Most of us are familiar with the old adage “It takes a village to raise a child.” We can all acknowledge that parenting is hard. Whether you’re a stay at home mom or a mom who works outside of the home, we all need support and community. This is one truth you will never see debated in a mommy-war because anyone who has parented for any length of time has felt the overwhelming responsibility that is motherhood. Unfortunately, it’s not something we readily admit.
In my experience interacting with play group moms, we swap stories about our children’s most recent accomplishments, cute mannerisms and, when appropriate, we back them up with a smart phone video or well filtered Instagram photo. Any hint of real struggle is usually lightened by a laugh, or written off and moved past quickly. I get that. Nobody wants to be a burden, and nobody wants to unload their emotions on a potential “new mommy friend”.
As a new mom, I remember feeling like I was the exception. My house was never as clean as it should be. I couldn’t remember what the bottom of my laundry basket looked like, and I wasn’t dishing up Pinterest worthy meals for dinner. Those things weighed on me, but I had anticipated them. What I was totally unprepared for, was the loneliness and exhaustion that is life with a newborn. I had no idea. I had seen several friends on social media grow their families before I had my baby. I “liked” the photos of their babies’ first smiles, and I read their posts about the joys of parenthood. I was naïve enough to believe that I was seeing an accurate portrait of parenting. Even now, I don’t dispute their posts! There is no question that being a mother is absolutely the best, and my heart holds more love for my babies than I ever imagined possible, but that’s not the whole picture.
Here is the unspoken truth that needs to be heard: the struggles of motherhood are not meant to be endured alone, and every one of us has experienced them. We need to bring back the village. We all need a network of mom friends to trade babysitting services with. Everyone needs to be surprised by a friend with a Starbucks drink on a day when nap time just won’t come. We all need to be told that we are doing a great job, and that we are not alone.
Even the mom with the matching Mommy & Me outfit has days where she can’t find two matching toddler socks. The mom who is coordinating the play group has felt like she is completely alone, and the mom who just announced her next pregnancy on social media, complete with a “#blessed”, has had moments of major self-doubt about her ability to take on even an ounce more of responsibility. I’m not saying we should trade sharing our successes and joys for struggles and complaints exclusively, but I am hopeful that we can strike a healthy balance and even take it a step further by genuinely supporting each other when motherhood is tough.
When one of your friends is confiding in you about finding a new level of exhaustion or about how she never has time for herself anymore, instead of laughing it off, sharing a “been there done that story”, or offering unsolicited advice; find out how you can help. Validate her experience, and let her know, with utmost sincerity, that she is a wonderful mother. It does take a village. We all have days where we cannot do this alone. We weren’t meant to.
How have you been a part of “the village” for a fellow mom? Have you been on the receiving end of an encouraging mama friend?