I just want to belong. That’s really what we’ve wanted since elementary school, right? We want to know that someone is waiting for us when we get to the lunchroom – that there is a seat for us and someone is excited to see us when we walk through the door. Despite all of the maturing I thought I had done over the years, I discovered this week that I still have that elementary school girl in me who just wants to belong; two experiences showed me this.
I was attending a parent event at my kids’ school. When I walked in, I recognized a few people and smiled and waved. They smiled back, but proceeded to turn around and talk to the person next to them. As I made my way up the bleachers to find an empty seat, I grabbed a row behind someone else I knew. I said, “Hello” and even used her name (yeah, for once actually remembering it! I am horrible with people’s names.). She did not even turn around. She was staring off at her phone and engrossed. I even positioned myself so as she turned to look at the speaker that I would be in her view – not even an acknowledgement that I existed. As more people I knew walked through the door, occasionally one would smile and nod. I would smile and wave, but they would sit elsewhere. Was my smile weird? Was my wave awkward? When the meeting started, I was sitting alone. It was as if I was transported back to junior high. All the emotions of being rejected came flooding back.
A week later, I decided it was time to take action. No more waiting for others to invite me to something. I needed to be the one doing the inviting. I saw a local mom post on social media about a book she was reading. I was reading the same book! We’re both moms, we’re reading the same book. It was like the neon sign I had been looking for. This was going to be the mom! I posted a comment and told her that I was reading that book too! Then I suggested that we could meet and talk about the book – sort of like a book club. I thought that was a casual way of desperately saying, “Can we please be friends?” Her response was short and abrupt: “Thanks, but I just joined an online book club.”
I know, social media is the WORST place to read someone’s tone and emotions, but in that moment all I heard was, “I don’t want to be your friend.” Rejected, dejected – I just walked away. Not invited to join the club, not welcomed into the community.
For the next 24 hours I held a pity party for one – that really is the saddest of all kinds of parties. But in my loneliness, I was reminded that there are mamas all over the globe that don’t feel like they belong. That is why I do what I do. That is why I passionately help moms welcome other moms into this sisterhood of motherhood at MOPS. I want our moms to save a seat for one more mom. I want them to smile and wave and invite a mom to join their table and conversation. The truth is that not only does that mama need a friend, but that those mamas need her too. We need each other.
My friend, if you are feeling like that dejected schoolgirl just waiting to be invited into a circle of friends, you are not alone. You were never meant to sit alone. You belong. You are welcome here.
Jennifer Iverson is the Leadership Content Coordinator at MOPS International. She is an organizer of things and people which also comes in handy as the mother of six children. Jennifer and her husband, Mike, live in central Pennsylvania where you can always find a warm cup of coffee brewing.