I was driving my daughter and her friend home after school and, when talking about weekend plans, I learned that her mom was going out of town for the weekend. When I pulled up to her house, I saw her mom and two other friends of mine talking in the driveway. I rolled down the window to talk to them and learned my three friends were waiting for a husband to get home so they could go away for the weekend. I commented I sure knew what it was like to wait for a late husband and told them to have a great time, waving and smiling as I backed out.
I drove toward our house, hot tears welling up in my lower lids. After a moment, my empathetic eleven-year-old quietly asked, “Mommy…did that hurt your feelings?”
Two big tears spilled over and I choked out an honest, “Yeah. I wish it didn’t, but it did.”
You see, I’m not part of the “in” mom group.
I like each of the women. They’re always nice to me. Our kids are friends. But, I don’t get invited to their gatherings.
And for a long time, it bothered me. I think it was partially because I felt like I missed out or I messed up. I used to get invited when the kids were young. So, I’d ask myself where I went wrong. I’d replay events from four or five years earlier, and I’d wonder if I would still be invited if I’d done something different. Most of all, though, it bothered me that it bothered me.
I’d learn that a couple of the moms were hanging out with each other when they’d pick up their kids from my house. And my husband would ask, “That doesn’t bother you, does it?” And I’d desperately want to say, “Pshh, of course not!” But it did. And then I’d get mad at myself for letting myself feel like a left out middle schooler when I have such an incredibly wonderful life. Plus, I’m the mother of middle schoolers. I lived through my own middle school years almost three decades ago. It seemed ridiculous that I’d feel this way, especially when I’m constantly trying to help my own girls navigate their middle school years without so much emphasis on being popular.
It’s been two years since the incident I mentioned above, and I still go through phases where it bothers me, but for the most part, I’m doing better.
So, what’s a full grown adult with kids of her own to do when feeling socially left out like a twelve-year-old?
Realize it’s not just you
Most important for me has been realizing it’s not just me feeling this way. I’m someone who loves intimate conversations…maybe one reason I’m not in the cool group? I’ve delved into this topic with several close friends in the last couple years, and I’ve learned that many women feel this way.
Consider your social media use
I cut way down on my social media use the last year or so. I found that I was feeling less happy when I was scrolling Facebook than before I’d went on. I finally deleted the app and only use it a few times a week for work related needs. I recently read a book that cited studies that found that for adolescents and teens, social media led to more unhappiness. Since I was feeling kind of adolescent-y myself, I guess that makes sense. But, really, pay attention to what you feel when you’re on social media. If you find it brings you connection, great, but if you find that it leaves you feeling more left out, consider limiting your use.
Let yourself feel it
I also realized that getting annoyed with myself for feeling upset wasn’t helping, so I let myself feel sad sometimes. It’s okay to feel a little bit left out when people you like are having fun without you. But, after letting myself feel sad a while, I’d find what brought me joy. A cuddle with one of my kids, a phone call with another friend, or taking the dogs for a walk.
The grass isn’t always greener
One more thing that helped was realizing that life isn’t quite as picture perfect as it might look, even in the “cool mom” group. I was talking to someone who I’d always considered one of the cool moms, and, after my own confession of how upset something had made me, she confessed to me her own feelings of being left out of within the group and fallings out she’d had with some of them. Of course, from the outside, I’d never have guessed.
Recognize (or find) your place
I know it sounds cliché, but it was key for me to stop focussing on where I didn’t fit in and focus on where I did. It started one day when my husband asked me, “Would you want to go out with them all the time?” I realized I wouldn’t. Yes, I like them, they’re tons of fun, but I really like being home with my kids in the evenings and on the weekends. I didn’t want to give up much of that time, even if I was invited. I also realize that I have people in my life who I dearly value. It doesn’t look as pretty as the cool mom group looked to me from the outside, but like we learned above, things don’t always look as pretty from the inside. So I’m learning to appreciate what I have and not feel like I need to be one of the “in” group.
