When I first moved to the Madison area, I didn’t know a soul. I jumped onto Meetup and even Okay Cupid to find friends for my husband and myself; I joined Facebook groups and sent out vibes of community; I had limited results, despite hunting around for about three years. Craigslist actually yielded a friend, but she moved away and we lost touch. In-person community has been hard to come by, although I’ve had better luck this past year. 

Fast forward to today, when I’m hopping back on Meetup because a Red Tent group is forming in Madison (!!!!!!). Glancing at other groups’ (particularly moms’ groups) events reminds me of why my previous attempts fell short: 

1. We have no nearby family and no money for childcare, so unless Hubby can keep the kids I don’t go out by myself.

2. For the reasons I just mentioned, Hubby and I can’t get out without the kids, although his social anxiety and other quirks usually make him uninterested in doing that. Plus he has 5 food allergies/sensitivities.

3. I don’t have a lot in common with the other mom’s in the Meetup groups. They are having their first child in their thirties – I’m 26 and have a 5 year old (by adoptionish) and an almost 2 year old. They have one kid or the siblings are at preschool/school, so they can enjoy special play dates of single-aged children or meet moms for coffee at posh cafes – I homeschool and neither child does the quiet coffee house thing. They usually have money for lunch out and whatnot – I usually don’t, but if I did I’d have a difficult time due to my food allergies and rowdy children.

4. I have health issues that impact my abilities: fibromyalgia, bad back, Ehlers-Danlos Type 3, an allergy to milk, an intolerance of gluten and eggs as well as things like onions, garlic, and cooked tomatoes. 

5. Big Brother is a wild child who cannot sit still or control his volume leaves for the world. He wants to kiss everyone and has no sense of personal space. He experiences ADHD, anxiety, and Sensory Processing Disorder. He’s also gifted and experiences asynchronous development (older brain, younger emotions) and intensity of personality. His temperment and high needs make social events stressful.

6. Little Brother is also a wild child. He’s gifted as well and has a personality as intense as his red hair. He doesn’t let himself be managed and is physically strong enough to use his weight to get what he wants and cunning enough to make things happen. He’s a runner and can unlock most doors. We’ve resorted to using a safety harness whenever we’re out to keep him from dashing into disaster. 

7. We’re a fringey, nerdy, weird family. Hubby is a gamer, I’m a witch, and we homeschool. I cover my head sometimes to help deflect energy (I’m an empath) and often wear maxi skirts and odd clothes. Hubby makes foam weapons. BB knows more about The Legend of Zelda and Pokemon than he does about Spider-Man or other superheroes. LB stills nurses with no end in site. We have a family bedroom…. Etc. We’re quirky! 

I guess it’s obvious I feel a strong sense of otherness; not in a “me versus them” kind of way, but a “there’s them and there’s me and we are in different worlds” kind of way. Joining a local homeschool group has helped me connect with people who I have things in common with – yay! I’ve met families with special needs children, families who have similar values, and families who also want to find a group where they fit in. Hopefully the Red Tent will expand my village and perhaps turn up a fellow witch or two.

Anyone else find themselves in a similar place? 

Artwork from Mama Panya’s Pancakes, a lovely story about community.