Menu
Moving and the lonely mama: How I survived in a new city

By Lesley Miller


There are half-empty boxes all over the living room, a gallon of milk and two muffins in our otherwise empty refrigerator, and not a single picture on the walls. We’ve been in Santa Barbara for 36 hours and I need to find two things as soon as possible: my missing underwear and a few girlfriends.

In a woman’s life there are several people who are hard to replace: an appropriately sensitive OB/GYN, a hairstylist who can follow directions, and a loyal friend.

The first two can be found somewhat easily with the right Google keywords and Yelp reviews, but the latter is a quest not for the faint of heart. Which is why you should never, ever move to a new city unless you have to, or unless you’re going someplace warmer, sunnier and closer to grandparents. Capiche?

I still remember that first week in our new town—a beach community full of beautifully tan and seemingly confident moms with no obvious need for another female in their lives. Determined to make friends, I showed up at a Mothers of Preschoolers play date at the park near our house. It was a sunny Friday morning and I wore my faded red Toms. They were all wearing Toms too. This was a good sign.

Like me, everyone seemed distracted by their children; many of whom were running in opposite directions and putting foreign objects in their mouths. My little guy was strapped to my chest, in desperate need of a morning nap, while my oldest cautiously climbed the play structure, yelling “WATCH ME!” A group of women congregated near the swings. They had plenty to talk about but I wasn’t sure how to insert myself into the conversation.

We all seemed to have a lot in common—babies and toddlers of the same age, wrapped in identical baby carriers, eating the same brands of puffs and baby food pouches—so why, in that moment, did I feel far from belonging?

I wanted Sharon and Tammy and Ashlee and Anna and Dana and Bethie and Kara and Kat and all my people from home who wouldn’t be curious about the ages of my kids, but rather the state of my heart. They’d seen me cry, hysterically at times, and their eyes always lit up when I arrived at the playground. We could jump into faith talk and political banter and occasionally even discuss our sex lives while children mingled at our feet. Small talk? We were long past that.

Join Motherly

I left the play date feeling discouraged; not because people were rude—they weren’t—but because no one knew me. They were friendly in all the right ways, but our conversation stayed at surface level. I wanted to feel needed but I worried that I was just another average mom with nothing to offer. They seemed to have enough friends already.

But, along with my feelings of discouragement, I also felt oddly hopeful. Because the girls at the park weren’t gossipy or mean—they were anything but those things. They were gracious to each other and full of kind laughter, connecting in groups of two, others in groups of five or six. They all knew each other’s names and wandered around, striking conversation here and there. I didn’t leave with an invitation for another play date or girls’ night out, but I had to remind myself that they didn’t owe me those invitations. I was a complete stranger, new and on their territory. This could take some time.

A few weeks later, I tried again. We met at the beach for a picnic. It was a gray morning and most of the kids stayed next to their moms on higher and dryer sand. My three year old, new to the beauty of the beach, only wanted to be in the water. To be honest, it felt nice to escape from the group and collect myself. Small talk is hard for an introvert. I sunk my toes into the wet sand and stared out at the islands.

Jill met me there at the water’s edge. She’d chased her three year old to the water with an infant on her own hip. She looked as equally frazzled as I felt but she still offered a huge smile. “You’re new,” she said, and launched into an immediate round of questions. She realized that we lived just a block away from each other and promised to introduce me to Jen, another mom in the neighborhood with similar age kids. “We’ll have you over for dinner,” she promised. And a few weeks later, she did.

It’s not uncommon to hear women lamenting about how cliquey other women can be. And while I know this observation is sometimes true, I also think it’s often a way we protect ourselves. We show up at an event, overhear jokes we don’t understand and stories about the dinner everyone attended last week, and then we feel left out. Fairly quickly it’s decided— there is no more room at the table.

But here’s the thing: there’s definitely room.

After starting over a few different times in the last ten years, I still believe in the goodness of women. I still believe that most are kind and lovely and ready to welcome another soul into their fold. But it takes boldness.

It takes showing up even when it feels awkward, and it also means inviting people you don’t know very well over for dinner. It takes throwing out insecurities. It takes throwing out the idea that everyone will love you. It takes believing that people don’t always show their best selves on the first try.

Most of the time, there are beautiful little communities of women everywhere we go, and we want and need each other’s company. More than anything, I believe that loving someone well takes getting to know them—their quirks, coffee preferences and deepest fears—while also being brave enough to share our own stories. Friendship requires trust, and trust takes time.

My friendship with Jill, and with many of the other play date mamas, did not happen overnight. It took a lot of park meetups and chaotic family dinners before I made that longed for shift from stranger to acquaintance to friend.

Sure, there are always women with a full life and a full circle, no room for anyone else. But there are also, always, women looking for new friendships.

Find the ones who always make a seat at the table. And once you have a seat? Scoot close to the woman next to you so you can make room for another.

