Six months after I moved to the Washington, DC suburbs, I found myself alone and depressed. It had been a tumultuous year of leaving my beloved San Francisco for Paris, France, returning to San Francisco, and moving three weeks later across the country. When we arrived in Northern Virginia, I laser-focused on finding schools, clubs, and sports teams for my boys…and completely neglected myself.
It’s not surprising that when I finally came up for air I was miserable. My husband traveled often for work, I knew no one in Virginia, and my family and friends were 3,000 miles away. As a stay-at-home mom, I had no work community to fall back on, and the highlight of my day was dropping the boys off at the bus stop and waiting for someone – anyone – to acknowledge me. No one did.
The few (kid-related) social events I was invited to made me feel more like an outsider watching the cool girls than a welcomed newcomer. The PTO – which I was heavily involved in at our old school – didn’t want me for anything other than to hang streamers for the annual carnival, where again, no one spoke to me. I cried and begged my husband to move us back to San Francisco.
After one particularly hard day, I had an epiphany: I wasn’t really trying. Not even close. I stood around waiting to be invited out of the corner. Sitting in my house, crying and idealizing my old life, wasn’t moving me forward. I needed to put myself out there and be willing to accept rejection – something that isn’t easy for a naturally inclined introvert.
With that realization, I created a plan. These are a few things that helped me find friends:
1. Understanding I couldn’t recreate what I had before. Once I let go of holding on to the past, I cleared the way for new opportunities.
2. I joined community pages (schools, churches, neighborhoods). Most have some sort of Facebook page now for members to connect. I found my book club through one of these which lead to me meeting several women I’m close to now.
3. Not limiting myself to parents of my kids’ friends. I began looking outside my immediate contact list. I started going to yoga, and I joined a writing group that had nothing to do with my community. I met wonderful women at both who have become dear friends.
4. I threw a party and invited the neighbors. It wasn’t fancy, just a BBQ on the driveway, but it introduced my family to the neighborhood.
5. I embraced the rule of ‘7.’ In marketing, they say it takes seven “touches” before someone buys a product. I applied that concept to social interactions. Five, six, seven interactions warranted step 6…
6. I started inviting others out. That mom whose kids were younger than mine, but always said hi to me? I asked her to coffee (I did the same with the women from my writing group and yoga class). I found that most women in the throes of parenting long for connection with other women, but don’t know how to find it.
Relocating is difficult on the entire family, and too often we moms forget we need help adjusting too. It took me a good year of trying different things before I developed new friendships, and another two years before I felt settled. Now, I never want to leave, but if I do, I’ll be prepared.
Mia can be found on Instagram and Facebook @miahayesauthor
The third book of her Waterford Series, Picture Perfect Lies, released June 25, 2019