It was my second time back to my twice-a-month moms group after giving birth to my second baby girl. Several moms there asked me how I was doing. At that time, my baby girl was six weeks old. I was able to tell them all, without the tiniest inkling of feeling like I’d cry, how things were a million times better than they were even two weeks prior. “You were having a hard time two weeks ago?” I was asked with shocked expressions. I must have been putting up quite a brave front. Maybe I was wearing makeup? I had been on the verge of tears for four weeks straight two weeks before. I’d felt like I had pulled an all-nighter since my baby had been born. My 2-year-old would question me in my apparently surprising bursts of laughter, “Mommy crying?” because for most of the day, I had been streaming tears. While seeming to be perceptive on one hand, she would also lunge for her baby sister’s head with her fingernails at every opportunity. She would angrily bark, “No!” every time her baby sister cried, which ripped my heart out. As I drove home from that moms meeting, I was heavy-hearted. Had I not shared the truth about how I felt because I didn’t feel like the opportunity was there? How many people do we encounter that are struggling but we never ask, because they seem to have it all together? Or worse, maybe we don’t ask because we don’t want to go that deep with people.
Motherhood is incredibly isolating and lonely, particularly as a mother of babies. Prior to moving to Charlotte last July, we lived in Connecticut and I had just two close mom friends. It wasn’t a lot, but those two moms were exactly what God knew I needed to get through the first year of my first-born daughter’s life. Those women were my lifelines. I met my first friend while working at Yale New Haven Hospital. She was a PA and I was a research coordinator. She had three boys ages 1, 3, and 6, and invited me over at least once a week. I was terrified to drive anywhere with my tiny new baby in that huge car seat, but I drove to her house every time, which made me braver at each visit. Initially, we would just have coffee in the morning, but then our visits turned into all day events. We’d have coffee, lay our babies down for naps, we’d do an exercise video, and then sit on the couch or work in her garden and talk about life. I met my second mom friend in our church’s community group. She had her baby boy a few months after I had my daughter, and it was such a sweet time of life for us to figure out together breastfeeding, sleep schedules, introducing first foods, and how to maintain a relationship with God and with our husbands when our babies were getting the first and best of us.
Sharing life and being completely transparent with those two women did not happen overnight. It was a little awkward at first, but as we continued to see each other each week, we felt more comfortable and could share more intimately. Along with prayer, they truly brought me through the first year of motherhood. I don’t think I would have held on to my sanity or my joy without them. Intentionality is the key to any relationship that is worth maintaining. We must be intentional about getting together and/or having conversations, and we have to be brave and be willing to be real. Facebook posts and texting just doesn’t cut it. We were created for community. Especially as moms, we need each other. It seems the harder life is with small children, the harder it is to get out and be social. I find myself not leaving my house for millions of reasons, like my baby is fussy, or because my two-year-old has a runny nose, or it’s a hundred degrees outside, or because I’m exhausted. But I can feel the lack of kindred adult interaction drain me. When life is hardest and least convenient, that’s when we need encouragement and community the most. Motherhood, and life in general, is messy, frustrating, gut-wrenching, emotionally and physically exhausting, but it is also beautiful, rewarding, and challenges us to become better.
We can only realize the full beauty and joy of raising children when we ourselves are filled. We cannot expect our children to fulfill our souls’ need for friendship and community. Firstly, God alone fills that hole. He is our creator and only when we have a relationship with him is our identity found. Secondly, we need other moms around us. And not just any mom will do. We need moms who are real, not afraid to bare their tears or scars through smiles and laughter. We need moms who will not flinch when the truth is ugly. We need moms who love their children for the God-given gifts they are, and who want to raise (or have raised) their kids to be bright lights and world-changers. We need moms whose lives are also messy and inconvenient, but still choose to make the time to go deep. This year, I’m jumping in. I will be the first to be that mom.