I’m walking the halls of our house, following a loop through the kitchen, family room, passed the office, down the hall, across the entryway, and back to the kitchen. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat again. I’m humming, singing, shushing, not stoping making noise or moving. And in my arms, I bounce my tiny newborn daughter. Her mouth is wide, her screams are loud, and I’ve run out of energy. This is every day with our colicky, reflux, won’t-nap baby. It feels isolating. Lonely. I take comfort when I open the fridge and see dinner ready to go, delivered by one of my mom friends earlier that day. One less thing to worry about.
It’s my first week back to work after my maternity leave. I’m terrified of how my daughter will adjust to daycare. Of all the weeks in the year, it’s this one that my husband has to schedule a work trip. I am left to balance getting both kids up and to school and making it home on time to start my workday. By Wednesday everything is falling apart. My 4 year old throws 3 tantrums on the way to school, the baby cries the entire car ride, and both kids are sobbing messes when I walk away from their classrooms feeling like a failure. I come home to a full day of meetings and I can’t keep my emotions in check. I feel isolated. Lonely. My phone buzzes with a message from a mom friend. She is sending me lunch, it’s on its way, and she even included a chocolate chip cookie.
My kids are 4 and 1 now and life is a little more routine, has a lot less crying, and a lot more joy. Thinking of those days makes me remember how close I was to falling apart, losing my grip, literally just focusing on survival mode. I had friends, family, and a husband all helping out, but as the mother, the one who physically birthed these babies, I felt like I should have been able to have more control, patience, and peace. I was embarrassed when friends offered to stop by or bring meals because I should have been able to introduce them to a quietly sleeping bundle of joy, not the screaming angry baby that was my reality. I turned a lot of people down or didn’t reach out when they told me to.
Until I had been through the newborn stage TWICE, I never really thought about how much it really does take a village to raise a child – even if the village is small, or is far away, or whatever else it may look like. Knowing how much I struggled, how much I needed my people and how blessed I was to have them, I have taken a completely different approach to being a mom friend.
I am more aware than ever that everyone has off days – not just with newborns, not just first-time moms, and not just when it’s obvious that things are falling down around you. People won’t always take you up on your offer to help so I try to be specific. Replace “can I do anything?” With “can I drop a coffee on your porch when I run out later?”
I have learned the importance of a “check-in” text. If you’re thinking of a mom friend, tell her. Ask her how she’s doing. Did she just go back to work? Send her a few extra texts for encouragement. If you need to, set a reminder on your phone.
I know that time is scarce but snail-mail is amazing. Sometimes playing phone tag gets old. It’s time-consuming and frustrating and it’s hard to sync your free time with your friends. I love sending notes, a bright box, gift packages, or even some hand me downs, to make sure my friends know I’m thinking of them.
I have eagerly given in to the importance of food. I am a huge fan of ding dong ditching my friends by leaving coffee, dinner, or a bucket of popsicles for a sick kiddo on their doorstep. I also host a Mother’s Day brunch every year to spoil my mom friends. I often think my love language is food, so those that brought me dinners, called in a lunch order for me on that particularly terrible day, or picked up my Starbucks order, have shown me more love than they know.
I have tried to focus on being a friend with intention. It’s so hard to find the time you feel you need, so when you have time, use it. We can make all the difference if we all stand behind our mom friends, encouraging each other in every way possible.