined the Men's Group, which is basically the husbands of all the moms' group women. They sit in a workshop, drink beer, eat peanuts, and either build things or light things on fire.
I also became involved with a monthly Moms' Night group that attracted even more women - women I had noticed at Mass or school pick up or at other events and was so grateful to get to know.
And over the weeks and months and now years I began to really know and trust many of these people. Many of their kids are growing up with my kids and while we are all at slightly different places in our lives we are all walking together towards the same goal.
This was really great - a huge step towards what I had craved for so long. But I also noticed that I didn't know how to narrow down the large group to really intentionally foster a few good relationships. It felt rude to not always include everyone all the time but the sheer numbers were paralyzing. And then I saw something that was eye-opening for me.
At a friend's birthday party I was sitting at a table with various women, all of whom I knew to varying degrees and all of whom have children older than mine. They openly discussed their upcoming Super Bowl party, a party I was not invited to. It was just for that group of friends, who had raised their kids together, whose husbands were friends, who had known each other for years. I didn't feel left out, in fact I felt relieved! The community that I had so badly craved for so long was possible! Other people had formed and found their places in them and I could too! Our larger group of wonderful families had already broken down into smaller groups while still remaining part of that larger community.
These smaller groups were not cliques - they are not exclusive or elite - but they are the result of a natural growth towards people with similar interests, beliefs, and season of life.
With that new understanding I stood back and I looked at the women in my community and saw the friendships that existed already. I thought about Jesus and Peter and James and John - how they are often listed together, just the four of them, in a way that seems to say they were besties. I thought about the women I was most drawn to and realized we were already there. Our husbands were already good friends, as were our kids.
And so, unapologetically I have sought them out as individuals and as a group and in doing so the gestures were reciprocated. Little by little, but also not very slowly, my family has found its place. We have a niche where we are appreciated and cared for. We belong with a circle of friends and I look forward to many years of knowing, serving, and loving them better. I hope I am able to help them carry their crosses and celebrate their joys and successes. I hope that our friendships will bring us all closer to Christ, who I thank for answering my many prayers.
"As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend."
So perfect for my place in life right now - been chewing on this a bit! Thank you! :)ReplyDelete
Hi Bonnie, thanks for sharing! It is so nice to read this and know community is out there! I was recently lamenting my lack of community and lack of friends (nearest family and friends live 1.5 hours and 2 bridges/tolls away). My husband and I recently moved to a new parish and as we met with the pastor, I asked if he thought we'd be able to make ties in the parish. He said "most couples your age meet people at the school or at parent groups, but you don't have any children..." Ouch, that stung. Infertility: keeping me away from children and potential friends. At our last parish, all our parish friends were 55+ and they were kind, good people, but I long for people my own age. I wonder what to do! There is a Young Adult group that meets about 20 minutes away...I will have to check them out. - TristaReplyDelete
Ouch. If the YA group doesn't fill your need then maybe still look into the parish's moms group, if that wouldn't be too painful for you. While most of the women who attend our group have lots of littles there is another woman who comes and holds the babies. She has older kids, so it's a different situation, but the lack of young children doesn't mean she fits in less.Delete
I don't share that to tell you what to do, only to show that there still might be options, even if they aren't so obvious. Regardless, I will say a prayer for you!
Thank you, Bonnie! I really appreciate the prayer and your suggestions! - TristaDelete
Trista, I'm in a similar situation. Most people our age are raising families and get to know people through mom's group or school or the homeschool group or whatever, and we have no living children (we've lost three to miscarriage) and don't seem to fit in anywhere. We actually don't feel like the young adult group is the right fit for us either, since most people there are single and just at a different place in life. Like you, we have a lot of parish friends who are 55+, and they have all been very welcoming. We also, in time, have gotten to know a few younger families by attending various social events at the parish. There's one couple we've become close with that lost a baby around the same time we lost our first and has suffered from secondary infertility since - they do have one living child, but they still understand a lot of what we're going through. And there are two or three other families, both at the parish and elsewhere, that are raising handfuls of kids, but because they know the beauty of family life they seem to understand our desire for children in a way that our single friends cannot. I don't really know where I'm going with this... but I guess my advice would be to show up for any social events your parish might have and try to sit near people closer to your age, even if they have lots of kids (I'm terrible at that last part... I tend to hide in the corner :)). And give it time. Prayers and solidarity!Delete
Thank you for sharing that, Anna. Hugs and blessings.Delete
This is a lovely reflection! One thing that I struggle with as a young mama trying to establish community is that it's really hard as a working mom to attend mom's groups, as every group I've found always meets in the mornings. I finally found a chapter of Well Read Mom (which is AMAZING, btw) in my area and have loved the monthly evening meetings with other Catholic mamas in my area. Other than that, I've decided to invest my energy in my existing relationships with close friends from college, most of whom have littles but unfortunately live 1-7 hours away from me, womp womp.ReplyDelete
Yes! That is so super hard! I was in a similar spot at the beginning of my marriage. I am so glad you found the WRM group. In hope that it might give you a light at the end of the tunnel, it was only once my kids were in school that I really was able to get in more of a groove. I think it's so wise of you to invest in the people you already know and love.Delete
I'm curious about your mom's weekly group. What do you do with the littles during your study time? I've started a rosary group with some parish ladies but it is so chaotic with the little ones. I'm having a hard time even facilitating meaningful prayer intentions when no one can finish a sentence. Do you hire sitters?ReplyDelete
We meet in people's homes so kids will go to the playroom. BUT there are always lots of kids about, wandering back and forth, crying, talking, keeping close to mom, etc. We do still have good conversations and prayer time but we also have lower expectations.Delete
I have been a part of groups that recruit empty nesters to babysit the kids.
Great read, Bonnie! I've never thought about the small groups within a community this way. For me it was always a sign that something bad was happening.ReplyDelete
When I was younger I had a big problem with keeping relationships: it was ok for me to meet new people but afterwards I would always feel "they don't need me" and drop from a group. Now, I have learnt to approach each meeting as if it was the first and don't worry so much. I'm still looking for close friends but I'm more optimistic about it.