Have you ever been on the outside of a mom clique? I have. Sitting in the waiting room of a class my daughter was taking a few years ago, I found myself surrounded by other moms but feeling completely alone. The other women with children in the class all seemed to know each other. They volunteered together. Their husbands were friends. They shopped together, played together, worked out together and hung out on weekends.
It was obvious from the start that I wasn’t part of their pre-established social circle but I didn’t let that stop me from trying to make friends. I would smile or wave at them as they came in, ask them about their kids or compliment them on their shoes. They would smile back, give me a short but polite answer to my questions and nod appreciation for my kind words. Then they would turn back to the women they knew better and become engrossed in conversation about mutual acquaintances, the wine tasting they were hosting that weekend or whether they all really approved of the paint color one of them had chosen for the master bathroom.
I was perplexed. Since junior high I’ve rarely had a hard time making friends. Even if I don’t leave every room with a BFF, I will usually be able to strike up a conversation with just about anyone no matter how different our backgrounds are if I really try. And I had so much in common with these women. But not enough. I eventually gave up trying and brought a book to the class. I would sit and read to stay occupied while they chattered on.
I didn’t shed any tears over the situation. I’ve even gotten to know a couple of the mothers in other settings since that time and found them to be quite pleasant. It was more of an annoyance, this impenetrable fortress of female friendship that I kept slamming into without finding any way to enter.
But I’m pretty self-confident. I have many other friends. I didn’t need those women. It just would have been more pleasant to spend those hours there every week if I felt like I was part of the group or even visible to it. Imagine if I’d been new in town, desperately seeking to make friends, or going through a hard time and really needing some validation from other adults. It could have been devastating.
Now this question’s a little harder. Have you ever been part of a mom clique that excluded someone else? I have. But this is harder to pinpoint because when you’re part of the clique, you’re so comfortable and self-absorbed that you often don’t even realize what you’re doing.
This week I was sitting at Laylee’s soccer practice talking to several of the other moms. I knew two of them before the season started and the other two I’ve come to know a little bit over the past couple of weeks. It is a fun and accepting group of women, talking and laughing, planning to take fitness classes together. I’ve been having a great time.
Now one of the women I knew going into the season has a newborn and she sits off to the side each practice, watching the girls play and trying to comfort-nurse the new baby. She’s not super involved in the social aspect of the sideline sitting and I’ve just assumed she was fine with that, needing some peace and quiet with her little one.
But this week one of the other women looked over at my friend and said, “I hope we’re not those women, the ones who sit off in a little clique talking and laughing and leaving someone out of the conversation. I do not want to be those women.”
And then it dawned on me – it takes a really selfless person to even realize when she’s leaving someone else out inadvertently. I was so excited and caught up in how inclusive and fun this group was that I didn’t even stop to really think about the needs of my friend sitting quietly by.
The truth is that as adults, as parents, we can be just as clueless and cruel as kids can be. We can also be just as insecure. It doesn’t matter how old we get, we will always need other people. We will always need friends.
A little validation or acceptance from another adult can go a long way to lighten my mood. How much effort would it honestly take me to look around wherever I am and try to include someone who’s sitting quietly on the sidelines? I’d probably make another friend.