Starbucks as a love language
Have you heard of the Five Love Languages? (If you haven’t, go look them up and find yours.) But also, I think Gary Chapman missed an important one: Starbucks. I don’t think anyone has ever handed me a Starbucks cup without me loving them a million times more for it. Starbucks is also helping me build a mom tribe.
Moms need other mom friends
My husband and I moved to Texas shortly after we got married, and moved back home to Fairfax a few years later with a baby and another on the way. Between all-day vomiting and not knowing where we’d live or work, I struggled hard to make any friends in our new city. I delivered a healthy baby girl, got a new job, and had just started to stick my head above water when two dreaded words shut down the whole world: global pandemic.
I’m on the extreme end of the extrovert spectrum, and nearly lost my mind as the world came crashing to a halt. My girls and I usually outside every day. Maybe this is because fresh air is good for your soul, but it is much more likely because being in the house is suffocating. All of a sudden, everything closed: church, moms groups, baby groups, the mall. I don’t even like the mall, and I mourned its loss.
We spent a lot of daylight hours running laps around my neighborhood with a ten year old stroller I found on a secondhand site. Every night, I fought tears as I tried to reach out to any other mom to build a friendship. My husband is a great listener, but honestly I need some girlfriends outside of my spouse. Don’t we all?
How to build a mom tribe
I struggled through the spring and summer, isolated and so lonely. I tried not to take it personally when people were too busy to even get back to me, and I took any opportunity I could to get outside. As fall rolled around, I felt doomed to be a hermit for the rest of my life. This was when I received some timely advice for building a tribe.
First, when you’re going to the store, text your people and ask if they need anything. Most of us shop for different things at different stores, but getting out of the house with little kids multiple times per week is much harder on some moms than others.
Second, when you make dinner, double it and drop it off with a friend. We don’t need to be in crisis to receive a meal (especially when the dinner hour can feel like a daily crisis!).
A slow start
I do really well with clear, actionable steps, so I took these two ideas and ran, texting the few moms in the area I knew almost every time I left the house.
“I’m headed to Costco, do you need anything?”
“Can I bring by dinner tomorrow night?”
“I’m at Target, want me to drop off something?”
Surprisingly, most of the time, they answered no.
“No, we’re fine.”
“No, I just went grocery shopping.”
“No, we’re going to dinner at my parents, thanks!”
My cousin—who doesn’t have kids of her own—has been an incredibly empathetic and thoughtful listener during this whole season. One day, she showed up with a Pumpkin Spice Latte (plus the whip and whatever crunchy-addictive sprinkles they shake over the top).
“What’s the occasion?” I asked, so overwhelmed with gratitude by this small gesture.
“There isn’t one,” she replied. “I just figured you could use it.”
Starbucks to the rescue
There’s a Starbucks in the heart of Fairfax City that I drive by at least weekly. This is the same Starbucks where I spent countless hours in high school and college, with friends, homework, and my not-yet husband. It’s across the street from the library on the way to my parents’ house, a block away from the office where both my husband and father work. Maybe Costco was too much, so I changed tactics:
“Hey, I’m driving by Starbucks, can I drop something off for you?”
Finally, after multiple offers to multiple women, someone said yes.
Curbside pickup has been a game changer for me, because now I don’t have to get anyone out of car seats when I drive by. I just call the store, and a friendly barista brings out a white paper cup with a green mermaid stamped on the side, the clearest picture of love I’ve ever seen.
I drove that piping hot coffee exactly one block out of my way to drop it off with a friend, who quickly popped outside while her own babies were napping. Later, she texted thanks, and as I typed out my response, I realized the true message behind that little white paper cup:
We’re a tribe, and if we don’t see each other through these hard and beautiful baby days, who will?
Building your mom tribe
I don’t have an end to this story yet, any more than the world has an end to the pandemic (although my hospital is vaccinating people!). But sometimes, I don’t think we need the ending neatly wrapped up in brown paper packages tied up with strings. Sometimes, I think what we really need is a clear path forward; a next right step on our own journeys.
Encouragements for us all
Reach out to your people when you’re going out anyway. Can I pick you up some eggs or a gallon of milk? Are you out of diapers or trash bags or laundry detergent? Are you craving those Costco croissants and it would make your day to find a box of them on your front doorstep?
Make double when you can, and drop it off with someone. You could do dinner, but I’ve also done it with muffins and cookies, which feel a little less intimidating for me (and certainly much easier to transport!).
Offer a Starbucks when you’re driving by a friend’s house—is Starbucks a magic potion? I mean… yes? And don’t get me wrong, I love the very small number of local coffee shops we have here (looking at you Gathering Grounds, de Clieu, Jireh, Caffe Amouri), but sometimes the chains are more convenient, and that’s ok!
Let others help you, too
Most importantly, SAY YES when you’re the one receiving the offer. It’s so easy for us to feel like a burden or like we’re taking up too much space when someone offers to drop something off just because. As if, because it’s a not a crisis, we somehow don’t count. Let the women in your life love you well, and say yes to their offers to help. Sometimes I think it’s easier for us to be on the giving end than the receiving end, but if she’s offering, please say yes.
Let me know in the comments if you have any other great ideas for building a mom tribe! Or do you have a sweet story of dropping off a meal or receiving one? I can’t wait to read about them. In the meantime, anyone want a Starbucks?