Every mother needs a tribe: Other mothers who understand her; who don’t judge her; and who are willing to lend their support and time when needed. But for military mothers, who move every few years, finding a tribe can be downright daunting.
Most bases host a new spouses’ orientation briefing to acclimate spouses to the base and city. Often, I’ve tried these, but it’s a struggle. Between listening to the speakers and the forced socialization, in the past, I’ve only ever managed to make a Facebook friend at best. Neither of us ever calls or texts after the orientation. And, before long, we miss the opportunity for what could have been a glorious friendship.
I’ve also been lucky enough to mesh with other moms right away. Miraculously, our kids were around the same age and got along. But, inevitably, someone moves and the process starts all over again.
When my husband’s career took us to Virginia, I didn’t find my tribe until we’d been there two whole years.
For my latest move — to San Antonio nine months ago — I was determined to not let finding my mommy tribe take that long again.
How I Found My Tribe
So far, what has worked best for me are sites like Meetup.com. Meetup is a wonderful resource for mothers just like me. Or just like you. There are groups for working moms, stay-at-home moms, playgroups and homeschooling opportunities. Best part? These moms know the city. They’ve guided me to the best pediatric dentist on my side of town. These ladies celebrated my first Fiesta and steered me to the best place for a date night. These moms are locals. If not born and raised in San Antonio, then they are the next best thing. The mothers’ groups on Meetup use safety measures to ensure a positive experience for all such as keeping the groups private and holding outings in public places. And with them, I have ventured outside the base and gained access to the true heart of the city.
Hike It Baby
I wish I would have known on my first move rather than my fifth that national groups are a huge asset. National groups like MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) and Hike It Baby provide consistency to military spouses. Military families bounce from place to place, but membership in a national group can remain the same. I belonged to the Hampton Roads Virginia chapter of Hike It Baby but never attended a hike. My kids were younger. And, between the more rugged terrain and half-day preschool, the Hampton Roads hikes rarely worked for me.
But when I moved to San Antonio, I reconnected with this national group’s San Antonio chapter. Ventures with this group allowed me to get out into the city — often in ways I never would have otherwise. Moms in this group know the terrain of the city very well since they spend so much time in it. but their helpfulness went beyond the best places to hike with a toddler (particularly, if you want that toddler to waddle most of the hike on hi own two feet!). I also learned the location and time of a little known farmers market and the best day trips to take around San Antonio.
The fact that most hikes occur at the same time and location each week helped me form relationships. It allowed me to see certain moms every week or even a few times a week, which helped take the pressure off the situation. I didn’t feel the need to make a connection the first time I met someone lest I miss the opportunity for friendship. I knew I’d see these ladies the next week. And, each time I saw them we talked a little more. We got to know each other. Eventually, we started meeting up outside the scheduled hikes. What started as a desire to get our kids out into nature turned into a little tribe of our own.
It may sound ridiculous to explain to adults how to make friends and build tribes. However, the truth is that it gets harder as we get older. Job and family obligations leave little time to cultivate new friendships. Throw kids into the equation, and it becomes even more challenging. Friendship feels less about whether we get along as adults but rather if our kids get along — or if the kids’ nap times coincide.
Making friends as adults feels hard enough, and for military spouses, we have the added burden of moving every few years, which can make it feel both impossible and futile. Yet, it’s important that military spouses expand their tribes. Or at least try. We rarely have family and the friends we grew up with in close proximity. Spouses deploy and go on temporary duty out of state. And it always seems to coincide with an appointment that kids can’t attend. Or the school holiday party that siblings aren’t allowed to attend. Then, the question becomes who are you going to call?
I hope the list of tribe members you can call is just as long as I’m trying to make mine.