Let’s Be Real (Friends)

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Damn, motherhood can be lonely.

There are so many “obvious” things that can be divisive along the way. Birthing plans. Breastfeeding. Diapering. Co-sleeping. Spanking. Crying it out. Vaccinating. Schooling. The list. Goes. On.

I knew where I stood on the big ones, found my allies and shut my mouth around those who I knew held a different belief system. I knew better than to try to sway someone’s opinion; rather I accepted them and tried to channel my inner “bad mom” and honor that we’re all just doing the best we can with what we have.

I know I sure am. I also know that most days I have no idea what I’m doing.

The other day I had coffee with an old friend who recently became a new mom. As she was managing her new baby while we caught up, she casually tossed out that she didn’t know what she was doing. I wanted to hug her. None of us do! Seriously!

Yeah sure, by the second (or third?! How do y’all have a third...or fourth...or? Two are killing me!), you’ve certainly figured a thing or two out. But here’s what - what works for the first kid almost never works for the second. So here you are back at square one again figuring it all out again and feeling like you’re a newbie all over again.

And even when you think you’ve got it all figured out, stuff comes up. Stuff you never imagined you’d be facing. Stuff you have no friggin idea how to handle. Like the tongue tie and the persistent and, at times, scary eczema on our baby girl or the oral sensory challenges and significant food aversions with our preschool-age son. Trust me. We have NO IDEA what we’re doing here. Plus, these are somehow the things we’ve learned NOT to talk about because you know everyone (and their mother) has an opinion, save for a few close friends who we know we can count on to continue to pour unyielding support into us along the way... Which has left me feeling pretty isolated at times along this motherhood journey.  

You know that feeling when you pour your heart out to someone and in return they try to push you through the hard feelings too quickly because it’s uncomfortable for them? Or maybe they just try to fix everything for you when all you really needed was to talk it out and be heard? Or the worst, they one-up you with their “worse” story?

Hey, I get it. I know it's hard to sit in silence with someone when their heart is hurting. I deeply know that need to help. But, I beg you. When your friend does start talking, unless she’s asking for advice, just be there. Sit with her in all her messy feelings. Acknowledge them. Validate them. Resist the urge to move her through them before she’s ready or to try to fix all the things. There is value in meeting someone where they are at and in honoring their feelings exactly as they come. Without that, I have often felt even less supported and more frustrated, wondering why I even bothered to open up about my struggles in the first place.

It’s crazy to me to think that the things that are keeping us from connecting with each other are precisely the things we NEED to be connecting with each other on. This parenting gig is hard. And we cannot - and should not - do it alone. We are so much better together.

Being real and honest, even when it’s ugly, does not mean that we are not grateful for this beautiful, crazy life. To say that something is hard is not complaining; It doesn't mean that we cannot handle it; It does not diminish the love we have for these kids. It is just horrifyingly hard at times.

And it’s ok to say that.

Your feelings, your fears, your hopes, your needs: they are real. And they are valid.

So, open up. Be vulnerable. And if that mom on the receiving end doesn’t get it - or get you, so what. Find one that does. We need each other.