Bryan and I moved to Columbia from Charlotte in May 2014. Our daughter was six months old. We were leaving the only friend circle we knew (which was a group of awesome non-parents who, while incredibly supportive of our new role, were also slightly terrified on how to deal with us) and our families were hours away.
It was a daunting adventure that loomed ahead of us, but we pushed ahead. We settled in Irmo for the first year thinking it would grant us the opportunity to meet other young families such as ourselves. Visions of backyard grill-outs, late night card games with our besties talking about our latest poop-splosion episodes, and playdates at the playground filled my mind.
I was thrilled at the thought of making a “mom” friend. I needed one desperately. Bryan needed a “dad” friend. We needed friends who understood what the new chapters of our lives read like.
A year passed with us still just enjoying one another and our now toddler daughter. We were in a great neighborhood; Bryan was thriving in his new role at the plant; I had started back to work over the summer … and still, we had no friends to call at the last minute and say “Want to come over to finish the bottle of wine we started last night while we let the kids play?”
After almost a year of commuting on the nightmare that is Interstate 26 and Interstate 20, we decided that maybe Forest Acres would be a better place for us. I thought we would meet some hipster neighbor family of ours that would introduce us to a local beer joint where we could let the kids run around our table while sampling a craft brew flight. I loved Forest Acres. I loved living so close to Trader Joe’s and Publix and a couple outstanding parks with splash pads! I was only ten minutes from work and we had enrolled Mackenzie in an awesome daycare that I was sure I would secure a mom bff at!
Six months in, the great deluge of Columbia happened and we found ourselves in a rental home with a basement full of mold and I was pregnant with our second child. We were sick constantly and the neighborhood I had hoped would be our saving grace with a social life and thriving friendships had turned into a gloomy spot.
We had called the Columbia area home for a year and a half now and we still were loners. It wasn’t for the lack of trying. I got on the mom-dating app. We talked about joining a church – even if we weren’t very religious. I introduced myself to people randomly while out and about hoping that we would find instant chemistry with someone.
It just wasn’t happening.
We talked about moving back to Charlotte. I longed for friendly conversations, hosting dinner parties, someone to text a funny joke or story to. Both of our jobs were secure in Columbia and we loved what we did. Our second baby was about to be born and we wanted to put down roots for our children.
So, we bought a house in Blythewood. I was so desperate to find friends at this point I actually contemplated putting an ad on Craigslist for one. This is what I mentally drafted “Married, pregnant mom of toddler looking for another mom of one to three children to befriend. Must enjoy wine, beer, and humorous movies. Will be available for at least one to two play dates a month, if not more. Must be willing to discuss more than just children and their poop schedules; however, both parties would be understanding if that was the only focus of conversation for a time. Please contact me immediately for a cup of coffee to see if we ‘mesh’!”
My husband thought it was pregnancy insanity, but honestly, I just needed someone – anyone.
I had my second baby and found myself on maternity leave. I was in a beautiful new home, in a lovely neighborhood and time to actually cultivate relationships and explore new parts of the city I had been in now almost two years. I told my husband I wouldn’t post on Craigslist, but I was going to try to organize a stroller – walk mom group on Nextdoor. If you haven’t heard of the app, check it out. It’s a great way for neighborhoods to get to know one another!
The first woman who responded to my post was Latasha. Then Valerie. We set a time for us to get together to walk and we actually did it. After a couple half hour walks, we took turns at each other’s homes for coffee and dessert (seriously, Latasha has me all drooling with her homemade raspberry sauce!). We talked about our kids, we laughed, and we let them play with one another while we enjoyed each other.
It was only in the first three times of visiting together that I felt it. FRIENDSHIP. These women were completely different than me, but we had one thing in common. We wanted to become friends. We were mothers. We understood one another.
With this newfound confidence, I found Adrianne. I was on micit – Columbia and bought a dress from a young woman in Blythewood. Via Facebook messenger we chatted and found out we had babies within 20 days of each other. Adrianne was a first time mom and approaching going back to work. I understood so much of what she was going through.
So, without ever meeting face-to-face she invited me and my husband and children out to have Mexican one random Friday night. I’m sure our husbands were so weary, but I was so desperate to have a “couple” friend that we could hang out with that even if it went horribly awry maybe we could start a trend and just start inviting random couples and families out to dinner like blind dates when we were single.
How bad could it be?
It ended up being fantastic. Adrianne and I are like the same person. And our husbands? They have been become fast friends and golf-buddies. She is the friend I text when I’m heading home early on a Tuesday night and say “Want to come over for pizza and beer?” and she says “YES! I’ll bring cookies.”
After Adrianne, I met Rachel and her amazing kids. Rachel actually showed me that even with being a mom of two I could still do stuff like go to breakfast downtown and be “cool” again.
Then Jana, Bernie, and Nina who have seen me in the middle of toddler meltdowns and infant screaming sessions and never once batted an eye.
It took us two years, but Bryan and I have found our village. We have made a few other close friends in our neighborhood and have actually hosted a couple of cook-outs and are looking forward to some more fun when the weather cools.
I write this because if you are new to Columbia; don’t give up. Your village is there. You will find it, because if I could – anyone can.