Mom tribe: What is it? Do you need one?
By the time you begin chasing a toddler around the house (if not before), the term “mom tribe” has found you.
Social media algorithms single you out for ads. A friend or coworker asks if you’re in one. Or maybe you’ve expressed a common frustration and an older, more experienced mom, recommends finding one.
But what is a “mom tribe,” really? And do you actually need one?
What is a mom tribe?
A mom tribe is simply a group of mamas who routinely comfort, support, and encourage each other. They’re also sometimes referred to as mom groups, mommy tribes, mom clubs, etc. It’s all the same.
Our digital age and social media-driven lives have expanded the concept in awesome ways too. Mom tribes used to exclusively be small, local gatherings, but now, a mom tribe can be a nationwide, online community of hundreds—or even thousands—of women!
Both categories of mom tribe serve their members in amazing ways. You can do both or pick the one kind that you need.
Large, online mom tribes
Large, online communities bring together mamas from all walks of life, which means there is a lot we can learn from each other. Mamas with older kids can help those with younger kids, moms who have fostered or adopted can help others who may be considering it, and the list goes on.
The sheer number of women who can relate to pretty much any parenting experience is, in itself, a service: You’re really not crazy, and you really can do this.
Smaller, local mom tribes
Smaller, local tribes can be supportive in more tangible ways, whether it’s a hug, a freezer meal, or a night out. A personal setting also allows for more meaningful relationships to develop.
Many of these smaller tribes are also centered on a shared interest or parenting philosophy, which provides another kind of peace of mind. You have to make lots of decisions during the course of raising small (kind) people. Someone will always disagree with you, so it’s a huge relief to be able to hang out with other mamas who get you.
Do you need a mom tribe?
Only you can answer this, really. Whether anyone needs a mom tribe will depend on her personality, the presence or absence of other support networks, employment status, and more. But let’s weigh some pros and cons to help you decide.
Pro 1: Adult conversation (and combating social isolation)
At-home moms especially feel this. Being at home with kids all day can be isolating, and social isolation is not good for anyone’s mental or physical health: Stay-at-home parents report higher frequencies of anxiety, stress, and depression than parents who work outside the home.
In fact, when Australia faced a growing crisis related to the social isolation of new parents, the simple solution was to establish a network of parenting groups. Research demonstrated that those groups improved participants’ mental health and reduced the negative effects of social isolation.
So while, on the surface, it feels like it would just be nice to use multisyllabic words once in a while, there are more serious implications as well.
A personal, local mom tribe is good for this, but an online group is great as well—if you actually participate. Stop scrolling, and engage in the conversation. Jump on the video call. Answer a question. Be involved, and let your brain latch onto grown-up conversation.
Pro 2: Camaraderie (and empathy)
Being a mom is hard work. Most moms work at least 14 hours per day (from 6:30 in the morning until 8:30 in the evening) … every day. That’s a lot of hours. And it’s a lot of hours often spent on small, routine tasks that no one else ever sees or appreciates.
Our society is finally at a place where most people will acknowledge that, but no one really gets it like other moms.
Chatting online or spending in-person time with a group of other women who have also recently changed a diaper right before a blowout, or stared in disbelief at a toddler weeping over the plate that lunch was served on, or repeated herself for the seventeenth time to a child with selective hearing … is therapeutic.
Receiving empathy from others is a balm for the soul. It’s no wonder that counselors and therapists largely consider empathy a learned skill, and strive to master it.
But empathizing with others is also good for your emotional health as well. Actively empathizing with others exercises emotional regulation habits, which reduces your stress levels and helps make you more resilient to burnout.
Pro 3: Collective wisdom
The proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child” is definitely true. And while there are lots of resources for the wisdom you will need, a mom tribe is one more great source.
The larger, online mom tribe communities are a wealth of parenting wisdom. You may actually find yourself with the opposite problem of having too much good advice to sort through.
A local, personal mom tribe won’t have the same breadth of experience, of course, but advice and insights gleaned from the moms you meet with come loaded with empathy, with personal experience, and with local resources and recommendations. These aren’t one-size-fits-all best practices or parenting tips, this is wisdom from mamas who are right where you are (emotionally and physically) and who know you personally.
Con: You have to be vulnerable.
If you are an introvert by nature, or very shy, or scarred from the failure of previous relationships, then finding a mom tribe—and opening up to the other women you meet—can be difficult at first. It’s easy to hide behind a profile picture online, and it’s easy to be too busy to go meet with a local group.
But know that the benefits of working through those challenges is worth it.
(Note: At time of publication, most of us are still under shelter-at-home recommendations/orders, so I definitely do not recommend getting together with your personal mom tribes now. But tuck this away for later.)
And know that it’s okay to take those hurdles with you and be totally open about them. If you decide to go for it and meet up with a few other moms, just be honest and tell them how you’re feeling about it. “I would love to get together, but I have to warn you, I’m just painfully shy around new people,” is not an awkward intro and will make everyone a lot more comfortable.
Find a mom tribe
A mom tribe is simply a group of mamas who recognize that they need a little support, empathy, wisdom, and maybe even some adult language, now and then.
And it’s about more than play dates and nights out. A good mom tribe (or two) will pull all those levers to help you reduce depression and anxiety, regulate stress, and prevent burnout. Taking advantage of those benefits is not selfish—your spouse, children, and coworkers all need you to take care of yourself too.
So if you already know a few moms in your area, set up coffee, or drinks, or a playdate (when it’s safe). In the meantime, search social media for a niche that fits your parenting style. Take the next step toward your mom tribe, and you will be happy you did.