Life with young children is a paradox.
Viewed from the outside, nothing is getting done. But the reality is that so much is happening, between mother and child as well as within the family. The exhaustion mothers feel isn’t just the result of sleep deprivation or stress—we are working in the most primal and beautiful sense of the word.
Settling Into Your Role as a Mom
And yet in the moment, even as you are giving everything of yourself to the baby who is your everything it can feel like you’re stagnating. The 200th diaper change feels no different than the first. Breastfeeding sessions blur into each other. And that cliched question is always there: “What does she do all day?”
The real, honest answer is that the day-to-day grind is this rollercoaster of beautiful highs and confusing lows. Becoming a mother is a capital-B big deal. Your body changes. Your mind changes. Your outlook changes. Your relationships change. Have a baby, and suddenly everything you’ve ever known may be called into question. You’re so in love with this tiny human who can’t give you anything but has given you everything.
The truth of it is that motherhood is something you can’t really know until you’re there living it. It’s a joy and a privilege and awe inspiring, but it can also be filled with guilt and boredom and self-doubt and even fear. Because of the contradictions people around you can sympathize but not empathize, wishing you the best but not understanding a whit of what you’re going through.
Find Comfort in a Support System of Other Moms
Having a support system made up of other mothers is key. Popular culture has created this fairy tale where having mom friends is about raucous wine nights and cutting loose but that depiction ignores something fundamental about friendships between moms. Motherhood is hard, and the only ones who know just how hard are mothers themselves.
Every family’s story is unique but the bond we all have with our babies makes it easy to find common ground in a community of mothers. It turns out the Mommy Wars were fought and won years ago, and the fight didn’t pit mom against mom but rather mothers as a whole against the isolation that has too often been a part of the motherhood experience. Mom friends, as a concept, made headlines not because it was trendy but because it was needed.
After all, there’s something both powerful and empowering about knowing that someone a block or a text or an email away has sat next to an isolette in a NICU or rocked a colicky baby at 3am or agonized about whether and how to vaccinate. Knowing that they, too, have wondered over and over again, “Am I a good enough mother?” and will continue to ask that question for a lifetime.
It Really Does Take a Village
None of us has all the answers and we may disagree on some of the most basic fundamentals of parenting but that doesn’t mean we don’t need one another. We need one another badly, especially in those lonely early days of caring for a newborn when every single day feels endless and then again when our children begin to pull away from us to begin the process of evolving into who they’re someday going to be.
When you surround yourself with a network of mothers who accept you for the mom you are, motherhood may not get easier—but it will get better. A network of supportive mom friends will laugh with you and more importantly cry with you even when the rest of the world feels like they just don’t get it. Mom friends believe you when you say, “This is bad,” and then cheer you on while you work toward the good. They will be the people who will be there for you at your worst and never stop seeing the best of you.
Someone Who’s Been There
Mom friends do all of that not just because they love you but because they have been there, too. That’s the true value of mom friends whether you’re living a life of diapers and nipple cream or trying to power through what feels like a rerun of the toddler years with your teens. As much as your partner cares about you, they’re never going to grasp the heights of joy or depths of pain that our children can inspire in us as moms simply by being.
When to Make Mom Friends
As to when the best time to build that network is, the logical answer is before you need it but the honest answer is whenever you need it. Some mothers are lucky enough to find and connect with a circle of supportive moms while pregnant but that’s not at all typical. Unfortunately most of us don’t realize how important mom friends are until we’re in the thick of motherhood, surprised at how tough it really is.
And it is tough. But never forget that we’re all in this together.
This guest post was written by Christa Terry. Christa is one of the founders of HelloMamas.com, an app for iOS and Android that helps local moms meet, communications director of Graham’s Foundation, and mom to two small but incredibly loud humans. Courtesy of Hello Mamas cofounder Meg Gerritson.