It’s 3a.m. You’ve been up for 2 hours with your fussing, colicky baby and you’ve done absolutely everything to keep her calm. It’s hard for you both because she can’t articulate her pain, and you can’t take it away. Your partner managed to escape and pass out because you were the one holding your little bundle before she drifted off. Suddenly your cell phone screen lights up with two lines of text: “Hang in there momma. You’re doing an amazing job.” Just like that you have renewed energy and you feel that you can carry on for that extra stretch you know is coming soon.
Being a Mom is many things…
Being a Mom is amazing. Being a Mom is rewarding. Being a Mom is hard. Being a Mom is smothering. Being a Mom is beautiful. So many things that take you up and take you down.
But being a Mom is also lonely. It doesn’t matter how supportive your partner/husband/lover is, it’s still a journey that you do on your own with all the joy and heartache that goes with it.
The Nigerian proverb says that “it takes a whole village to raise a child”, but these days our villages are scattered all around the world, and our connections are becoming more and more invisible. In my opinion this saying still applies, but in the 21st Century our villages are made up of our support structures, both near and far: our family, our friends, our colleagues. While these people may not have an explicitly direct and physical hand in assisting to raise our children, being in our support network means that they help out in one way or another – whether they know it or not. It’s these groups that carry us on our Mom Journey, and are vital for our survival.
But as an old friend once told me, these support structures are not just important for our children, but also for our own minds and sanity – for the sake of our children, partners and us. When our stress levels reach boiling point, and there are tears about to flow, the comfort that there is someone we can talk to, or have hold our baby for a few minutes while we vent and collect ourselves – this is indeed priceless and an extremely vital ingredient to being a mom.
I asked a couple of my other mom friends to comment on the importance of having support structures in their parenting lives – here are a some that really rang true for me:
Support is insanely needed – even as a quote unquote “laid back mom” with an “easy baby”. Just having someone like my mother or mother-in-law available to babysit in case of, for example, an incredible bout of food poisoning. Or just being on the other end of the phone to chat and give advice about gripe water, and how hard is too hard when patting a wailing gas cramp wracked baby, or simply making sure I have food in the house to eat.
Without a support structure I would not cope. My mom, mom-in-law, sister, sister-in-law and husband all form part of my very important support structure. Especially as a full-time working mom, I need a battalion of people I love and trust – and whom my boys love and trust – to fall back on when life throws me curve balls. They help me fetch, carry and look after sick ones when I can’t. I make every effort to do these things myself, but sometimes it’s just not possible – as much as admitting that breaks my heart. Sometimes needing to rely on them makes me feel a little useless, but I just keep reminding myself that nothing will ever change the privilege I have of being my boys’ favourite person (together with the Superdad that they have). As a mom it can be hard to ask for help, but I know I couldn’t do all I do without the amazing and understanding support structure that I have.
With all the love and care I am fortunate to have in my life as a new mom, I have found that one of the most important support structures that I have is that of new mommy friends – people who have babies that are of a similar age to mine, and who are going through similar experiences. And because we now have the fabulously connecting technology of instant messaging, these mommies don’t have to be in my immediate neighbourhood. My friend in London with a one-month old can pop me a message at 1am about what I can recommend for cracked nipples, just as easily as I can message another friend in Sydney with a 7 month old about the big move to solids. And having friends who are new mommies close at hand helps to remind us that no matter how much we read and research to take better care of our children, each of us is still figuring it all out, and we’re all getting there in our own way – and we all have each other’s backs.