Alexandra: “All It Takes Is One Friend”

I like to start the week off with an uplifting, inspiring story.

This one is different. It’s more like “let’s look at ourselves in the mirror.”

A neighbor who asked to be identified by her middle name — Alexandra — writes:

Moving to Westport several years ago from New York City, I assumed it would be easy meeting other new moms. I used to sit with my stroller in the park there, and meet others all the time.

But meeting new friends since moving here has been anything but easy, even before the pandemic hit.

I was told it gets easier once kids are in school. But not with a pandemic. We aren’t allowed into the building, and the friendliness of some of the moms are in question.

In the fall, my 4-year old would take too long to get his mask on at drop-off. I was often honked at or given the look of death by other moms for being too slow.

As we all sit enclosed in our cars for an hour at the pick-up line, I wonder: Do other moms feel this lonely?

I’ve tried it all: baby/toddler groups, classes, play dates. For various reasons, the last play date would make any sane person not want to try one with strangers again. And the “new mom” groups felt too cliquey.

Sure, I’ve met some moms at playgrounds. I even made a friendship that way.  But dates with her turned out to be hours of her complaints. She blamed her problems on living in Fairfield County, and eventually moved away.

Kids love playgrounds. But some moms find them lonely.

Then there was the mom I met at a playground who moved from the Bronx. It was the best conversation with a mom I had all year. We talked for an hour about great pizza, good food and how hard it was to meet a new friend in this area.

She told me her own horror stories about mom groups. At the end of our talk I thought we should exchange numbers. But she said, “Just stay alone. Stick to yourself. It is much better. Trust me.”

Her words echoed often, as I tried again to meet a new friend. My desperation made me turn to Facebook. In a mom group I crafted a post stating how hard it is to meet others.

But in the end I felt embarrassed. Who wants to publicize they lost their job years ago, have been home ever since, and though they love being a mom more than anything, it can get lonely as heck sometimes?

So I searched. Did other new moms here have this same problem?

It turns out someone posted about this once in a group. She got 163 responses.  Surely I am not alone in this lonesome boat.

When all efforts failed, I’d repeat that mom’s words — “it’s better to be alone” — and remind myself that my loner existence has its perks.

It wasn’t always this way.  I used to have a lot of friends.  I assumed they would all always be there — just like my mom’s friends she met when I was little. They all still get together, in their late 70s.

But life gets in the way for people. Some friends have faded away over time. I find myself thinking that anyone who has a truly good friend for a lifetime doesn’t know how lucky they are.

Alexandra’s son.

In late February of 2020, I felt especially beaten down, leaving a playground after attempting to chat with a group of moms who weren’t too friendly.

Little did I know, in a matter of days our country would shut down. My world would feel even smaller. Meeting new people became impossible.

I walked my toddler down Main Street. He suddenly bolted from my hand. He ran at lightning speed, almost cutting a lady off. He fell and cried hysterically. The lady came up to me. I assumed she would tell me to get better control of my kid. I apologized that he got close to her.

But this kind woman just wanted to make sure he was okay. Luckily he was, but still crying. She led us to a bench and told me to wait a few minutes.

She returned with 2 huge hot chocolates with whipped cream. She was the cheeriest person I’d seen in ages. She handed me a chocolate bar and says, “chocolate makes everything better.”

She declined my offer of cash, and said, “It gets easier once they’re older.” In a flash, she was gone.

She was right. It does get easier once they’re older. But this kind stranger did not realize what she also taught me that day. It’s something I think about 2 years later. There are nice moms out there.

Hopefully when life gets better in springtime, I can meet one.

All it takes is one.

23 responses to “Alexandra: “All It Takes Is One Friend”

  1. First of all, I’m sure this pandemic has a lot to do with your inability to make friends. When I grew up in Westport, it had a small town atmosphere, but even then, I could give examples of what you’re talking about. However, I’m sure after this posting, things will change dramatically for you! You’ll see!

  2. I think your feelings are not at all unusual. As someone who grew up here and then returned to raise her children here I have thought about this a lot. In my experience, most moms in this town want to help and support other moms, but it doesn’t always present itself that way. Of course there are exceptions.

