In March of 2012 I was 14 weeks pregnant and my friend Alice invited me to join her group of new mom friends for a meet up at a local coffee shop. I was eager to absorb information and hopefully get to hold a baby for practice! Two years later, these ladies are my dearest friends.
Alice offered to write a post for Baby KERF that touches on the challenges and joys of finding a group of moms who have kids the same age as yours. I am so thankful for mine!
Being a mom is all those things people tell you. It’s the greatest thing you have ever done, it’s pretty much impossible to find your weird, red-faced newborn anything but gorgeous, and don’t get me started on the giggles, smiles, and when your kid tells you "I love you" for the first (or fiftieth time). There is nothing greater (in my opinion.) But there are many more dimensions to parenting and being a mom than what people tell you. I’ve read dozens of mom blogs since becoming pregnant almost three years ago, and many of them are hilarious, heart breaking, and probably horrify and bore people who have no interest in parenting or have yet to do so. There are books upon books about what to eat/wear/buy/avoid when you are trying to get pregnant/actually conceive/go through pregnancy/deliver/survive the first three months/few years, etc. But something that I never read about was how to find our place in the mom community.
It seems there once was a time where people raised children in a community, where mothers helped other new mothers, and families and relatives lived in closer proximity to each other. Perhaps I’m glamorizing this, but it seems to me that there is more distance between parents, family, and friends now that in the past. It’s not uncommon to become a first time mom at 40 or have your parents or siblings live a plane ride away. I’m lucky enough to have my dad and sister live in the same town that I do, but there are no living grandmothers to speak of, and none of my husband’s family lives in our town. A hot topic I’ve seen in my casual blog/magazine/online reading is the whole "mommy wars" saga. Because what better way to sensationalize a very hormonal, sleep deprived, exhausting and elating time that to put the fear in you that all other moms (and let’s be honest, everyone who has ever witnessed a toddler melting down in a public place) are judging you. It’s like bullying all over again, but for adults!
A quick back-story on me, I’m 33, and I was never that girl who dreamed of a big wedding. I dreamed of being a mom. And one day, I was lucky enough to meet a guy who liked me well enough and we decided to give it a shot! We got pregnant, and I entered a whole new world. I had some experience babysitting as a teenager, I had always loved spending time with kids, and I witnessed the home birth of my nephew and niece when I was 9 and again at 11 (and let me just say that is not something you forget easily) so I felt that I was semi prepared for what lay ahead. But let’s be honest. I knew how to change a diaper, but I all of a sudden, I was an English speaker who had been stranded in a country that only spoke French. I mean, we all know "oui" means yes, but beyond that? You are on another planet! Things like "breach", "zero station", "and effacement" are everyday words (and after having two kids I still can’t give you their definition!) You are alone on a deserted island, people. At least, I was because I had friends who had kids who were 8 and above, and then friends who didn’t have kids. And that was it.
So then you become someone that your friends feel the need to "set up". "Wait, you are pregnant? I have another friend who is expecting! I want you to meet her!" And for once, you are grateful (at least I was.) I was experiencing things that when I asked my half sister (16 years my senior) and other friends who were wise and experienced parents "did this happen to you?" they often responded with "um….I don’t really remember." What?!? How can you forget such major life changing things? Well sadly, as a parent of two, one who just turned 2 and another who is about to be 6 months old, you do. You forget. So where do you turn to find other people who are going through the same thing as you?
When I was pregnant, I felt a sense of guilt. I didn’t want to subject all my single/non pregnant friends to what I was going through. They couldn’t give two shakes about my hips hurting or the fact that this football I’m carrying in my stomach makes it impossible to sleep. But I had to talk about it to someone because was something I was living with every minute of every day. A friend (one of the awesome friends with two kids way beyond the infant years) told me that she took prenatal yoga during her two pregnancies and she found it amazingly helpful. An old childhood acquaintance of mine (thanks to facebook) messaged me that she was also pregnant and I should go to a prenatal yoga class with her, so I did. I am not kidding when I say it was one of the best things I have ever done. Not because of all the tools it gave me to cope with labor (which it did) and not because I was lucky enough to have my yoga teacher attend both of my labors as my doula (another word that had zero meaning to me before I became pregnant). But because I found people of all different walks of life who were experiencing the exact same things I was going though. And they wanted to talk about it! All of a sudden, I didn’t have to feel guilty about talking about things that my family didn’t remember and my husband couldn’t empathize with, as hard as he tried to sympathize.
I could go on about my pregnancy/labor/the first two years/being a parent of two but that’s not the point of this post. The point is, it was so desperately important for me to find a helpful, supportive community of women whom I could talk to about what I was going through, WHEN I was going through it. There are books on how to meet people, how to find Mr. (or Mrs.) Right, dating for dummies, but I didn’t have the slightest idea about how to find a group of women who were new moms as well. And for me, finding my niche has been a lifesaver. Not to be overly dramatic (I was/have been lucky enough to not suffer any major post partum YET) but I cannot imagine what my life would be like today without my mom friends.
How did I meet them? Through prenatal yoga. And Infant/baby "mommy and me" yoga classes. And friends of friends. I believe it is so vital in this day and age, to surround yourself with other POSITVIE women with whom you can raise children with and beside. They are out there, and it’s hard to know where to find them or how to begin. I say, start a mom group on a social media page like Facebook. Another friend (whom I met at prenatal yoga) started a group of about 20 ladies and it has grown to over 400 in two years. If you are a churchgoer (I’m not), find other expecting or new moms who are like-minded. I am so lucky to have a core group of 15 (that’s right, 15!) amazing women I’ve met or reconnected with, since I had my first child. And don’t think we all agree or parent the same way. We have moms that formula fed from day one, weaned at a year, and moms that are nursing their two year olds. We have moms that struggled with infertility and moms that got pregnant before getting married (I’m guilty of that one.) We range in age from 24 to 35 (and maybe older, who is really honest when someone asks your age if you are over the age of 30?) We all come from very different religious backgrounds, childhoods, and geographic locations, but because we all made a connection at this major landmark of life, we are all in it together. We are honest, supportive and offer suggestions, but respect each person and kid as their own person.
I’m sure there are mommy wars out there; there are wars of all kind in this world. All I can say is rise above it. Reach out to the woman who is obviously pregnant (let’s save the post about when is it appropriate to say to someone "congratulations" for another time. I say when they actually have the baby in their arms) or to the mom whose 2 months old is crying uncontrollably in a coffee shop. Strike up a conversation with the woman taking the glucose test next to you while you both drink that awful orange flavored soda. You may find that you have found someone who in a few years, will offer to watch your child for a few hours at the drop of a hat, or who will start up a meal train for you during a big life event without thinking twice. Or whom your toddler refers to as "auntie" when they can finally speak in sentences. Ignore the hype of the "mommy wars" – moms are the quintessential archetype of love and acceptance. And those are the kind of people you want to be surrounding yourself with and raising your children and the future beside.