When my son Sam turned 4-months-old, a friend invited me to a neighborhood playgroup. I believed these fellow mothers, my new co-workers in a sense, were sent straight from heaven, though armed with strollers and diaper bags instead of laptops and palm pilots.
Unlike my other friends without children, these women possessed a deep understanding of my daily grind. They too, cried over Cotton commercials while breastfeeding, and sometimes stayed in their pajamas all day. They too, ran on limited sleep because of teething babies with nasty diaper rashes.
When a question arose and I didn’t want to bother my pediatrician for the umpteenth time, my new friends had a quick antidote to whatever problem I faced, and it was still fresh in their minds, as opposed to my mother or sister-in-law with kids in college. They also knew tricks of the trade; a wet cloth for teething, Mylicon Drops for gas, and what must-haves to make my life easier.
Nor did they think I was exaggerating when I stressed over Sam’s reflux or earaches. These fellow mothers could talk candidly about sore nipples and baby constipation, and amazingly enough, they found Sam’s bowel movements as fascinating as I did. Or maybe they just acted interested, which is more than you can say for most people.
During our weekly playgroups, I noticed the socialization was not only great for me, but my son as well. Sam’s face lit up every time he saw another little person like himself.
You can also expect a pat on the back from them when you brag about certain strides you’ve accomplished, like switching your baby from bottle to sippy cup.
It’s sometimes easier to share special moments with other moms, like the first time your darling smiles or runs into your arms.
Unintentionally, I started distancing myself from my friends without children. My days were a whirlwind of diaper changes, baby baths and feedings. I couldn’t find time to brush my teeth, let alone return phone calls or e-mails. Days meshed into months, and I started to think I was living scenes from the movie, Groundhog Day.
After a couple of months, I experienced a motherhood meltdown. Some days I found myself missing my job, but more importantly adult conversation. My husband traveled and both of our families were out of state. I knew I was in trouble when I couldn’t get the Blue’s Clues songs out of my head, and became as engrossed with the Teletubbies as my son.
As understanding as my new friends were, they hadn’t known me long enough to see I needed a break. Desperately, I called my old friends who knew me before and after Sam, and they helped me through a difficult time.
Old friends are great because they bridge the gap between the woman you were, and the mother you’ve become. They keep you connected to yourself when you lose sight of what you need. It’s also comforting to know you are still the same person; that you haven’t aged 20 years like you might feel you have.
And most importantly, the novelty of babysitting is something friends without kids actually want to do, because they can send the little nymphs home.
Each person you meet is so unique; you don’t want to lose them just because they may be at another stage in their lives. If they end up choosing a parenting career like yourself, you can guide them along, and if they don’t become mothers, you won’t lose that friendship because of a hectic time in your life. As the years go by, the older we get, it seems the harder it becomes to find lasting friendships.
I also realized it’s essential for new moms to surrender their role as primary caregiver, if only for an hour or two.
I try to remind myself of the life saving advice on airplanes, “In case of emergency, put the oxygen mask on yourself first, before administering to your child.”
The same is true in life; if your needs are met you’ll be a happier, stronger woman, and in return, a better mother. A sure way to help meet your needs is by cherishing old friendships, and bonding with new mothers.
If you’re lucky enough to have friends with children and friends without, know that both are blessings, and it’s worth embracing these relationships as you enter the amazing journey of motherhood.