It Takes a Village to Raise a Mother

Last week, I showed up to my friend Jana’s house (where we co-teach our kids three days a week) late and frazzled. The morning had started off fine, but time slipped away from me between 8:00 and 9:00 a.m. The kids’ morning routine somehow devolved into missing shoes and arguments about whose turn it was to scoop the litter box. I forgot our eldest had a class at a different house than the other kids, and scrambled to throw together a sack lunch. I ran out of time to shower. As we raced out the door, bickering and angst nipped at our heels. By the time we got to Jana’s house, SO late, I was full-on cranky and ragged and ready to admit defeat.

As my kids burst through her doorway and I stumbled in after them, Jana took one look at my face, and she knew. “Oh, Mama,” she said. She gave me a hug and guided me to her kitchen.

“Here, sit down,” she said, pulling a quart of half-and-half out of her fridge. “The kids are happy playing for a bit. Let’s have a cup of coffee and regroup.”

Regroup. Oh my gosh, that word was like lemonade on a hot afternoon—exactly what my scattered self needed. Jana handed me a coffee mug with “Joy” emblazoned on its side and sat down across from me. I breathed. She nodded. I lamented. She sympathized. We laughed sardonically about motherhood’s mood swings. Miraculously, after ten minutes of coffee and calm and commiseration, I’d regrouped. We started our classes later than planned, but that was okay. was okay.

Such a simple gesture, a mom offering another mom coffee, a listening ear, and a chance to regroup. Simple, but so important. It changed the whole course of my day. How often do we need that and don’t get it?

One of the hallmarks of modern motherhood is that it has become a rather lonely, isolated endeavor. Playgroups proliferate, but they often revolve around the children, not around the mothers. Conversations tend to focus on milestones and methods rather than solidarity and support. Our society’s culture of competition rather than cooperation can easily spill over into motherhood. But it shouldn’t.

One thing I’ve learned from my fourteen years of motherhood is that it works best as a communal undertaking. It’s not because we need other moms to help raise our kids (though that kind of help can be awesome), but because we need other moms to pick us up and dust us off when we stumble. They say it takes a village to raise a child, but I really think it takes a village of other moms to raise a mother—especially when she’s fallen and can’t seem to find her way up.

No one understands the challenges of motherhood like other moms. No one can help a mom who is having a fragile, frazzled moment better than a mom who understands being fragile and frazzled. I adore my husband, and he’s extraordinarily supportive, but there are some things he just can’t “get.” So when I need mom commiseration, I talk to my mom friends. Sometimes the sweetest words a mother can hear are, “I feel you, sister.” Or “Yep, me too.” Or, “Let’s have some coffee and regroup.”

We moms need to give this kind of support to each other, openly and often, without judgment or condition. Sometimes that means noticing a mom is exhausted and taking her kids to the park while she naps. Sometimes that means knowing a new mom might be overwhelmed and rocking her fussy baby while she takes a long shower. Sometimes it means recognizing that a mom is on her last nerve and putting on a video for the kids while you chat over a cup of coffee. Sometimes it means simply telling a friend that she’s an amazing mother, that she is not failing, and that her kids are blessed and lucky to have her.

I know from reading and writing enough mom blogs that all moms struggle in various ways, but we don’t always let that show in real life. Commiserating with other moms online is great, but there’s something to be said for sharing your struggles with someone who can give you a hug and a cup of coffee. Reading honest accounts of moms who have similar challenges might be refreshing, but online friends can’t take your kids for the afternoon while you catch up on work, or dishes, or a long-neglected hobby. I’ve been very blessed to have a lot of unconditionally supportive friends throughout my motherhood. Jana’s calming coffee was not the first time I’ve experienced kindness and understanding from a fellow mom, and I’ve made the same offerings to friends when I was in a good place and they weren’t. If you don’t have such support in real life, I promise there are moms out there who want to connect as much as you do. Don’t stop looking until you find them.

A lot of moms won’t ask for help—or don’t know how to—so we have to look out for one another. We all have ebbs and flows in patience and endurance. Imagine if, instead of judgment, we offered other moms some of our energy or our calm when we have a little to spare. Imagine if, instead of advice, we offered one another a chance to relax or regroup on a regular basis.

What if we all supported one another and didn’t worry so much about who is doing motherhood the “right” way? What if we raised each other up instead of tearing or wearing each other down? We need each other, mamas. We need to give one another support and solidarity, because we are the ones best suited for that job. When we see one another dragging, we need to lighten each other’s load however we can. It takes a village to raise up a mother who’s down.

And a nice cup of coffee helps, too. 🙂

 

Photo courtesy of Beverly Goodwin

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Annie writes about life, motherhood, world issues, beautiful places, and anything else that tickles her brain. On good days, she enjoys juggling life with her husband and homeschooling her children. On bad days, she binges on chocolate chips and dreams of traveling the world alone.

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