I have had the true pleasure of knowing some of the most amazing women in my lifetime in various capacities including family, friends, colleagues, mentors, professors, supervisors, and confidants. And, the path my life has taken and the woman that I am today is in large part because I have been blessed to have known them. But, there is one group of women who has gotten a bad reputation in recent years: Fellow MOMS!
Now, that is not to say that this bad rep isn’t warranted. I mean, I think most women I know have had a horrible experience with a fellow mom or mom group shortly after becoming a mother. You know what I mean, someone or some group telling you what you need to do with your child, what you should do with your child, or why what you are already doing is wrong. And all of that, even if it is well-intended, serves to make you feel less than or inadequate at life’s most important job. And that is not okay.
My life changed so drastically when I had my first child that naturally I wanted to bond with another woman who understood, but I was the first in my friend group to have a child, so I had to seek out other moms elsewhere to connect about this. And sometimes, it just wasn’t a good fit. I remember other moms (who were great moms) criticizing my choice to accept medication during labor, my food choices while breastfeeding, etc. Perhaps the most hurtful to me came when my oldest son was two and a half. At that point, he was not hitting his developmental milestones as expected, and we had been working with Birth 2-3 services for over one year. Still, I remember remarks about some of his behavioral challenges (not following simple directions, not responding when called, tantruming, hitting) being a result of a lack of discipline, I was “too easy on him,” etc., when in reality, my son had expressive and receptive language deficits that made it difficult for him to understand what was being asked of him and caused him to get easily frustrated.
It was hurtful. And it made me question myself as a mother, and it only compounded all of my already painful postpartum emotions. I eventually came to set boundaries with the people who made me feel that way, but the damage was already done.
Now, I tend to be quite avoidant, so it would have been easy for me to retreat into my family, avoid all other moms and mom groups for a while, but that is not what I did. And I would urge you, no matter how tempting it may seem, and no matter how weary you may feel, not to do it either. I have come to the realization that sometimes in life, people are not compatible. And though you may now share a common bond with other women who are also mothers that may not necessarily make you more compatible.
As women, even when we are not compatible, we should respect one another and their own personal choices for themselves and their families, but a). not everyone has gotten that message yet, and b). even if they do, it means they will do you no mommy harm, but it does not necessarily mean you will be great friends.
But give it time, and you will find your people. You will find other mothers who share similar parenting philosophies; who respect you even when you don’t; who are there to support you, encourage you, love you, be vulnerable with you; who are too busy being awesome to point out when you fall short; and who, most importantly, make you not care what those mean, judgmental mothers have said to you. In fact, you will find other mothers who inspire you and give you the confidence to be a better mother and a better woman.
I have. And here are just a few reasons why my mom friends rule (and, btw, shout-out to my non-mom friends who are also amazing, but that’s for another blog post):
- They expect less from me. I know, I know. We have been told our whole lives that we should expect a lot from people—there are even Facebook memes about how if someone is not making enough of an effort, then they do not want to be in your life. And, why would you want your friends to expect less than your full potential? Because, you guys, things in my life are hard, and chaotic, and complicated right now. At this stage of the mom game, I need friends who know that I am not always going to be a top-notch friend because I am busy trying to be a top-notch mother, but I still love them and want them to stick this out with me. And my mom friends get that. If I forget to return a text for days, or show up 15 minutes late to a play date, or say that I am just too exhausted to have a girl’s night—they get it. And they spare you the guilt—after all, us moms have enough of that already.
- They speak my language. Mommin’ is crazy, you guys. Over the last few years, my kids have done some downright insane things that I still cannot wrap my brain around. If I need a place to talk about those things (and they usually involve “bathroom” words like “poop”, “urine”, “penis”, “vomit”, “boogers” etc), my mom friends do not shy away. They are not turned off by the vocabulary that my pre-mom self would have been turned off by. They get it. These things are a part of life now, and they get that those words describe things that are somehow less disgusting when they belong to your kids.
- They totally understand the importance of planning life around nap times and bed times. I have a group of other moms that I get together with a couple times per year, and when we are trying to plan a get together, there is always a “I can’t do between 10 am-noon because my daughter naps” and a “I need to be home by 2 for Tommy’s afternoon nap.” And as hard as it is to make plans around that, we don’t get upset. We persist. We manage. Because we get it. It is impossible to enjoy your afternoon with your friends when your kid is crying on your leg as you try to chat begging to leave because they did not get their nap.
- They are available in the early morning. Now, this is something that I did not even know that I wanted in a friend until I became a mom, because my pre-kid self was not awake before 8 am on the weekend, ever. But with kids, sometimes I am up at 6 am, and that makes for a super long day. Not only am I awake for more hours, but there are more hours for my kids to demand things from me that require energy that I don’t have because I got up at 6 am. So, having friends that I can call at 9 am and say, “these kids are already driving me insane, let’s have a play date” who don’t freak out and sometimes come through, is a blessing.
- They also have a bag of tricks. You know what I am referring to. The trinckets, toys, and snacks that they are more than happy to offer to your children in the event that you somehow forget them or your kid has suddenly decided that they no longer like the choices you have (which, btw, they loved yesterday). And sometimes, that bag full of tricks also includes something for me. On more than one occasion, my mom friends have pulled some dark chocolate or even wine out of their bags and offered it to me, and rarely do I decline—not because I NEED those things to survive a hard day of parenting (as some of the memes of today would have you believe), but because wine and dark chocolate (since kids usually cannot stand the bitterness) are two things that I do not have to share with my kids. With two kids, one of whom is still a toddler, I don’t have very many things in life that are all mine anymore. I can’t shower alone, pee without an audience, or eat any good snacks without my kids reaching over and taking them from my plate. So, yes, things like dark chocolate and wine are a treat that I can enjoy—all.by.myself —with my mom friends of course, who will also shamelessly enjoy a glass of wine with me in a parking lot (outside of the car and hours before driving) before going to watch the fireworks, reminding me of those youthful college days when I was once a carefree woman, before quickly returning to mom-mode, which is way harder, but somehow way better.
So, if you have already found your Mom Squad, “Congratulations!” Everything else is easier from here.
And, if you have not yet found these women that I am talking about, DO NOT BE DISCOURAGED!
They are out there.
They are worth it.