It takes a village.

What a cliché, I used to think. Of course – before I had children.

Because back then I didn’t need a village. I had my husband, our dear friends. We had our jobs and our hobbies and our travels and our home. We loved our far-flung village, family outside of the country who we could call and email and visit any time. And they came to see us too. Reminded us that we weren’t alone and could call them for anything. And we did. Well, we would have – if we weren’t already so assured (smug, almost) in our own self-sufficiency.

But then the kids arrived. One – two – three in rapid succession. And suddenly I realize that I’m an outsider, standing alone just beyond the village gates. Desperately searching for my tribe, my people. The ones everyone says I should have. NEED to have. The ones who are going to help me through this.

They were right, of course. It does take a village. I see now how important the tribe is. To pick up a preschooler while I take a toddler to the ER. To watch a sick child while I run to pick up medicine. To delight in our kids’ visits, welcoming me with an ear and a shoulder when it’s all become too overwhelming.

It seems that everywhere moms are boasting about their tribes. Their close knit mommy groups that coordinate everything from carpools to casseroles. Built in play dates every day of the week. Field trips. And impromptu home gatherings where everyone toasts with wine and laughs about the trials of motherhood.

And I wonder – where is my village?

It’s becoming big business. Every week I see a new app or website that boasts higher success rates for matching you with the perfect mom friend. Like a dating app, except instead of romantic chemistry you’re searching for mommy chemistry. Someone who sides with you on all the mommy war topics. Who you can let your hair down with. Someone who will come over when you’re at your worst, help you pick yourself up, and take the kids out for ice cream.

Do I need to download a mommy friend dating app to find my tribe??

I complained about this to one of my non-mom friends. She is unapologetically child-free, living her best life and diving head first into excitement and travel as she sips her bubbly and flips her shiny, freshly washed and highlighted hair. I grumbled about being too old to find mom friends. About how the moms I meet locally are no less than one to two decades younger than me, with nothing in common.

“Eh, F it,” she shrugged, “Who needs ‘em anyway? This is yet another reason why I’m not having kids!”

She topped off my glass and we laughed. Then moved onto topics like upcoming events and dream trips.

But still, the following Monday while she was at work and I was with the kids, I found myself anxiously searching for my tribe.

So I made dinner plans with an old friend. Someone who is my age, but whose children are nearly grown. A person I have shared more laughs and aspirations with than I can count. I knew that she would understand, and I wasn’t disappointed. She listened to me and nodded knowingly.

“I know, it’s so hard to find people you can trust,” she sighed.

We talked about our kids. College plans for hers, preschool plans for mine. Joked about her visit to my hospital room after baby number three, made complete by a bottle of margarita mix. Commiserated over the crazy-making that parenting can be. And she suggested that over time I would likely find local moms I vibe with.

So where are they?

I turned to my best male friend, a surfer carpe diem-type guy who is forever inviting me out to happy hours and meals with the gang. I finally agreed to shower and attend a ramen outing. As I sat with my son in the company of men, I whined to the guy next to me about how I can’t find any mom friends with whom to do this type of thing. He reminded me that he’s a father, a single father at that, and has been a longtime friend. But I told him it’s not the same. He reassured me that I’d soon find some mom friends – I probably just needed to get out more.

So I did. I ventured beyond the local parks to a further park. And lo and behold – I met someone! Someone about my age, with two children, and we clicked. We laughed and joked and agreed to exchange numbers. Then she let me know that she would contact me the next time she was in town. Turns out she’s the aunt who lives across the country.

I shared the story of the new mom friend who almost was with another friend later that evening, an out-of-state friend of almost two decades, with whom I talk several times a week. I told her that my little one was sick, and if I could just find someone to come by and help for two hours, I could catch up on my work. She understood and said she wished she could still help. Before she left the state, she was that person. The one to come over and relieve me over a lunch break or in the early evening. The one who would join me and my clan, her two kids in tow, on outings to Costco and Target. And now she was gone.

How would I ever find new mom friends?

I texted my frustrations to a dear friend who lives about an hour away, a person I met at work many years ago. She’s the friend who cared for my other children while each of their siblings were being born. She’s someone I trust completely. I told her I felt like I was losing my mind without the quintessential mom friends that everyone glamorizes.

She texted back immediately, as she always does, comforting me and letting me know that she would come by that weekend. Asking if she should take a day off work during the week to help me. Reassuring me that we would figure it out. Together. That I wasn’t alone in this.

And suddenly it hit me.

THIS is my tribe. These people, and the others in my life like them, ARE my mom friends. Whether local or not, moms or not, and even female or not, these people make up my imperfectly perfect village.

They support me. They laugh with me and cry with me. They show up for our events, our celebrations. They bring us meals and wine and gifts for the kids. They send me cards. They miss the children, ask about the children, beg to babysit the children. They visit us and call us and text us – for no reason at all. Just because.

They may not be here every minute of the day. They may have other obligations. They may not even reside in the same state. But they are HERE. Available to me on a moment’s notice. Supporting me and checking on me and expressing their willingness – their desire, even – to drop everything should I need it. Expressing their love. And I love them right back.

This, I realize, is what makes a mom friend. Not the women perfectly manufactured from the mom friend mold, but – by definition – the people who surround a mom, and who are her friends. That is a tribe.

I realized that while I’ve been peering into the gates of a village to which I felt I had no entry, my tribe has been there – right behind me – the entire time.