‘I do my part to make friends. I wave at school pick-up. I smile at the girls in my workout class who huddle together, leaving little room for a newcomer.’: Mom says it’s OK if you’re not invited to all the holiday parties

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“It’s the most wonderful time of the year—unless you work in retail. Or had a fallout with a family member. Or are celebrating the first (or fifteenth) Christmas without a loved one.

But those aren’t the typical images I’m seeing on social media during the month of December. It’s a lot of shimmer and shine—elves on shelves and smiling Santa pics. And for the adults, the most wonderful time of the year could easily be replaced by the most social time of the year. Work celebrations, cookie decorating, ornament making. And about a dozen different ‘favorite thing’ parties.

Courtesy Stephanie Hanrahan

And while all of this is undoubtedly making people feel Merry and Bright, it’s also a little isolating for an introvert like me. Someone who has spent a fair amount of her life blending in but not belonging.

Images of girlfriends wearing matching ugly sweaters or trading recipes, dining out and dancing the night away, make me realize that close-knit groups can easily become closed-knit groups. Making it incredibly difficult for women like me, who mostly keep to themselves, to find a seat.

Courtesy Stephanie Hanrahan

The ironic part about this is that I feel like I do my part to make friends. I wave at school pick up; I pay for people’s coffee. I’ve joined women’s groups and mom play dates. I smile every day at the same girls in my workout class, the ones who return the sentiment then huddle together, leaving little room for a newcomer.

I’ve managed to make a handful of close acquaintances from these endeavors, but I’ve never been able to find my fit in a large group of girls. Not in middle school, and certainly not in adulthood. I find it difficult to navigate the dynamics of multiple personalities, and it’s also insanely unfulfilling to only stay surface.

Because favorite thing parties with dozens of red lip-stained ladies look really appealing from my phone screen, but the truth is, after I let go of the invite envy, I remember I prefer one-on-one interaction way better.

I’ve been in groups that are giggly and fun, but I also never got to know their parent’s names, or their greatest insecurities, or what their dreams were beyond motherhood.

You know, all the things that make true friendships stick.

So, this year, instead of getting sad that I’m not part of a dozen holiday parties, I’m going to get real with the ones I can. I’m going to continue to pay for that stranger’s coffee. I’m going to invite over a few fellow moms, the ones who always ask how I’m doing and truly want an authentic answer.


Instead of sulking in my plate of peppermint cookies, I’m going to take action. I’m going to remember that what makes the Yuletide Gay is whatever feels the most right and the most real. We can’t control who invites us, but we can control how we respond to exclusion. We get to assign the meaning to our days. Not just at Christmastime but all year long.

I’ve been a part of a big group in the past and still felt incredibly alone, so if you’re scrolling this holiday season and seeing missed opportunities, know this: Sometimes small, quiet, and unsuspecting is where our Christmas miracle—and the feeling of love and inclusion—really hide.

After all, they found Jesus in a manger of hay, not on center stage (or in an ugly sweater).

Courtesy Stephanie Hanrahan

And that same man—Christ the King, the Reason for the Season, the most ‘perfect’ person to ever walk this earth—only had twelve best friends (and arguably only one he really liked).

So, if you have one, consider yourself lucky.

And start a new tradition with them.

Maybe the joy to our world will be found when we focus on a main thing—instead of the many things.”

Courtesy Stephanie Hanrahan

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Stephanie Hanrahan. Follow Stephanie on Facebook here, Instagram here and visit her website here. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

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