    When I first moved back with my infant son I found that people were generally welcoming in mom groups but I am not a big group person so it had limited appeal to me. I, too, remember being told “wait until they are in school” When my son was in preschool I still remember being rather disconnected from the other moms. It wasn’t until elementary school when I felt I got to know more moms (and dads) but I know that is much harder during COVID. Unfortunately it was a family tragedy for me that brought out the genuine caring and support that I know exists in many of the moms in this town.

    I think most people do want to be warm and welcoming and get to know you but they don’t know how to themselves. They are either too busy, too insecure, or like you, feel like they are all alone in their sentiments.

    I have two small children now, neither one in school yet. My private road has tripled in size with children around my daughters’ ages since COVID and the moms are wonderful – friendly, open, welcoming. I am thrilled. I can call anyone of them to have a play date, borrow a pan, etc, but it takes time to build a close relationship and make a good friend. I don’t feel like it is anything you can force or rush. Some people are more aggressive setting up their “friend networks” once they move here and others need to let things happen more naturally.

    I would advise you to keep your mind open, continue to reach out to other moms, offer chances to get together and you will find your person/group. It’s kind of like dating, you have to go on the “bad dates” until you get a “good date” I also know one reaps what they sow, so keep sowing! I know the moms are out there with friend potential – I have seen them and gotten to know them through the past 13 years living here as a mom. If you want to get together with a 2 year old and newborn, I am happy to do that as well!

  3. I feel for you! The pandemic certainly hasn’t helped. I found over the years that joining organizations and jumping into projects is a great way to get to know people better. I also recommend joining a book group. I’m probably 15-20 years older than you (!!!) but happy to be a friend and share experiences.

  4. The pandemic definitely makes it hard! Westport has some great moms though, so definitely keep trying. One of my sweetest friendships was formed with a friend who was living temporarily with her mother in law on my street and constantly took walks with her then two kids to get out of the house! Also once the schools start parent nights or volunteer opportunities the world opens up (I just read that the Superintendent has approved allowing visitors back into the public schools). Let’s get together with Celia (I’m in her age range!) and take a walk soon!

  5. Irene Kniffin

    Consider the Westport Young Woman’s League. Years ago I found it to be a nice group of smart women with different interests. At the time it was very welcoming and their fundraisers are for good causes. I assume it’s still the same way. I also liked the Newcomers Club.

  6. Terry Brannigan

    Keep putting it out there, you will reap what you sow. One day I will write a book (or ask Dan Woog to write it!) about friends. I had a tragedy in my life once, and said to myself “I cant believe that “Joe” isn’t here”. He was the guy I was hanging out with socialy the most at that time.. Then I looked around and I said “Wow, I can’t believe Tina is here.” We met in 7th grade and I had not seen her in years. But then it occured to me… of course Joe isn’t here, and of course Tina is. I think we are better at picking our friends on the playground in 3rd grade than we are later in life. When we are young we pick our friends (or they pick us) simply because we like them. We probably don’t even know why, we just do. Later in life we get impressed by wealth, looks, job, schools and I think we may pick our friends for the wrong reasons. I sometimes think it feels easier to meet new people when you first arrive because people are measuring what we can do for them. But keep putting it out there, because there are some amazing people in this town. Smile and say hello when you pass someone on the street, the people you want to be friends with will reveal themselves, and we have plenty of them.

  7. Stephanie Gordon

    I’m sorry you have been going through this. I would reach out to your preschool. Maybe when the weather gets nicer they would organize a mom’s get together outside. It’s so hard during this pandemic. Or take up/play indoor tennis. You can ask if any moms at the preschool want to put together a group. There is also tennis with park and rec in the spring. It takes time and it’s so hard but it will happen for you!