Join Motherly

This story was originally published on Coffee + Crumbs. Check out their book, The Magic of Motherhood, for more heartwarming essays about motherhood, love, and the good kind of heartache.

When expecting a baby, there is a lot you can test-run in advance: Take that stroller around the block. Go for a spin with the car seat secured in place. Learn how to use the baby carrier with help from a doll. But breastfeeding? It's not exactly possible to practice before baby's arrival.

The absence of a trial makes it all the more important to prepare in other ways for breastfeeding success—and it can be as simple as adding a few of our lactation aiding favorites to your registry.

MilkBliss chocolate chip soft baked lactation cookies

MilkBliss lactation cookies

Studies have shown the top reason women stop breastfeeding within the first year is because they are concerned about their milk supply being enough to nourish baby. Consider MilkBliss Lactation Cookies to be your secret weapon. Not only are they wholesome and delicious, but they were formulated specifically for breastfeeding moms based on the science of galactagogues—also known as milk boosters. They also come in peanut butter and wild blueberry flavors.

$23

Evereden multi-purpose healing balm

Evereden multipurpose healing balm

Also up there on the list of reasons women stop breastfeeding: the toll the early days can take on nipples. Made from just five ingredients, this all natural healing balm is ideal for soothing chafed nipples, making for a much more comfortable experience for mama as her body adjusts to the needs of a breastfeeding baby.

$20

Lansinoh milk storage bags

Lansinoh milk storage bags

For a breastfeeding mama, there are few things more precious and valuable than the milk she worked so hard to pump—and it's the stuff of nightmares to imagine it spilling out in the fridge. With these double-sealed milk storage bags, you can be assured your breastmilk is safe and sound until baby needs it.

$12.50

Belly Bandit bandita nursing bra

Belly Bandit bandita nursing bra

Nursing a baby is a 24/7 job, which calls for some wardrobe modifications. Because Belly Bandit specializes in making things more comfortable for the postpartum mama, they've truly thought of every detail—from the breathable fabric to the clips that can be easily opened with one hand.

$47

boob-ease soothing therapy pillows

Boob Ease soothing therapy pillows

For nursing moms, duct can quickly become a four-letter word when you suspect it's getting clogged. By keeping these soothing breast pillows in your breastfeeding arsenal, you can immediately go on the defense against plugged milk ducts by heating the pads in the microwave or cooling them in the freezer.

$25

Belly Bandit perfect nursing tee

Belly Bandit perfect nursing tee

A unfortunate reality of nursing is that it can really seem to limit the wardrobe options when you have to think about providing easy, discrete access. But by adding functional basics to your closet, you can feel confident and prepared for breastfeeding on the go.

$59

Bebe au Lait premium cotton nursing cover

Bebe au Lait cotton nursing cover

Nursing in public isn't every mama's cup of tea. But babies can't always wait until you've found a private place to get down to business if that's your preference. That's where a nursing cover comes in handy. This one is made from premium cotton and features a patented neckline that allows for airflow and eye contact even while you're covered.

$36

Lactation Lab basic breastmilk testing kit

Lactation Lab breastmilk testing kit

Curious to learn more about the liquid gold you're making, mama? The testing kit from Lactation Labs analyzes your breast milk for basic nutritional content like calories and protein, as well as vitamins, fatty acids and environmental toxins to help boost your breastfeeding confidence.

$99

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this

Shop

Why do all of my good parenting or baby-focused inventions come after they've already been invented by someone else? Sigh.

Like the Puj hug hooded baby towel, aka the handiest, softest cotton towel ever created.

Safely removing a wet, slippery baby from the bath can be totally nerve-wracking, and trying to hold onto a towel at the same time without soaking it in the process seems to require an extra arm altogether. It's no wonder so much water ends up on the floor, the countertops, or you(!) after bathing your little one. Their splashing and kicking in the water is beyond adorable, of course, but the clean up after? Not as much.

It sounds simple: Wash your child, sing them a song or two, let them play with some toys, then take them out, place a towel around them, and dry them off. Should be easy, peasy, lemon squeezy, right?

But it hasn't been. It's been more—as one of my favorite memes says—difficult, difficult, lemon difficult. Because until this towel hit the bathtime scene, there was no easy-peasy way to pick up your squirming wet baby without drenching yourself and/or everything around you.

Plus, there is nothing cuter than a baby in a plush hooded towel, right? Well, except when it's paired with a dry, mess-free floor, maybe.

Check out our favorites to make bathtime so much easier:

Keep reading Show less
Shop

Our list of 100 baby names that should be on everyone's list this year includes more choices than in the past of names that are obscure and surprising. That's because there are so many more unusual baby names coming into widespread use and baby namers have become a lot more adventurous.

Expectant parents do not need to be told to move beyond Jennifer and Jason. Their thinking about names has evolved to the point that the most useful thing we can do is offer a large menu of intriguing choices.

Here are our picks for the 100 best surprising + unusual baby names now.


Keep reading Show less
Learn + Play