On the third day of unpacking and still surrounded by boxes and packing paper up to our ears, I decided it was time for a breather. We had just moved to Northern Virginia, an area I had never heard of or visited before we arrived. My husband and our 3-year-old son were out running errands, so I put a jacket and shoes on our 2-year-old daughter, bundled up our 6-month-old son in the umbrella stroller, and we went for a walk around the neighborhood. I couldn’t wait to explore our new surroundings.
I knew there was a little park directly behind our house, but I decided to take the long way around. Part of me hoped I’d run into some people and be able to introduce myself as the new neighbor. Another part of me hoped to make the walk without being approached. My daughter wanted to push my son in the stroller so we made slow progress. About 15 minutes later, we rounded a corner and meandered up a small hill. I told my daughter that the playground was near. Her eyes lit up and her little blonde head strained to look over the top of the stroller so she could see what was ahead. As the playground came into view, she took off running, leaving me and her brother behind. I caught the rolling stroller and followed her to the playground, parking it near one of the benches.
When I looked up from unbuckling my son, I noticed another mom across the playground with her three children. She waved, and I waved back. My heart leapt at the thought of meeting someone new and yet my feet were stuck to the ground. As I contemplated whether or not I should make my way over to her, she stood up and started gathering her things and corralling her kids. For a split second, I thought she was coming over to introduce herself and I felt a surge of excitement laced with panic. I fumbled inwardly to put together a proper greeting where I introduce myself as Catherine, instead of Mommy. Just when I had my words ready, she started walking away from us, toward a well-trod pathway between the trees.
As she disappeared, my heart sank down to my glued feet. I berated myself for not gathering up my courage and approaching her. I even thought about quickly hauling my own kids that way, as if to go home and “accidently” meet her, but fear again kept my feet firmly planted in the grass.
As I sat there, I pondered our many park days in our old neighborhood. How many times had I been the one to walk away?
I remember plenty of instances at our old home when my children and I had the park to ourselves, then another mom and her kids would make their way toward the playground. In a quick moment, I would decide that we had been out long enough (but truth be told, I just didn’t want to make small talk)—I’d gather my things and my kids and head home. Now, as the newcomer on the other side of the park, I realize that those were missed opportunities to make a new friend or even minister to people. Maybe the moms I never met were new to the area, like I am now. Maybe they just needed a listening ear. Maybe, maybe, maybe.
As a mom, I find myself trying to balance two worlds: one where I desperately crave authentic adult connection and one where I desperately need alone time. These two worlds collide often as my small children loudly interrupt my scant time alone, clamoring for their own emotional connection needs. I feel drained, never full, always on the brink of running dry. I am not sure what will fill me up—spending quality time with my family when deep inside a part of me longs for a break, or finally being away, either out with friends or alone, and secretly missing the beautiful chaos of family life. These constant dissonances leave me feeling war-torn and battered.
I often feel like I can barely manage the basics of clothing and feeding my children or making it to the end of the day with my sanity still intact. I wonder how I can cultivate connections—with my family or with other women—when I am struggling to meet the physical demands of motherhood. The only answer I have identified is that when I am feeling this dry, I must run back to the Source. I must cultivate the connection with my Heavenly Father by spending daily time in His Word. Doing so will align my perspective with His and shape my mindset for the day. As I lean into Jesus more, I am reminded that He is the One who never walks away, that He desires and pursues relationship and connection with us.
It is He, after all, who made and designed us for relationships. He is the Well of Life that never runs dry. When I tap into the strength He provides, I find that it spurs me on to go the extra mile in pursuing connections with my husband, my children, and my friends. I am more in tune to the promptings of the Holy Spirit for ministry opportunities, taking a meal to someone or doing a grocery store run, listening to someone who just needs to vent, loving people where they are with no expectations.
When I move out of my sphere of comfort into the realm of discomfort, growth happens in ways I never expected. Taking a step in faith by being intentional in my relationships instead of being rooted in fear has led to some of the most meaningful and rewarding friendships I could have ever imagined.
So, the next time I walk to the park and encounter someone I do not know, I will gather my courage by the bootstraps, walk over and introduce myself. I never know whose kindred spirit is waiting for me on the other side of the playground.
Catherine Love and her husband live in Northern Virginia with their four young and very active children. When not making meals, tending to boo-boos, or giving hugs and kisses, Catherine can be found running, swimming, or reading. She is a sinner saved by grace and is deeply thankful for the work of Jesus in her life. She can be found on Instagram at or on her personal blog.