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When Your Mom Tribe is Not What You Expected

It takes a village.


What a cliché, I used to think. Of course – before I had children.

Because back then I didn’t need a village. I had my husband, our dear friends. We had our jobs and our hobbies and our travels and our home. We loved our far-flung village, family outside of the country who we could call and email and visit any time. And they came to see us too. Reminded us that we weren’t alone and could call them for anything. And we did. Well, we would have – if we weren’t already so assured (smug, almost) in our own self-sufficiency.

But then the kids arrived. One – two – three in rapid succession. And suddenly I realize that I’m an outsider, standing alone just beyond the village gates. Desperately searching for my tribe, my people. The ones everyone says I should have. NEED to have. The ones who are going to help me through this.

They were right, of course. It does take a village. I see now how important the tribe is. To pick up a preschooler while I take a toddler to the ER. To watch a sick child while I run to pick up medicine. To delight in our kids’ visits, welcoming me with an ear and a shoulder when it’s all become too overwhelming.

It seems that everywhere moms are boasting about their tribes. Their close knit mommy groups that coordinate everything from carpools to casseroles. Built in play dates every day of the week. Field trips. And impromptu home gatherings where everyone toasts with wine and laughs about the trials of motherhood.

And I wonder – where is my village?

It’s becoming big business. Every week I see a new app or website that boasts higher success rates for matching you with the perfect mom friend. Like a dating app, except instead of romantic chemistry you’re searching for mommy chemistry. Someone who sides with you on all the mommy war topics. Who you can let your hair down with. Someone who will come over when you’re at your worst, help you pick yourself up, and take the kids out for ice cream.

Do I need to download a mommy friend dating app to find my tribe??

I complained about this to one of my non-mom friends. She is unapologetically child-free, living her best life and diving head first into excitement and travel as she sips her bubbly and flips her shiny, freshly washed and highlighted hair. I grumbled about being too old to find mom friends. About how the moms I meet locally are no less than one to two decades younger than me, with nothing in common.

“Eh, F it,” she shrugged, “Who needs ‘em anyway? This is yet another reason why I’m not having kids!”

She topped off my glass and we laughed. Then moved onto topics like upcoming events and dream trips.

But still, the following Monday while she was at work and I was with the kids, I found myself anxiously searching for my tribe.

So I made dinner plans with an old friend. Someone who is my age, but whose children are nearly grown. A person I have shared more laughs and aspirations with than I can count. I knew that she would understand, and I wasn’t disappointed. She listened to me and nodded knowingly.

“I know, it’s so hard to find people you can trust,” she sighed.

We talked about our kids. College plans for hers, preschool plans for mine. Joked about her visit to my hospital room after baby number three, made complete by a bottle of margarita mix. Commiserated over the crazy-making that parenting can be. And she suggested that over time I would likely find local moms I vibe with.

So where are they?

I turned to my best male friend, a surfer carpe diem-type guy who is forever inviting me out to happy hours and meals with the gang. I finally agreed to shower and attend a ramen outing. As I sat with my son in the company of men, I whined to the guy next to me about how I can’t find any mom friends with whom to do this type of thing. He reminded me that he’s a father, a single father at that, and has been a longtime friend. But I told him it’s not the same. He reassured me that I’d soon find some mom friends – I probably just needed to get out more.

So I did. I ventured beyond the local parks to a further park. And lo and behold – I met someone! Someone about my age, with two children, and we clicked. We laughed and joked and agreed to exchange numbers. Then she let me know that she would contact me the next time she was in town. Turns out she’s the aunt who lives across the country.

I shared the story of the new mom friend who almost was with another friend later that evening, an out-of-state friend of almost two decades, with whom I talk several times a week. I told her that my little one was sick, and if I could just find someone to come by and help for two hours, I could catch up on my work. She understood and said she wished she could still help. Before she left the state, she was that person. The one to come over and relieve me over a lunch break or in the early evening. The one who would join me and my clan, her two kids in tow, on outings to Costco and Target. And now she was gone.

How would I ever find new mom friends?

I texted my frustrations to a dear friend who lives about an hour away, a person I met at work many years ago. She’s the friend who cared for my other children while each of their siblings were being born. She’s someone I trust completely. I told her I felt like I was losing my mind without the quintessential mom friends that everyone glamorizes.

She texted back immediately, as she always does, comforting me and letting me know that she would come by that weekend. Asking if she should take a day off work during the week to help me. Reassuring me that we would figure it out. Together. That I wasn’t alone in this.

And suddenly it hit me.

THIS is my tribe. These people, and the others in my life like them, ARE my mom friends. Whether local or not, moms or not, and even female or not, these people make up my imperfectly perfect village.

They support me. They laugh with me and cry with me. They show up for our events, our celebrations. They bring us meals and wine and gifts for the kids. They send me cards. They miss the children, ask about the children, beg to babysit the children. They visit us and call us and text us – for no reason at all. Just because.

