Letting Your Mom Tribe Go

“Mom Tribe” is a term that is thrown around a lot these days and means different things to different people. I actually remember the first time I heard “tribe” used to describe a group of friends of someone I knew but I didn’t think much about it at the time. I didn’t really understand it or how important it is to me to have a tribe until years later after I became a mom.

A stressed woman looking at a phone.

Seven years ago, shortly after my daughter was born and while I was still on maternity leave from my job I found myself in a place of boredom and loneliness, craving more adult interaction. Like many new moms, I found myself scrolling through social media late one evening and stumbled across a local moms group in west Houston near where I live. Perfect, right? They appeared to be normal on their Facebook group page so I thought, why not give them a shot?  I attended their next member meeting the following week and met some amazing ladies with kids around the same age as my daughter. They shared a copy of their monthly calendar with me and I was thrilled to see that there were not only play dates available but also moms night out events and even a book club! I had finally found some adult interaction right in my own backyard!

Over the next few years, five of those women grew into what I described to others as my “mom tribe.” We were a “party of 6” and at our height, got together weekly for various meet-ups and even went on a couple of out of town weekend getaways each year to unwind and relax together. All of our kids were relatively the same age, and we enjoyed spending time together. We all benefited from having a small group where we could ask each other those questions that moms google at 2 AM as well as from having an outlet in which we could escape the mundane nature of motherhood at times. Our husbands even joined in on the social gatherings from time to time and things were pretty smooth sailing for years.

However, I recently made the difficult decision to let my tribe go. I struggled with even sharing my story because it’s still painful but I decided to share because I know I am not the only person in the world faced with having to move on when you know something just isn’t for you any more  It’s important to note that there was no massive blowup or fight when I finally made the decision to move on, and I actually still casually communicate with several members of my former tribe to this day. They are still good people, so I didn’t make the decision to forever throw away my friends – I simply lowered my expectations of them and stopped considering them my tribe. The lead up to me finally realizing I needed to move on and let my tribe go took quite some time, but it essentially boiled down to 5 key signs that I hope others find useful when in a similar situation.

5 Signs That It Is Time To Move On::

You realize that every gathering is centered around drinking and partying in general

Over time, the frequency and level of alcohol consumption in the group became excessive and it finally hit the point of being the only thing that got the group to commit to getting together in person. There were numerous times when members of the group drank so excessively that they either chose to drive themselves {and sometimes others!} home, puked in the back of Ubers, or had to be picked up by their spouses or partners. I was by no means innocent as there was definitely a night when I asked an Uber driver to pull over so I could puke out the window after a holiday gathering with my tribe, but I was beginning to not like who I became when I was at those gatherings. Alcohol had become the artificial glue that was holding our group together and it wasn’t fun any more.

You find yourself showing up for others in their times of need, but no one ever shows up for you

My personality type is such that I show up for my friends when they need it and the usual way in which I do that is to deliver food, flowers or care packages. It’s always my immediate go-to. Just like many, my tribe had their fair share of times of need over the years: medical scares/issues, deaths in the family, marital issues, worries with their children, natural disasters, COVID, etc. However I realized that over the past year, my tribe wasn’t showing up for me in MY times of need and my relationships within the tribe were beginning to feel one sided. I do consider myself to be a very strong person that can handle a lot of pressure and my tribe used tell me that as well, but I still need and want encouragement from my friends when times are tough. But I wasn’t receiving any of that. If my relationships were a bank account, I was definitely overdrawn.

