It was one of those moments that stuck with me forever.
I was a new mom and I was visiting a mom friend who always seemed to be on top of it. I told her how much I admired her and wished I could be as calm and confident as she was.
She looked at me and smiled. “You didn’t see me an hour before you came. All three kids were crying and so was I. I shoved a whole pile of stuff under the beds before you came. I even hid the dirty dishes. Sometimes I feel like I just can’t do it anymore. I’m just really good at looking like I have it all together. I don’t. Nor does any other mom I know.”
I was stunned.
This woman was a long time La Leche League Leader and had helped me a great deal with breastfeeding.
Her baby and 2 older kids always seemed mellow, she cooked everything from scratch, she always looked good.
And the reality was that she was struggling so hard and she was doing it all alone.
I saw something recently that reminded me of that story.
It was one of the most realistic Facebook posts I’d seen. It was a list of
“What Mothers Should Know Before their Baby is Born”.
There were many gems in it like “There are no right answers” and “A dirty house builds immunities” and “ ‘Should’ is a poison word that argues against reality”.
But the one that really jumped out at me was “The ideal adult-to-baby ratio is about three to one the first week. But if all you have is one mother and one baby, you’ll manage.”
It got me thinking about my mother friend from years ago and how mothers “manage” these days. Not only the first week, but the weeks and months and years after a baby arrives.
If you’re lucky, you have at least two people to help you out those first weeks.
People are calling, sending cards and gifts, and making you feel really special.
And once those first weeks are over, you’re pretty much on your own.
If you have a partner, they have to return to work. If you had relatives or friends staying with you, they have to return to their lives.
And then, it’s just you and the baby. At home.
Just you and the baby. Just you and the baby.
It’s one of the loneliest and scariest times, because you have very little experience with babies, and maybe have never even held, or seen a newborn before.
By nature, you were not meant to parent alone.
You were meant to parent as part of a community – to have lots of adults around to help out, to hold the baby, to make meals, run errands, play with an older child, to share their wisdom and experience.
It used to be like that. Mothers in a community didn’t spend hours agonizing over “the right” way to parent.
They were raised around babies, saw everyone breastfeeding and never thought “I’ll breastfeed if I can”.
They had learned what to do when babies fussed, and when they were exhausted or frustrated they knew they could hand the baby to someone else.
They were prepared for toddler meltdowns, the emotional volatility of two year olds, the “whys” and “I can do it” of the preschool years.
But times have changed. Few moms parent in a traditional community setting with so many adults around anymore.
The way I see, smart moms these days will search for community where they live or they try to find it online.
The lucky ones find a group of moms who are a good fit, who are really supportive and don’t sit and judge you or make you feel badly about yourself.
I’d say those are the moms to build community with. Stay away from groups that are discouraging or even hurtful. That goes for local or online groups.
I’ve experienced so many mothers that feel insecure about what they are doing as parents.
And the advice i always give them is “Don’t be hard on yourself because you don’t always know what you are doing.”
Parenting is the most important job in the world. I believe it should be valued and supported by the whole society.
The cliche that says “It takes a village to raise a child” is really true.
So be kind to yourself (and other mothers) and find support and community where you can.
Parenting in isolation is hard and you weren’t meant to do it on your own.