They may not be here every minute of the day. They may have other obligations. They may not even reside in the same state. But they are HERE. Available to me on a moment’s notice. Supporting me and checking on me and expressing their willingness – their desire, even – to drop everything should I need it. Expressing their love. And I love them right back.

This, I realize, is what makes a mom friend. Not the women perfectly manufactured from the mom friend mold, but – by definition – the people who surround a mom, and who are her friends. That is a tribe.

I realized that while I’ve been peering into the gates of a village to which I felt I had no entry, my tribe has been there – right behind me – the entire time.

Who said motherhood doesn't come with a manual?

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Whether you're filling out your own registry or shopping for a soon-to-be-mama in your life, it can be hard to narrow down what exactly new moms need (versus what will just end up cluttering the nursery). That's why we paired up with the baby gear experts at Pottery Barn Kids to create a registry guide featuring everything from the gear you'll use over and over to the perfect gifts under $50.

Check out the picks below, and happy shopping (and registering)!

MUST-HAVE BABY GEAR

These five gift ideas are designed to make #momlife easier while solving some of the most common parenting dilemmas.

1. Doona All-In-One Infant Car Seat/Stroller

One of the first things you learn when you become a mom? Those infant car seats are heavy. Which is what makes the Doona All-In-One Infant Car Seat/Stroller so genius. It's the world's first completely integrated mobility solution, quickly transforming from safe car seat to functional stroller without any extra parts. Simply pop out the wheels, pull up the handle bar, and you're ready to roll.

Doona All-in-one Infant Car Seat / Stroller, $499

BUY


GIFTS THAT CAN BE PERSONALIZED

Even the most utilitarian gift feels a little more special with some personalization. Here are some of our favorite options that can be customized with baby's name or monogram.

1. Nursery Blankets

You'll never forget the blanket you bring your newborn home in. And with Pottery Barn Kids' assortment of blankets, there's a wrap to suit every new mama's style. Choose from fuzzy neutral patterns or stylish printed options, and add baby's name for an extra personal touch.

Nursery Blankets, Starting at $39.50

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GIFTS THAT GROW WITH THEM

Save money and space by gifting items that will last long after baby's first year. These clever gift items will have mama saying "thank you!" for years to come.

1. west elm x pbk Mid-Century Convertible Crib

A convertible crib is an investment in years of sweet dreams. We love this mid-century-style option made from sustainably sourced wood with child-safe, water-based finishes. When your baby outgrows their crib (sniff!), it easily converts into a toddler bed with the matching conversion kit.

west elm x pbk Mid-Century Convertible Crib, $399

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GIFTS UNDER $50

Sometimes the littlest gifts mean the most. Here are our favorite gifts under $50 they'll be sure to cherish.

1. west elm x pbk Dot Muslin Swaddle Set

When you're raising a newborn, you can never have too many swaddles. Perfect for naptime, burp cloths, stroller covers, and spontaneous play mats, a muslin swaddle will always come in handy. And we especially love this neutral patterned collection in platinum, nightshade, and peacock.

west elm x pbk Dot Muslin Swaddle Set, $45.50

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Learn more and explore all Pottery Barn Kids' registry must-haves here.

In the moments after we give birth, we desperately want to hear our baby cry. In the middle of the night a few months later it's no longer exactly music to our ears, but those cries aren't just telling us that baby needs a night feeding: They're also giving us a hint at what our children may sound like as kindergarteners, and adults.

New research published in the journal Biology Letters suggests the pitch of a 4-month-old's cry predicts the pitch they'll use to ask for more cookies at age five and maybe even later on as adults.

The study saw 2 to 5-month olds recorded while crying. Five years later, the researchers hit record again and chatted with the now speaking children. Their findings, combined with previous work on the subject, suggest it's possible to figure out what a baby's voice will sound like later in life, and that the pitch of our adult voices may be traceable back to the time we spend in utero. Further studies are needed, but scientists are very interested in how factors before birth can impact decades later.

"In utero, you have a lot of different things that can alter and impact your life — not only as a baby, but also at an adult stage," one of the authors of the study, Nicolas Mathevon, told the New York Times.

The New York Times also spoke with Carolyn Hodges, an assistant professor of anthropology at Boston University who was not involved in the study. According to Hodges, while voice pitch may not seem like a big deal, it impacts how we perceive people in very real ways.

Voice pitch is a factor in how attractive we think people are, how trustworthy. But why we find certain pitches more or less appealing isn't known. "There aren't many studies that address these questions, so that makes this research especially intriguing," Hodges said, adding that it "suggests that individual differences in voice pitch may have their origins very, very early in development."

So the pitch of that midnight cry may have been determined months ago, and it may determine part of your child's future, too. There are still so many things we don't know, but as parents we do know one thing: Our babies cries (as much as we don't want to hear them all the time) really are something special.