  8. Dear Alexandra,
    I’m sorry you a had a bad experience with mom groups.
    I myself had a bad experience with moms groups when I moved to Westport too. This is why along with some other moms, we created Westport Stay at home moms some years ago. None of us had friends in the area either and through that group we have all made amazing friends. The dads have made friends and the kids as well.
    We have more than 35 nationalities in the group. It’s very diverse. Since pandemic we have done less things off course, but in the summer at least the past one we were able to get in some moms night outs. It’s a physical meetup group, so that’s why we haven’t done much lately but we keep our hopes up now that the little ones are getting vaccinated. 🙂
    You are welcome to join if you wish. Everyone is 🙂
    And in my opinion it’s a group where the diversity is what makes us unique. I myself I haven’t worked in more than 6 years even before I had my little one , because I’m disabled. So I do understand the importance of understanding and everyone’s unique situation. Or at least I hope I do, I myself have had difficult “tests” in life 🙂
    Sending you warm regards Alexandra

  9. Bobbie Herman

    I moved to Westport in 1983 by myself. My sons were grown, and I didn’t know a soul in town. But I met many lovely people, and made friends, some of whom I’ve kept for many years. What I did was Volunteer! There are many opportunities, and working together for a cause brings people close. I realize that the pandemic has made it difficult right now, but that will pass, and there are many other young mothers looking for a friend like you!

  10. I moved here 30 years ago from New York. But I was lucky. I moved on one of the most friendly streets in Westport Oak Street. My neighbors are great and are good friends. Now a lot of young couples have moved here and I see them at the bus stop talking to each other. My suggestion is to join the PTA , Westport Young Woman’s League or Westport Woman’s Club. wishing you good luck.

  11. Making friends here is hard. I found it hard to make friends who were willing to be really and vulnerable. I make a great friend. My kids are much older than yours but that gives me time to come by and have a cup of coffee or tea. You can DM me on Facebook. I can share with you how I “found my people”

  12. I had a similar experience moving here in 1993. I found connecting hard, as I’m a four-or-five-close-friends vs. lotsa-friends type. Worse, my efforts at joining didn’t go so well. I tried the PTA, for example, expecting the national organization’s concerns about pesticides on school grounds would be embraced here, only to find that (at the time) moms were more interested in doing whatever the superintendent wanted–which, then, was perfect grass.

    I did find friends–at the YMCA (kids’ music and baby gym classes), at meet-ups at the elementary school the summer before kindergarten, and through my kids’ friends. But TBH, I still find Westport hard to navigate all these many years later. With all the toxic positivity, competition (of all sorts, including competitive suffering), and income inequality (noticeable here in a way it didn’t matter in NYC), it’s not always easy to find people who share your values. They ARE here; just takes a little while to find them.

  13. Hi, Alexandra – I have raised two kids in Westport, one in middle school and one graduating from Staples this year. I met many of the local friends I have through shared “child” activities: sharing roommom duties, sports, art, clubs, etc. I also found friends through my own interests. I have been taking writing classes at Westport Writer’s Workshop for seven years. They have a variety of classes from creative writing, fiction and nonfiction, etc. During each class, each writer shares their work if they choose. And sharing this work bonds people. Many write about motherhood. And sometimes, the same people take class together for years and socialize outside of class. Since you wrote this article, you are already a writer! Come join our community!

    • Marina Levin-Berman

      Hi Alexandra,
      I actually commend you for putting it out there. I wish I had the guts to do the same years ago. But then again, I am not sure that Dan Woog had formed this incredible forum for connectivity! We moved here from NYC in 2004. Our unfortunate experience directly related to 9/11 brought us here. I had and still find Westport a difficult town to navigate. As I was reading your post, I began having flashbacks of the lack of inclusivity on the part of the moms back in the day when my kids were going through the school system here. Now my daughter is in college and my son is a senior at Staples HS; I am almost an empty-nester. I realize that I am older than you are but I have had friends in the city of all different ages and if you are good with that, I am always up for making a new friend in this town. Feel free to contact me via FB for now and afterwards we can find an easier way to connect! Thanks for sharing your experience and know that you are not alone!

