I was nervous. I got dressed carefully and thoughtfully. I went back and forth on whether or not to even to go. I talked myself out of it a few times… But, thankfully, my husband all but forced me out the door.
To my first mom-date, that is.
We had recently moved to a new, larger metro area with our four-month-old daughter. There were a lot of changes taking place at once– a new job, moving from a house to a third-floor apartment, leaving our community of close-knit, post-college friends, our church. Neither my surroundings or my new role felt familiar. I was still getting my bearings as a first-time mother, and as most moms know, the minutes, hours, days run together until you feel like you’re in a perpetual state of nurse, nap, wake, play…repeat. My nerves felt frayed at times. I was lonely, and definitely in need of a listening ear, diversion, and support. I needed adult conversation. I needed mom friends.
The thing is, forming meaningful relationships can feel daunting after college. My husband and I had both gone to a university that was small and close-knit, where a half-dozen friends were right down the hallway at any given time. You could sit down with just about anyone in the cafeteria and have engaging conversation. We were surrounded by people in our stage of life for four years straight, and beyond–we had our pick, and a great pick, of relationships. Not only that, but we had time to nurture those relationships with movie nights, coffee dates, or impromptu bonfires until midnight. Do I even need to mention how this changes when you start a family? It is much harder to find people you connect with, much less get to know them in an intentional way. Have you ever tried to have a meaningful conversation with a one or two-year-old in the room? Often, it ends up being an incredibly disjointed exchange, peppered with moms yelling, “Don’t do that!” or, “Not right now, sweetheart.” Focused attention, at times, seems to be a thing of the past.
Fast forward a little bit, and I’ll tell you that I met some women at the coffee shop that day who have been life-giving to me over the years. It was a diverse bunch of moms, and that much was obvious within the first few minutes of sitting down. And since that morning, we’ve come to find that, although we may not always agree on matters of parenting, discipline, schooling, or a litany of other things, there’s something beautiful about relationships that take place despite our differences, and amid the paradox of the mundane and chaotic everyday that is parenting. Five minute conversations around the kitchen counter as we’re slapping peanut butter on bread for our hungry kids and random group text messages sent throughout the day have kept me sane for the past four years. There’s something therapeutic about someone else simply being there, validating what you’re going through and saying, “me, too.” The common bond of motherhood, as varied as our experiences may be, is strong.
These women were there to take care of my toddler when I was sick for an entire month with mono and could barely get out of bed. Other than my husband, they were the first people I showed my positive pregnancy test to in the midst of back-to-back miscarriages, and watched my daughter while I, at times, went to multiple appointments per week at the fertility clinic. We’ve thrown baby showers, made hospital visits to celebrate births, and exchanged Christmas gifts. We’ve broken up toddler fights, helped each other’s children on the potty, and troubleshot hundreds of different sleep and behavioral issues. Our brood has doubled (and in some cases, tripled!) in size over the years. I’ve watched other moms kiss my kids’ boo boos. We’ve shared personal disappointments, victories, and everything inbetween. If I had let my fear and doubt get the best of me that morning years ago, I would never have met these women (and kids!) who have become such a built-in part of my life.
If there is one survival tip I can relay to new mothers who are struggling, it’s this: find your people. Having mom friends has made me a different mom. I have often called them my lifelines, because I truly don’t know what raising my children up until this point would have looked like without them. I’ve been encouraged, challenged, and grown as I parent alongside them. So to you, new mom, hesitating as to whether or not to walk out the door and go to that first play date…go. Sit and listen. Share. Make friends for the health of you and your family. You’ll be glad you did–I sure am.
Rachel is a wife and mother living in Raleigh, North Carolina. She’s a fan of good coffee, wearer of gray t-shirts, and is constantly starting books she will never finish. Her family is her joy, and she loves to engage with other moms and dads on matters of parenting. Her blog posts have also been featured on the Today Show Parenting Blog and Scary Mommy.