My heart beat faster as we walked through the door. We weren’t greeted immediately because the party was already in progress. It can be hard to know which would feel more awkward - arriving early or slipping in late. My son found his one friend in the mix of dozens.
I slowly filled my plate at the buffet. My eyes shifted from the food to the crowd as I searched for a familiar face. I managed to make small talk with a mom nearby as I nibbled on fruit. If I could eat slowly enough, I could avoid the lack of connection a bit longer. But oh, figuring out how to engage in conversation with strangers can be painful.
Everyone else appeared to be part of the “in” group. We were new. I listened to stories from years past and simply couldn’t connect. They chatted about people, places, and events that I simply did not know. I felt vulnerable and exposed. Surely they could all see my inner terror in my outward awkwardness.
I saw myself reflected in my son. His eyes searched the crowd for friends. He found one. They settled in a corner of the crowd, and others seemed oblivious to their presence. How much longer until my son would be ready to go home? How much longer until I could escape being on the outside of the inside?
My inner middle-school self longed to escape. But deeper, my adult-mom self longed to belong.
Can you identify? If you have ever felt excluded from a group of homeschool moms, you know this longing for belonging. It’s the dreaded experience of a middle school clique all over again. Do you ever feel invisible?
This time, as you wrestle with your own feelings, you see them mirrored in your child as well. It seems everyone else has their group, and you alone are on the outside. So you wonder, why don’t they include us? Why won’t they allow new friends into their circle? Why are they being mean?
A longing to belong steals rest and joy. The temptation is to believe if they just liked me, all would be fine. But outward acceptance is only one part of the puzzle. True rest deep in your heart only comes from knowing your identity in Jesus. You can pursue true rest for your soul.
Have you ever wondered if someone else sees you as being in the inner circle? If we could see with all-knowing glasses, I think we would realize we’re each in both circles, the inner and the outer. We often feel like we’re on the outside, but others see us on the inside. Our desperate desire to belong, however, convinces us they are the clique doing the excluding. Sometimes it’s really true: there was once a time that my child was the one intentionally excluding.
Change Your Approach to Mom Cliques
You teach your children they cannot change others. They can only change themselves. It’s true for us too, moms. In order to help our children through dealing with cliques, we have to face the hard reality ourselves first. You can only change yourself. You can make a few, very hard, choices that just might change your entire perspective of these hurtful situations.
SILENCE THE CRITIC IN YOUR HEAD
Stop that inner dialogue. You know, that critic of comparison that says you’re not good enough, fun enough, pretty enough. It’s the voice convincing you that you and your child will never fit in. Stop the critic.
CONSIDER THEIR PERSPECTIVE OF YOU
Just imagine what they’re thinking. Odds are you’re not the only one inwardly wrestling thoughts of inadequacy. Those moms are probably fighting their own inner battle. If you’ve had a conversation with one person, they just might think you are the one on the inside.
LOOK FOR A MOM FEELING ALONE
There’s almost always someone else. Search past the outer smiles and seek the mom who is inwardly trembling. Shift your gaze from the group to the corners and shadows. You will probably find someone else feeling alone.
SEEK TO GIVE RATHER THAN TO RECEIVE
If you have silenced your inner critic, you can shift your focus from yourself to someone else. Rather than seeking to feel you belong, you can help someone else feel they belong. Smile at another mom. Offer an encouraging word. Notice their desire for a friend.
BE COURAGEOUS AND START THE CONVERSATION
This is the hard part. It’s your moment of decision. Starting the conversation requires great courage. Will you do it? Walk over to someone. Introduce yourself. Ask a question. Ask about their children. Ask about their interests. Yes, it might feel awkward. It’s worth the risk.
My inner middle-school self made the hard choice. At the party that night, I chose to silence my inner critic. I directed my thoughts outside myself. I chose to see the moms around me. I quit trying to just receive.
I started the conversation. Time and time again, I made the difficult, brave choice. The choice to say hi, introduce myself, ask a question. Awkward? Yes. Worth the risk? Absolutely.
Perspective Can Change Everything
Driving home, I realized my perspective had been skewed. No one was trying to exclude me. They simply had their own inner battles and simple distraction. Several moms didn’t know anyone either—I just didn’t notice them while focused on myself. Several moms I kind of knew already were eager to talk with me—they had just been focused in other conversation. Several moms were welcoming and ready to meet a new friend - they just thought I already knew other moms.
Friends, we probably have never met. But we have wrestled the same inner struggle. We can also make the same outward choice. You can be courageous. You can start the conversation. Is hurt possible? Yes. But a new friend is more likely.
It’s worth the risk.
Dealing with cliques is one of many inner battles you face as a homeschool mom. Request your free copy of Aimee’s ebook Restful Tides of Thought: Renewal for the Homeschool Mom for 10 more suggestions of thought patterns you can change to become more restful.
Aimee Smith lives in daily tension between God’s call to work in the trench of motherhood and His call to rest as His daughter. She faces each day with tenacity as she teaches her four children (ages 9-15) and leads in her local homeschool community, all while fighting chronic illness. Join Aimee at www.aimeesmith.com for strategies to cultivate victorious rest in the midst of your daily trench. You can also find her on Facebook and Instagram.
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