You can’t talk about the hard stuff

This was one of the clearest signs for me that it was time move on from my tribe. It took the year 2020 for me to realize that my tribe was simply incapable of talking about the hard stuff which was a very sad realization. I finally figured out that the personalities in the group either found it too difficult or just did not want to talk about the hard stuff in motherhood, beyond surface level. Now, I am a venter and I process really hard stuff by talking it out with those closest to me. Right at the beginning of the pandemic, I NEEDED to talk about what was going on, the big fears I had for my family, the challenges I had with trying to work a full time job from home with two young children who were suddenly home from school and day care, and hopefully learn how they were all coping with the same issues. I needed to FEEL all the feelings and move my way through them. But we couldn’t ever get there. Every time we’d venture even remotely into a deep conversation about what was going on, someone would immediately try and shift to humor or sarcasm to lighten the mood. That’s a common strategy for some, but not me. When I thought back over the years with my tribe, I realized that it wasn’t just COVID as a topic that we couldn’t talk about – we simply never talked about the hard stuff, period.

You slowly stop thinking about them as much

In our early days, several of us would call/text/see each other nearly daily. Our text message threads contained some pure comedic gold over the years and my gosh we had some amazing times together. However, slowly over time as the tribe started to fizzle I stopped thinking about them as much. They were no longer the first people I contacted when I was really excited about something or just had something that I wanted to share. I eventually found myself having to catch them up on what was going on in my life when we finally did connect because it had been so long since we last communicated.

You aren’t on the same page about big stuff that really matters to you

Surprisingly, our group made it through both the 2016 and 2020 Presidential elections, despite members of the group having very different political thoughts and beliefs. We could even discuss certain political topics and openly listen to one another to understand how and why that person felt a particular way about a topic. But COVID broke us. The group was split exactly 50/50 on those of us who took it seriously and did everything within our power to ensure we were following the guidelines from local public health officials, and those basically acted and behaved as though COVID did not exist. It was shocking, especially considering the fact that not one but TWO of the group who did very little to try and protect themselves from COVID continued to act that way even after falling very ill with COVID themselves.

They whined about how COVID was no different than the flu, they whined about how it was so unfair and inconvenient that schools flipped to virtual early on in the pandemic {completely ignoring everything our schools and educators were doing and sacrificing to keep our kids safe}, they whined about how it was so terrible that they couldn’t get their hair and nails done, and they whined about how terrible it was that social/entertainment events were canceled. You name it, they whined about it and I just couldn’t take it any more. The fact that as of the publishing of this post, 89 million people have contracted COVID and 2 million have died seemed to mean nothing to them. There’s a lot that I can deal with when it comes to tolerating differences and I despise the current cancel culture that we find ourselves in right now, but I cannot consider you as part of my tribe if you are actively ignoring science.

Some of you might say that my tribe wasn’t really my tribe to begin with, given some of the things I described above. However, that’s where I believe the fallacy of tribes begins. My belief is that while some people are lucky enough to have the same group of friends that they consider their tribe for a lifetime, that’s not reality for the rest of us. It has been my experience that people come and go from our lives and teach us amazing things about ourselves, others and life in general. I also believe that people fulfill certain needs that we have in our various seasons of motherhood and then we outgrow them. In my early days of motherhood, I just needed a distraction. An escape. A place where I could be the old me before I became a mom and just have fun with my girlfriends. My tribe fulfilled that need and they were really great for 7+ years. However, in the current season of motherhood that I find myself in – I need more from my tribe. I need to be able to talk about the hard stuff. I need to be able to know that my tribe has my back when I’m going through difficult times. I need to know that we are all on the same page about the big stuff that really matters to me.

Even though I still mourn the loss of my tribe, I am confident and optimistic that my next tribe is just around the corner. A tribe that fulfills all of the needs of my current season of motherhood and hopefully one that can transition with me into the next season. Going through the experience of letting my former tribe go has thankfully taught me so much about life and people in general and I will remember those lessons for the rest of my life. I also know though that not everyone has to have a tribe at all times, so I am not in a hurry to find my next. I am curious about them though and wonder if they are starting to outgrow their current tribe as well. Maybe they’ll even stumble across this post.

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Letting Your Mom Tribe Go. A photograph of a woman facing away from the camera and looking out a window. Logo: Houston moms.



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