The Baggage & Motherhood Guest Writer’s Series gives a space for moms around the world to share their story. Here they tell what life has thrown their way and how it has impacted them in their role as a Mom. In this post, Sarah Czopek shares about finding her “mom tribe” after becoming a mom.
All of the posts in this series touch on the real life struggles of bringing your “stuff” with you to your most important job: Motherhood.
Read on below, and as always, please share with anyone you think would find this helpful!
My Social Past
I…was a weird kid.
With frizzy red hair, freckles, plus thick, pink, plastic-rimmed glasses and a refusal to conform to the fashion trends of my peers, I stuck out like a sore thumb.
I was introverted, academically gifted and overly mature. These three traits that didn’t exactly increase my popularity. To put it in perspective, my parents jokingly called me a 40-year-old trapped in a kid’s body from the time I was about eight years old.
Noticing that I was different
About halfway through third grade we moved, and I found myself in a new school. It was there that I noticed and felt my weirdness for the first time.
My vocabulary and reading level was far above my peers. This created communication imbalances that basically made me sound like an alien to anyone under the age of twenty. I distinctly recall one large, rather intimidating classmate turning to me in the hallway and asking “why you talk so proper?”
I simply didn’t fit in with my schoolmates. They all seemed to belong to some club in which I’d never be welcomed.
I felt the impact
I felt alone for a long time. During those years, I played with kids in the neighborhood, sort of, but had difficulty feeling like I actually connected with anyone.
I was left out of birthday parties and was clueless about all the inside jokes. I basically spent years 8-10 with my nose in book after book after book, because characters in books were better friends than real people.
In fifth grade, I walked through the lunch line every day, took my tray, and sat at the far end of a 16-20 foot cafeteria table – alone. I enviously watched cliques of girls giggling and talking at the other end of the table, secretly wishing I could be a part of their world but believing I never would be.
When Everything Changed
Until one day. A few of those girls took their lunch trays and, to my great disbelief, sat down beside me.
They were my first tribe. And, to this day, one of them remains my best friend in the world. My kids call her Auntie.
That simple act of friendship changed my life forever, and taught me the importance of acceptance and belonging.
I’d like to say I never felt alone again, but as we all know, there is an ebb and flow to life. And finding friendships and relationships that stand the test of time is not easy. I had my share of fallouts, drama, exclusions, and upheavals.
Middle school, junior high, and high school are not kind places. And as I recently told a few high school friends I reconnected with, “you couldn’t pay me to go back”.
But, those tough childhood and adolescent years (along with lots and lots of therapy, ha!) also taught me some incredibly important core truths that have served me well in adulthood.
Truths to consider when looking for your people
It’s ok if people don’t like you.
Seriously. And wowwww, that was hard for me to learn when I faced so many challenges with being excluded in those younger years.
It physically PAINED me to think that anyone might think something negative about me, or that I might have (*gasp*) hurt someone else’s feelings inadvertently.
As a result, I spent a lot of years pleasing other people and putting myself last. I had to slowly learn to shrug off this idea that what other people think about me defines my worth.
Nothing changes unless you make a change.
I now say this to my clients all the dang time.
It’s the basic idea that, hey, YOU are in charge of your life – not anyone else.
And if you don’t like the way it’s going, or the people you’re doing life with, do something different. Find new people. Simple as that.
You can’t (or at least shouldn’t) do life all alone.
There were definitely parts of me that felt like I just should take care of myself and not even bother trying to find friends who would understand me or the things that I went through. In some ways it felt easier to just be isolated.
But, that strategy won’t work forever.
The need for relationship is part of the human condition, and you owe it to yourself to connect with others.
Finding My Mom Tribe
When I became a mom, I’d just moved again. Like before, I was the new kid on the block.
With no connections or professional network in the area, I took a job I was totally overqualified for and went to work every day feeling friendless, isolated, and out of place. I was basically a weird 8-year-old kid again, but with grown-up responsibilities and adult feelings.
In order to find my mom tribe by building community and relationships in a new environment, I had to rely on those childhood lessons I’d learned the hard way.
It took time, self-reflection and a lot of not-so-great friendship attempts, but I eventually found my “mom tribe” through church. My people are a down-to-earth, hilarious group of women who truly get what it’s like to be in the trenches with one another, and claw their way out together.
There are nine of us. Our daily text thread is a running documentary of every element of our lives, from parenting disasters, personal victories, and prayer requests to ridiculous memes, confessions, and silly selfies.
I mean it when I say that I am not sure how I would have emotionally survived the COVID-19 pandemic without them.
It’s not easy to learn how to feel ok with other people not being “your people”, find the inner strength and power to make changes in your life to find your true friends, and accept the fact that you’re not some perfect Superwoman who can handle all of life’s ups and downs alone.
It’s not easy…but it’s worth it.
You deserve to find your tribe
For some, these lessons are learned through time and experience. For others (myself included), it helped tremendously to see a professional who could be a mirror and provide a sounding board for feelings and experiences.
I will always be grateful for the counselors who served me along my journey to becoming the person I was meant to be.
If you’re reading this, please know that you deserve the same. It is never too late to find healing. And, it is never too late to find the acceptance and belonging of true friendship.
Find your tribe.
Sarah Czopek is a Chicago area Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor who exclusively serves women struggling with overthinking, toxic perfectionism, people-pleasing, panic, and related concerns.
She loves helping women find emotional freedom and enhance their everyday relationships through self-awareness and deep healing.
Thank you, Sarah, for sharing being vulnerable and brave to share your story of searching for your tribe. So many moms can relate; I know I can! We will all benefit from accepting your life lessons as core truths!