It’s hard to feel like you don’t fit in with other moms. I have a lovely group of friends who I’ve known since school. But when I got pregnant with my daughter, I was excited to meet some other new moms who lived close by. I hoped to make friendships for myself and my little girl. It did not happen. The other ladies (and even a couple of dads) were nice enough, but I was always on the outside looking in. We just didn’t click. I saw them arranging playdates that didn’t involve me. Eventually, I drifted away from the group. I couldn’t understand why my expectation of finding new mom friends wasn’t going the way I had hoped.
I’m a psychologist and can be very hyper-aware of social situations. I am generally a good communicator. I can usually find a way to connect. In this circumstance, I really did expect to connect with other people living a very similar experience to myself as a new parent. When this wonderful sense of connection didn’t happen, I felt like the odd mom out, and it hurt!
Being The Odd Mom Out
As a psychologist, I have worked with many women who have described similar feelings of being the “odd mom out.” This is particularly true for moms who don’t fit into the stereotyped perception of what a mom “should” look or act like. Perhaps their family and household aren’t the norm, or they belong to underrepresented groups. Lonely moms can also be the ones who don’t have the time to socialize. Their spare moments are spent trying to keep their kids alive, the bills paid, and their homes at a minimum level of chaos. Whether it’s a choice or not, being a lonely mom can be tough. It can bring up feelings of rejection and not being “good enough.” It can leave many people second-guessing their self-worth as a person and a parent.
Now, I want to be clear that the opinions of others shouldn’t have any impact on how moms perceive themselves as women or mothers. However, I’m also very aware that this is not the case for many women. They deeply feel the sting of being left out or excluded from moms’ groups or playground conversations. Some women I’ve worked with report feeling awkward and uninteresting. They questioned their clothing choices, haircuts, or other things about their appearance, hobbies, and interests. Many of them also worried about its influence on their child. In particular, they were concerned about how their lack of connections with moms would influence their child’s being invited to playdates. They wondered if it might impact their child’s ability to make their own friends successfully.
Strategies For Handling Feeling Like You Don’t Fit In
If you have ever had these thoughts or feelings, I want you to know that you are not alone. And remember that perceived or actual rejection doesn’t mean that you are not a likable person or a good mom. There are many things at play when we don’t fit in, but most of them are actually centered on how we feel about ourselves. As humans, we are driven to seek social connections with groups we consider similar to ourselves or that we want to belong to.
As a human being, you are hardwired to be concerned about what other people think of you. Evolutionary Psychologist’s research tells us that when we perceive that people aren’t interested in us, it can result in feelings of worry or even anxiety. This is because we need to be securely bonded to a group. In our distant past, if we did not exist within the safety of a group, it could prove fatal (we needed the protection of a group to survive).1 Here are some strategies to help you manage feeling like you don’t fit in.
1. Search for the right community.
First, remember that it’s normal to want to have friends or be part of a friendship group with people going through similar things to yourself. The need to connect or have a companion for different stages of our life is called “twinship.” It is normal and healthy to have this desire to build relationships.2 If you cannot make friends with local moms, you might find your community a little further afield or even online. It’s important to find a group of people who get you and have similar interests, values, or ways of engaging with the world.
2. Challenge negative thoughts that come up.
If you start thinking about your worth or value or negative things about yourself due to challenging social situations, it’s important to challenge the reality of the thought. Ask yourself, just because this person or group of people don’t like me, does it make me a bad person? Do I really need these people to accept me? If the other moms have been mean or purposefully excluded you, consider what it means about them as a person (they would choose to actively be rude or mean). Reflect that this likely has nothing to do with who you are as a person.
3. Think about your positives.
Spending some time focusing your attention on people who make you feel good about yourself. Stop giving your emotional energy and space in your brain to people who aren’t interested in making friends. Reflect on other people who love and care about you. What would they say about you? What are some things that you like and value about yourself or things you have done well in the past?
4. Develop your social skills.
You might never break into that new moms’ group or the playground clique. But building your social skills is always great for self-esteem and improved relationships. You can practice keeping your body language open and relaxed. Mirror some of the movements of the other person (not every movement as that can be uncomfortable). Ask lots of questions to show your interest. Reflect or summarize some of the things they share with you to demonstrate you are listening.
I did end up finding my village as my daughter has gotten older. I had to push myself outside of my comfort zone. Although I recall the feeling of being the odd mom out, I still made attempts with people who seemed like they got me and who were also willing to put in the effort to get to know my family and me.
As mothers, we need to find our village. It’s essential to find others who understand and support us because parenting can be difficult at times. Although I have provided some strategies to manage the challenges of breaking into a mommy clique, I don’t want to encourage you to change. It’s very important to try and fit in better with yourself. Find your value, understand yourself better, acknowledge, appreciate, and respect what is unique about yourself. Changing yourself when you feel like you don’t fit in will never work in the way you hope. It’s not sustainable. Instead, find what makes you different and unique and focus your attention on the people who notice and appreciate those things.
Bowles, S (2009). “Did Warfare among Ancestral Hunter-Gatherer Groups Affect the Evolution of Human Social Behaviors?” Science. 324 (5932): 1293–98.
Kohut, Heinz. (1971). The analysis of the self. New York: International University Press.