When my husband joined the military, we knew moving around frequently was something our family would have to get used to, and building community as a military spouse with each move was something I would have to get used to. In the past seven years alone, we have lived in three different states. I was born and raised in the same house for 18 years and only ventured 45 minutes down the road to go off to college.
To say I like being in my comfort zone is an understatement, so the whole “putting myself out there” thing has always caused me quite a bit of anxiety. As a kid, I would get butterflies in my stomach whenever my dad would make me call someone to thank them for a gift. I would silently wish for the answering machine — just thinking about it now is bringing back those all-too-familiar flutters.
But, living in a new place requires you to put yourself out there and make new friends. This is something that has never been easy for me. I get really nervous approaching people. I feel as if I’m bothering them or interrupting whatever it is they’re doing.
However, over the years, I’ve come to realize that people are usually just as nervous as I am when it comes to making new friends. Just like me, they’re waiting for someone to make the first move.
The Mom Advantage
I admit it’s definitely less intimidating to meet new people when you have a child. In my experience, it’s a lot easier to open up a conversation with, “How old is your son?” rather than, “How old are you?” But, my problem wasn’t necessarily starting conversations, it was keeping it going. I would make small-talk with another mom at the playground, but that was the extent of it. I might bump into her again at another event and smile politely, or I might never see her again. I’d come home, and my husband would ask, “Did you meet anyone new today?”
I would tell him about so-and-so, and he’d ask, “Well did you get her number?”
We would joke that making new mommy-friends was like dating all over again. My husband challenged me numerous times: “Why not? Why didn’t you ask her if she works or stays at home? Why didn’t you ask her where she’s from?”
Repeatedly my response would be, “Well, I don’t know. I guess I was too nervous.”
My husband’s response would be, “Don’t you think she may have been just as nervous as you?”
He made a valid point. I pondered a lot about it: If I was nervous and shy about striking up a conversation that lasted more than 30 seconds, maybe other moms felt this way too?
“Make the first move,” my husband would say, “I think you’ll surprise yourself.”
So, I decided to put on my big girl pants, step out of my comfort zone, and make the first move. When I did, the results were amazing.
Giving it a Try
One of my first attempts at putting myself out there led to some life-changing and memorable events. I used to take my oldest daughter to a weekly music class. There was another little girl there — the same age as mine — who usually came with her nanny. One day her mom brought her. I heard my husband’s voice in the back of my mind say, “Just talk. Ask for her number. Just do it.” When the class was over, I found myself conversing with this mom who was super pleasant and equally engaging. She told me she recently quit her job to be a stay-at-home mom and was looking to meet new moms. Ding! Ding! Ding! Hello, opportunity.
I took a deep breath. “We should exchange numbers and get the girls together for a playdate sometime,” I spoke up.
And thus, a beautiful friendship began!
On our first playdate, we learned that not only did we attend the same college, but we were a part of the same sorority — just a few years apart! Our friendship quickly grew over the next few months, as did our daughters’. They were soon calling each other best friends, and somewhere along the way, I too found a best friend.
The Military Factor
As our friendship developed, I knew a military move was inevitable. It would have been easy to not let myself get involved, knowing we would be moving in just a few short months. Yes, it would have been easy, but I can’t imagine my life without my friend and her sweet little girl, and I know my daughter feels the same way.
This friendship is just one example of how putting yourself out there can have such rewarding results. With our most recent move, I had to make new friends all over again. It still didn’t feel normal for me to make the first move and ask for another mom’s phone number, but I knew the importance of building community as a military spouse. I didn’t want my only friends to be my kids. It took some time and a few missed opportunities for me to realize how silly I was being. “Just do it,” I could hear my husband say.
So, I did.
I began interacting with other moms at play places, eagerly exchanging contact information. It felt a little foreign and quite random at times, but it was so worth it. I’ve exchanged numbers with moms at parks, in the baby section of a department store, while getting groceries, and at the library for storytime. Bringing a new mom’s phone number home makes me feel like a giddy 15-year-old again. Sometimes, I even throw in a happy-dance for good measure.
Building community as a military spouse is crucial. I’ve learned a lot from my community of friends, and I’ve learned a lot about me through them. It’s fun watching our children develop friendships, but it’s even more fun when we meet for breakfast after dropping them off at school, grab a glass of wine for girls’ night, or meet once a month for book club.
I’m so thankful (and relieved) I decided to abandon my inhibitions and anxiety over meeting new people. Imagine all I would have missed had I not stepped out of my comfort zone and introduced myself.
If you’re the new girl, yearning for mommy-friends, make the first move. I promise it’ll be worth it.
Photo Credits: Renee Slusser