Last week, I did the thing I said I’d never do. I went to MOPS.
That’s the funny thing about desperation. You’ll do anything.
For the last few months, I’ve been fighting many aspects of being a mom. I don’t want to be reminded that I’m a mom. I’m reminded everyday my toddler wakes me up at 6:30AM and yells at me when she doesn’t get to eat cookies all day. I had this idea of mom groups that involved cheesy crafts and forced conversations and only having in common the fact that we are all moms. I just want to hang out with women, who also happen to be mothers, and do things we’d normally do. So like, a mom’s group? No like a group that happens to be made up of moms. So, a mom’s group.
This is one of the reasons I felt like I was in a prison in Orange County. A stay-at-home suburban prison where hell looks like one eternal park date and awkward interactions with moms at the park. “How old is she?” “Oh so sweet.” “Is that your first?” “Oh I’m so tired. Mom life, you know?!”
I knew that when we moved back to San Diego, life would look different than it did a year ago. I used to work full-time, but now I would be continuing the stay-at-home gig. Our entire community had done major shifting while we were gone (and so did we). Everyone was at a new church. Many of them had new jobs, new babies. Many had relocated. I had to make a decision to not fall back into how life looked a year ago. I recently received an invitation to the MOPS group that meets at the new church we’re attending and I felt this nudging to check it out. As an introvert, trying new things without a wing woman isn’t my favorite thing to do.
Earlier this year while we were still in OC, I signed up for a membership class that’s required for staff and their spouses to take. I signed up alone because everyone else had taken it and figured it would be easy to sneak in and sneak out while remaining anonymous and avoiding awkward interactions. This church is huge, so there would be a ton of people in this class. I showed up to the home it was taking place in right on time. The entry way was adorned with name tags and binders; the table was filled with a spread of food I was trying to avoid eating; 3 host volunteers and a volunteer photographer were positioned to welcome guests and take photos for promotion; the campus pastor arrived ready to teach his attentive members. And then the truth set in. I was the only. one. coming. EVERYONE else bailed. I got a personal lesson on the history of the church and becoming a member. Had a spread of food to myself and got too much attention. Needless to say, it was an introverts nightmare. I don’t like doing new things alone.
But last week, I went to MOPS and second guessed myself the entire way there. Who will be there? Will I be the only one? Who will I talk to? Do I wait for someone to talk to me? Please let there be someone my age. And guess what? I showed up, and I was blessed. There were women who I could look up to and women I could be friends with. There were women who were tired, and women who could assure us we’d survive. The speaker reminded us that sometimes motherhood makes us feel like we have lost our fire, but we can take the fire and instill it in our kids. I got two hours without a toddler needing my attention. You guys, MOPS is my Friday respite.
I guess what I’m saying is never say never. Some things deserve a chance and God can still work wonders through even the cheesiest of mom groups. Being a mother takes hard work. And let’s be honest, our society isn’t set up to really help moms succeed: so many young moms aren’t living in neighborhoods where families get together and children play in the streets; we aren’t living in actual villages where mothers are cooking together, washing clothes together, watching their children gather sticks in the fields. We are isolated behind our phones, comparing ourselves to each other and women we don’t even know, crammed together in condominiums with nowhere for our kids to run free (and get out of our hair).
Motherhood has always been hard work, but I believe it takes even more effort to step outside of our comfort zones and create our village. And not just create a village, but cultivate the village and create a thriving community where families feel loved, seen, heard, welcome. Never say never, because you never know when and where your village will show up.