  14. You and others with this socialization issue might want to consider and try volunteering a small amount of time to assist in a volunteer supported community organization. Its a great way to meet and find friends and good neighbors. JMHO

  15. I also found it challenging to meet women when I moved here 6 years ago. As a working woman and native New York, I also enjoyed meeting new people…and found CT much more challenging. I found the group, Women for Women on Facebook at great resource. They meet the 1st monday of every month at a different location (and in the summer months at the South Pine Creek Beach). It is a great and welcoming group of women! Happy to meet and connect with you too.

  16. Dorrie Barlow Thomas

    Being a Stay-at-Home-Mom can be incredibly lonely. There are certainly opportunities to connect out there, but it can sometimes take a certain type of person to really make that work…I took part in a bunch of groups when my kids were little, but never took the initiative to set up the kind of one-on-one get togethers that tend to lead to deeper connections. Thus, I was just going from group to group having shallow, repetitive conversations. They were fun for the moment, yes, but not satisfying to my soul.
    Thank goodness for the few who were–unlike me–more type A or more driven or more socially capable who did step up and float an invitation my way once in a while.
    Eventually, I tried to get the hang of being the one to plan something with others in a play group/book group/whatever. Still, it’s not always easy. I think it’s also just a hard phase of life (parenting one or several young children) to make time for social things…so often you barely see your spouse or have any time for yourself, let alone attempting to carve out time for a social life! Because of all this, I do think Facebook groups can bridge some of the gap for moms…at least its a place to connect and feel less lonely mentally! Good luck!

  17. Alexandra, I am humbled by your courage, what you’ve shared isn’t new, being a new mom can be a lonely time, but I am so grateful
    that you have shared your experience. It may help you, and it will certainly help others, so thank you.

  18. Travis Rew-Porter

    Thank you so much for sharing and being so candid on your experience. I just moved to Westport a few months ago and while everyone has been amazing and kind, I’ve found it hard to make friends or find “my people”. I’m a stay at home dad which adds a weird element to breaking into the mom groups. I was really inspired when I read your story and it just made me smile. I hope you find “your people”.

  19. Amy Pietrasanta

    Thank you so much for writing this — and Dan for posting it! I know the pandemic doesn’t help but it really can be so lonely. I do feel a bit better knowing it’s not just me! I’m not sure I even remember how to be social at this point but maybe it’ll come back to me someday… 🙂

  20. Danielle Teplica

    Hi Alexandra, Have hope! I felt the same way when we moved here from Brooklyn with a toddler many years ago. I used to go (dogless) to the dog park to walk with the stroller. It was nice to have a place to walk among people, and the dog park culture was to talk to strangers, which I really missed from NYC. When my son started preschool, I made some lasting friendships. The odds of meeting friends have been so stacked against you through the pandemic. Normally, you probably would have spent many hours a week in the company of different groups of parents, because you were all waiting for your children to finish playing at the school or a playground or at a children’s birthday party and some of you would have become friends. There are probably a lot of other parents of little ones in town who feel like you. The pandemic has been so hard and isolating for everyone. None of us are our normal selves. Maybe ask your preschool director if something could be organized so parents could have some weekly time outside with the children? Also, Wakeman Town Farm has nice opportunities for families with little ones, as does the Westport Library. This weekly is great too: macaroni And don’t waste your energy thinking about what people do when they are inside their cars! Cars bring out the worst in people! I hope you find some people you enjoy very soon. Dan can give you my contact info if you want to go for a walk or something together!

  21. As a male reading the post and the comments, I am deeply moved by the candor and the depth of both. It says a lot about the strength you all and about “06880” as a forum for open and important communication in our town.

  22. Sooo-z Mastropietro

    Isolation seems to be more of the rule than the exception these days. I read this story at a birth yesterday and wanted to respond! As a birth and postpartum doula, my patients and clients all comment that they do not have a network to tap into. My response to this is a postpartum support group I am developing called MOMBAS: Moms Offering Moms Baby Activity Support -a goofy but memorable name that describes what it is, a way for moms with new babies to network and find support, share resources, and figure things out with one another. It takes a village and this will help you find your people! MOMBAS will be hosted by libraries in various towns (Westport, Danbury, New Canaan, etc) and I would love to find point people to help organize! There is a page on Facebook for posting a schedule of events (getting that up) and hosting occasional video meetings