By Diane Hwang
Social anxiety has been a struggle for me for as long as I can remember. While I greatly value community and building relationships with other women, I still experience moments when insecurity creeps in and I find myself looking for the nearest exit. Since becoming a mother, I’ve realized that when those uncomfortable feelings surface, I often hide behind my role and responsibilities as a mother as a way to escape them.
Let me give you a recent example--I was attending a women’s event at my church and although I was surrounded by welcoming and loving women, I could feel my anxiety rising as I glanced around the crowded room and questioned whether I truly belonged.
As the evening came to a close, those feelings intensified when one of the pastors invited me to grab food with her and some other women. Without even thinking, I thanked her for invitation, but let her know that I needed to get home to pump and breastfeed my daughter. As I walked to my car, I realized that instead of saying ‘yes’ to an opportunity to get to know more women in my community, I hid behind my ‘breastfeeding responsibilities’ (which could have easily been postponed to later in the evening) in order to avoid the uncomfortable feelings that come with building new relationships.
You see, it’s never my intention to shrink back from fellowship, but as a mother, when that fellowship brings feelings of discomfort, I often find the lines blurred between fulfilling my necessary responsibilities as a mom and using my responsibilities as an excuse to avoid community.
If you are anything like me, you recognize that being surrounded by a strong community of faith-filled and loving women is so important, but can also be very intimidating. So how can we boldly and purposefully cultivate community in our lives?
Below are three practical ways to intentionally build community in your life:
1. Serve at Your Local Church
While volunteering with children can come with its share of challenges (cue baby crying in my front pack while I try to lead a team huddle), serving at my church in this season as a new mom has come with great fulfillment and joy. Not only am I demonstrating my love for people and the local church to my children as I greet people in the lobby with my daughter in my front pack, or lead a team huddle with my toddler playing at my feet, I’m also choosing to invest time into people each Sunday, which has yielded a rich community filled with some of my dearest friends. And I’ve learned that no matter how much time we are able to invest in serving, even if it’s one Sunday a month, our commitment to step out and volunteer alongside others will not only bear great fruit in the lives of our families, but will simultaneously surround us with a life-giving community.
2. Join a Local Mom’s Group
One of the best things I did after my son was born was committing myself to a local mom’s group; it’s often loud and chaotic as our children run around and play, but there is something so powerful about regularly getting together with other moms to connect and do life together. As I’ve spent two Thursdays a month meeting with other moms in my area, I’m now surrounded by an incredible group of women committed to praying for my family and supporting me through every season of motherhood that I walk through.
If you don’t know of a moms group at your church or in your area, I challenge you to link arms with another mom and start one! It might sound intimidating, but it can be something as simple as coordinating group playdates once or twice a month in your city. I can assure you that if you are feeling lonely and in need of community, there are other moms in your area feeling the same way, and your decision to lead a group could very well be an answer to their prayers.
3. Schedule Kid-Free Time with Other Women
While our schedules are often full raising little ones, I don’t think we’ll ever regret carving out kid-free time to meet a friend for a quick lunch or coffee on a regular basis. As I’ve been intentional about doing this over the past two years, even if it’s just once or twice a month, my friendships have grown deeper and stronger. As a result, I am now surrounded by an incredible community of women to walk through the ups and downs of life with.
So friends, instead of using our responsibilities as mothers as an excuse to avoid community, let’s use our roles as mothers to strengthen the community around us. Let’s choose to embrace the uncomfortable feelings that often come with the territory of building strong friendships and apply the following words written in Hebrews to our own lives:
“This is not the time to pull away and neglect meeting together, as some have formed the habit of doing. In fact, we should come together even more frequently, eager to encourage and urge each other onward as we anticipate that day dawning” (Hebrews 10:25)
As we commit ourselves to building community, we’ll discover that it isn’t just for our benefit, but for the benefit of other women in our world. Somewhere out there is an isolated and lonely mom who needs friendship and encouragement, and as you continue to pursue fellowship with other women, God will faithfully use you to bring that very love and encouragement to other women who need it.
Diane and her husband have been married for three years and are raising their two small children in the rainy, but beautiful city of Seattle. After years in sales, Diane is enjoying her life as a stay-at-home mom and volunteers at her local church while her husband begins his new career as a police officer. She’s a lover of coffee, fresh mountain air, quality time with family and friends, and the Pacific Northwest. Check her out on Instagram and Facebook!