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They say there's no use in crying over it, but for pumping mamas, spilled milk is a major upset.

When you're working so hard to make sure your baby has breast milk, you don't want to lose a drop, and Chrissy Teigen knows this all too well.

The mom of two posted a video to social media Wednesday showing her efforts to rescue breastmilk from a tabletop. She used various utensils and a syringe to try to get the milk back in the bottle.

"I spilled my breastmilk and this is how important it is in this house," she says while suctioning up milk with what appears to be a baster.

In a follow-up video Teigen continues to try to rescue the spilled milk.

"We're trying," she says as she suctions up a drop or two. "I got some."

Teigen is currently breastfeeding baby Miles, her son with husband John Legend, and has been very public about the fact that she pumps a lot as a working mom.

She's also been open about the fact that milk supply has always been an issue for her, not just with Miles but with Luna, too.

"I actually loved [pumping] because I'm a collector of things, and so when I found out I could pump I [did it] so much because I knew the more you pumped, the more milk you'd make," she told POPSUGAR back in March. "So I loved collecting my breast milk and seeing how much I could get, even if it was very, very little."

Like a lot of moms, Teigen did struggle emotionally when a pump session wouldn't get her the ounces she wanted.

"I wasn't producing a lot of milk, and it was frustrating. When you're frustrated, [it can also make you] not produce that much."

Research backs her up. Stress has been linked to lower milk production. Because of that, she's trying to stay positive this time around, but captioned her video post "EVERY DROP COUNTS IN THIS HOUSE" because, well, they do.


So many mothers can relate. Have you ever tried to save your breastmilk?

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What is it about networking that's just kind of...awful? Typically inconvenient and often awkward, formal networking events rarely yield the results most women (and especially mamas) are looking for.

Whether you're reentering the workforce post-baby leave or simply looking to make a complicated career switch as a busy mom (or just struggling to juggle play dates and professional meetings), making the right connections is often a hurdle that's difficult to surmount. And more and more often, networking comes up short in providing what moms really need.

When time is truly at a premium—a session swapping business cards can be hard to prioritize. Shapr wants to change all that.

Designed with busy people in mind, Shapr is an app with an algorithm that uses tagged interests, location, and professional experience to match you with 10-15 inspiring professional connections a day. You swipe to indicate interest in networking with any of them, and if the interest is mutual, you're connected. (But don't worry, that's where the similarities to that dating app end.)

It makes it easier to connect with the right people.

From there, you can chat, video conference, and even meet in person with potential mentors, partners, and investors while growing your real-life network. No more wasting hours trying to pick someone's brain only to discover they don't have the right experience you need. And no more awkward, stilted small talk—even suggests a few preset icebreakers to help get the conversation rolling more quickly.

The best part? You could do virtually all your connecting from your couch post-bedtime.

It simplifies switching careers or industries.

Sysamone Phaphone is a real mom who was fed up with traditional networking options. When she quit her full-time job in healthcare to pursue founding a startup, she quickly realized that in-person networking events weren't only failing to connect her to the right people, they were also difficult for a single mom of two to even attend. "I was complaining to a friend that I was so tired and didn't know how I was going to keep doing it this way when she recommended the Shapr app," Phaphone says. "I tried it right there at dinner and started swiping. [Later], in my pajamas, I got my first connection."

From there, Phaphone was hooked. Her network suddenly exploded with developers, potential partners she could work with, and even people to hire for the roles she needed. She was also able to connect with and empower other women in tech. Now, checking in with Shapr connections is just part of her routine. "I look for connections after drop-off at school and on my commute into the city," she says. "Then after bedtime is done, I go on to check if there is anyone I've connected with."

It helps you find a mentor—no matter where they live.

Another common roadblock Shapr removes? Location. While you probably wouldn't fly to LA from New York for a networking event, the Shapr app lets you connect and chat with the person who best meets your needs—regardless of where they're based. Even better for parents, the "mom penalty" many women contend with when trying to get back into the workforce doesn't exist on Shapr—if you have the right experience, the connections will still come.

To connect, simply create your account, enter up to ten hashtags you want to follow (either industry related like #film or #tech or by person you're seeking, such as #developer or #uxui), preset what you're looking for (investors, collaborators, etc.), and indicate how you prefer to meet. To connect with more people at once, Shapr also has community groups within the app around interest topics that you can join. And even though the connection begins in the digital space, it often results in the in-person experiences mamas crave.

"I wish I could encourage more moms and dads to use it because it has been a lifesaver for me," Phaphone says. "It empowered my career and career choices, and it provides so much convenience. I can put my kids to bed and not go to an event, but still meet 20 people in a night."

For women looking to grow their business, position, or simply achieve a little self-growth, Shapr is changing the way we connect. This powerful new app could change everything, mama. Download it today to get started.

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