After I wrote my last post, I voluntarily got into the car for nine hours with my husband, three year old son, and six year old daughter. We were heading to the green hills of Western Massachusetts for a long-anticipated week with dear old friends and their families. I was sorely in need of the extraordinary gift that our close friends can give us: our best selves, the ones they know and love and willingly reflect back to us when we are unsure of our way. These friends with whom we gather in the summer (ideally someplace beautiful) remind me of my values, and of what I hope for. I see my children afresh through their eyes. This is what friendship means, I think. Our friends call forth what is most true in us. And so friends who are also parents, who beckon to the mother I want to be and who invite me to share that person with their own children…? You see why I was more than willing to endure endless hours along the New Jersey Turnpike.
Because the thing is, this motherhood gig is really hard. No one gives you a blueprint, there are no hard and fast rules for how to manage a tantrum or a transition to kindergarten because no one has ever done those things before with your particular children. Even though pregnancy, childbirth, and raising children are things we share with all people in every place and time, there has never before been the particular emotional territory you trod this morning, when the baby woke up at 5 am again, happy as a lark, and you were grumpy because another sleep-deprived day is the last thing you need, and your preschooler surprised you with so exquisite a rendering of his name, written all by himself in lime green pastel on the back of a water bill that you cried for joy. It’s beautiful; it’s hard.
So in the middle of my intense, restorative week together with friends, I checked the Mothering website and read the many comments readers left in response to my post about feeling torn between working and staying home, and trying (perhaps futilely) to reconcile those desires with a one-foot-in-each-world life. Oh, my fellow mothers! You took my breath away. When we share our stories, we share our strength, our empathy, our humor. Our vision changes; knowing our struggles are shared by countless mothers who yearn for the same wholeness that we do is invaluable. Solidarity matters! Between being with supportive, intimate friends and reading the responses that so many of you wrote, I knew myself to be the recipient of countless gifts.
Thank you. Thank you for reading, for sharing, for offering your own experience and vision to other mothers. It is truly a gift.
This is a picture of me, taken about 6 months before I became pregnant with our first child. (Don’t ask what I’m doing in Luxembourg – but it is pretty, isn’t it?) One of the things I appreciate when I spend time with old friends is the fact that they knew me before I became a mother. I am not defined by my motherhood for them. Sometimes it’s nice to remember that there is a lot of continuity between the person I was, the person I am, and the person I will be when my children are older and more independent.
There’s more on our trip, friends, and my work-home thoughts at Homemade Time. How do friends support and ground you in your daily life? Does this online community provide you with the solidarity we all need?
About Meagan Howell
Meagan Howell is a freelance writer and social worker who loves art, books, yoga, friends, music, being outside, and helping to build communities of all sorts. Meagan lives in Maryland with her husband and two children and writes about motherhood at Homemade Time.