Why I Show Up for Other Moms
Before I was a mother concerned with “doing it right,” I was a woman consumed by it. I never left the house in sweats or a bare face, and always wore a smile. I would clean my car before carpooling and scramble to get my apartment in order before guests arrived. So you can imagine my absolute horror when I was a few weeks postpartum. Taking a four-minute shower was a weekly luxury. The pile of dirty dishes in the kitchen sink resembled some type of sad abstract art installment. My baby refused to sleep anywhere but on my chest and cried all the time. I felt so far from “doing it right” so much of the time. I felt too messy to go out and my home was too messy to invite friends in. So when my husband went back to work, I spent all my time alone. I was living my dream as a stay-at-home mother, but it was like one of those mixed up dreams. You know the ones, when you know where you are and what you’re supposed to be doing, but everything looks different? During his naps I would scroll through Pinterest and Instagram and Facebook, wondering how every other mother found the time and the energy for beach wavy hair, dinners from scratch, and crisp white linens. I wondered how all the other babies fell asleep peacefully in their Moses baskets and rode happily in their car seats. I wondered if I was crazy. I wondered if I was suffering from postpartum depression. I wondered if any other moms out there felt like I did. So I made a Facebook group for mothers of newborns in my area, and I asked them. Within one week I had nearly 80 members join the group and plans for a weekly meet up at our local community center. It wasn’t just me living in isolation for fear of doing it wrong.
The morning of the first meet up was rainy. My baby hadn’t napped yet and cranky was a modest, unimaginative description for his mood. So I cancelled the meet up. Many moms commented that they weren’t even planning to come, citing the weather, naps, illness, and teething as reasons. In retrospect I think we were all afraid to reveal our individual potential for doing it wrong. The following week, again I had a cranky baby, but I was determined to show up. My baby cried and nursed throughout the whole meet up. There were moments when I could barely hear the conversation because his cries were so loud and I was so focused on comforting him, but I stayed. I sweated through my makeup and squirmed in my too-tight pre-baby jeans. It just felt nice, and right, to be around other new moms. Over the next two months, I showed up occasionally to the weekly gathering. If he’d had a good morning nap, or if I’d had time to shower, we’d show up. If there was any physical evidence I wasn’t “doing it right,” we stayed home. That was, until the worst week happened. During the worst week, my husband was away for work. My dishwasher broke. Then my washing machine broke. Then my baby went through a sleep regression and started teething. Then my menstrual cycle returned. I was so miserable and I was so alone. I was so lonely. I showed up to the meet up that week with four-day old hair, in worn pajamas, in tears. I needed to be with other mothers; even though it seemed evident I was far from doing it right.
The meet up during the worst week was the best meet up I’d ever attended. Because I showed up the way I did, and vented about how wrong everything was going at home, I unintentionally opened up the conversation beyond diapers and prices at Target versus Walmart. We shared our birth stories, our struggles with breastfeeding, the strain parenting a newborn placed on our marriages, and the challenges of raising a baby far from family and friends. No one was showering, no one was sleeping, but we were all raising happy, healthy babies. Our babies were meeting their milestones and filling our hearts with the deepest joy. Things weren’t going the ways we expected, but we were doing it right. I’ll always be glad I showed up on that day, that day I made real friends and stopped feeling so alone.
So show up. Show up when your hair is dirty. Show up when your kid is mismatched because your laundry pile has become a mountain. Show up when you only slept for 45 minutes the night before. Show up when you’ve been fighting with your partner. Show up when you’re running 20 minutes late. Show up when your teething baby won’t stop crying. You’ll never be a perfect mom. There’s no way. But there are innumerable ways to be a great mom. And I think that in order to be a great mom, when you’ll realize you’re doing it right, is when you’ve shown up for other great moms and for yourself.
Have you ever felt this way? Afraid to show up for fear of being too vulnerable and showing too much of the "ugly" parts of motherhood? We've all felt this way at one time or another, if not many, many times over different things. Tell us in the comments below about your experience.