I love that we can find comfort in words, which are of course the shared experiences of others – so thank you for being open, honest, and sharing your insecurities so that others can feel “normal”. I have an Australian African child, I’ve had to raise him solo since day one here in Australia, and there is a group of Mama’s with Australian African children who often get together, however, I am often not included I can only assume partly because I am the only one who is not partnered, and for other reasons (if any) I’m truly not sure of! Regardless of whether it’s intentional I do feel left out. It hurts to be parenting solo as it is when it was never in the plan. I have come to realise though that, as you say, the grass certainly isn’t greener. They all have their own issues too, especially with their men, and if they do exclude me for the reason that I’m not partnered (or honestly, for any other reason) then why would someone want to hang out with people like that anyhow? It may look “pretty” from the outside, but not all that glitters is Gold we know that. Find the people who care, it doesn’t need to be a group either, and as Sharon states above, let’s teach our children about inclusion, we role model this so they can set a good example for others, and shall we ignore those who do the opposite – they’ve got their own baggage to carry around believe me.
Exactly what I needed to read today. Thank you.
This is exactly what I’ve been feeling, and angry at myself for feeling. It is so raw. Thanks for making me realize I’m not alone.
I stumbled upon this after searching for an understanding as to why I was being left out. I’ve planned, invited, included, been a shoulder to lean on, and so on. I’ve questioned what I may be doing to send the wrong message. I’ve soul searched to see if there was anything I could do differently. It’s hard. I just want to have fun, no stress, and not feel like I’m back in high school.
After reading the comments I’ve learned I’m not the only one..that is comforting and disheartening at the same time.
Nobody needs to feel this way. Ladies, I’m always open to new friends and since we share a common thread here, if you want someone to vent to, reach on out. Know you aren’t alone! I found myself in tears yesterday over an exclusion. It sucks.
Thank you for writing this, Kristal, I needed it. The timing was right on.
You do not know how much I relate to this. I always feel bad, like what is wrong with me that I am not included or invited. Then I get upset with myself because why do I care so much. But I have always been the awkward child who tries too hard to fit in and has never really had friends. I still haven’t gotten to the point of where I am over it but hopefully I will soon.
Thank you so much for sharing. It helps to know I am not alone.
I get my feelings hurt on the school group posts when they all like and comments on each other’s posts. I’ll try to join- but I’m never acknowledged on the chats. I feel so immature for letting it hurt my feelings. Things like this have caused me to stop being social – I just get so negative. It’s sad as adults we still go thru this. It makes me feel better to know I’m not alone.
Isn’t it so sad to have to feel like your in middle school again? Not so much about even being cool but just feeling like your kids are being left out? It still brings me to tears and like you said it makes me so mad i feel that way. No need to attend every event but even 1 or 2? Would be nice. Specially when your own cousin is in the group, how even more hurtful.
I hope it will change for the sake of my kids.
Glad to know I’m not alone
Thanks for this
Thank you for this. Just what I needed to read today.
I think all of this is spot on. This has happened to me, and I feel like I have been the one on the other end as well, with a group that I fit in, not always inviting everyone. I just want to add one thing, that you have to just find those people that you do really “click” with. Sometimes people just aren’t a good match, and that’s OK. Also, realize that if you’re not constantly left out, but sometimes invited, maybe it’s just a certain event that won’t work as well with a lot of women, or an event that certain personalities are chosen for. It’s ok to not be invited to everything. I’d rather only be invited to a select few things anyway so I don’t always have to say no or feel pressure to always say yes and then over commit myself. Just some added thoughts, but trust me, I’ve been the one crying in my car because I feel like I’m always the one reaching out and it’s never reciprocated.
I love this read!!!! I’ll never forget when we lived in Italy and my “friends” in our group were in line to see the Sex in the city movie. I was also in the line to see it, but w/my husband (who shamelessly came w/me so I didn’t have to see it alone). When we saw them, I instantly felt horrible about myself and our friendship and wondered why I didn’t get the invite to join my group of “friends”. In every situation I find if I don’t set up a gathering, I won’t see “my friends”. Although this reality doesn’t make me feel good, reading this made me feel better. I’m just sorry someone else had to experience hurt and isolation like that too.