A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to be able to attend the mom’s group at the local hospital. I say lucky because I have a very good friend who was very good to me and took my three older children for the morning while I was alone with the baby. As Peanut and I entered the same room I’d visited regularly with both Punkin and the twins over the past four and a half years I remembered how much I missed being a part of a group of moms. It was a place to be reminded that you’re not alone in your daily struggles, that you and your child are totally normal and that no problem is insurmountable with a little laughter and a helping hand (or even just a sympathetic one). I’d forgotten how wonderful it was.
At the beginning of each meeting we go around the room and introduce ourselves and our children (most mom’s are fist timers but those of us with others at home usually mention it). As I introduced Peanut and the rest of my crew most of the eyes in the room widened with looks of, “Oh my goodness, how are you even standing here with a smile???” I did smile back at them, not because I felt like I had everything under control or that I was even in a particularly good place that day, but because I knew they wanted to know my “secret” and the secret is that I have no idea how I manage to smile every day! A few moments later another mom introduced herself and her son who was almost as old as my girls. She looked at me and said, “I remember you,” which caught me totally off guard because I didn’t remember her. She went on to tell the group how she’d met me back when I was visiting the group with my infant twins and how I gave her advice that had gotten her through the last year and a half. I was pretty baffled by this. What on earth could I have said to her that meant that much?
My brilliant advice had been this: Don’t worry, it will change. Whatever it is, it will change, babies will grow and whatever you’re worried about today won’t be there tomorrow. Don’t worry, you’ll get through this.
Amazing advice? Well, on that day, feeling exhausted from my life with my four kids and having successfully showered that day, fed them all breakfast, dropped three off at daycare and managed to make it on time to a meeting (all before 10am) I wasn’t feeling like that was anything incredible. The woman went on to say that I’d given that advice on a Tuesday morning after I’d just returned from a long weekend in Maine with my three kids. That I’d done this almost four-hour trip alone, survived, and was still smiling (the full story). The advice I gave was made true and meaningful because I was living it, that insane trip to Maine was the only one I took like that (the others were insane too but totally different) because the twins got older, Punkin got older, I got pregnant, et cetera. Things changed.
I felt very flattered and a little ashamed when she said all of this. I’d been feeling so overwhelmed with the new baby and all my parenting/household responsibilities. I didn’t feel like a powerful and proud and accomplished mother like I had the day I gave that advice.
So, I thanked her for reminding me.
I think we all need reminders sometimes, even if it’s a reminder to follow your own advice. She felt so grateful to me for being her inspiration through her journey through motherhood and now I am grateful to her too. I’m so thankful that I went to that meeting on that day and got that boost that I needed. We all need support and being home alone with four kids all day I often forget that (because I’m too busy to think!) and I sincerely wish I could attend those meetings every week. Since I can’t I’ll do other things like the Breastfeeding USA meetings once a month, regular playdates with friends and maybe join another type of mom’s group where kids of all ages are welcome (and won’t be able to destroy the place in five seconds flat). I think as parents we all need reminders of what is really normal to stay sane and I’m not ashamed at all to admit I need support. As I smile pushing a cart overflowing with kids and food at the grocery store, as I tend to my herd at the park (possibly while nursing the baby at the same time) or when I post our latest escapade on Facebook people call me SuperMom (or just shake their heads in disbelief) I smile and laugh but remember, even superheroes need help sometimes.
My point is two-fold and it’s not just for parents: Don’t worry, things will change, you can make it through AND don’t be afraid to need support/help/sympathy and make time to go find it!
Some ideas for where groups to get parenting support:
Local library playgroups
Hospital groups (Manchester Memorial Hospital in Manchester, CT has a group meeting every Tuesday at 10am for all new moms in their birthing center–I highly recommend it!)