When I was in high school, a friend of mine won a scholarship from our local Freemasons. Along with the scholarship, they gave him a coin with their insignia and allegedly told him, "If you ever need something, anywhere in the world, find a building with this symbol and someone will do whatever they can for you." We all thought it was pretty cool. Now that I'm a mom, I feel like appearing in public with my children is my "Freemason coin," because there are countless times other moms saved my ass just on account of my being a fellow mother. It's awesome and extremely necessary.
Years before I was ever pregnant, an acquaintance of mine once extolled the virtues of motherhood to me while we were both drunk at a wedding. "How you see the world will change because you see everything through a mother's eyes! And you love everyone just a little bit more because you know they're someone's baby!" Yes, it was a little over the top, but these days I get where she's coming from. Being a mom certainly changes your life and certainly can change the way the world looks at you. And because your life is different (you're effectively always moving through the world with at least one other person to consider, physically and emotionally) and because people often look at your differently (not always in a warm and fuzzy way), it can be easy to feel out of your depth in unfamiliar waters. Enter other moms, who may also be struggling to keep their heads above the waves but damnit if we all cling to each other maybe we can float this out.
How exactly can they help? In innumerable ways, but I'll share some of my favorites as a thank you to all the fabulous people who have made life a little (or a lot) easier for me.
When They Helped Out With A Spare Diaper Or Wipe
It never fails, you guys. You can pack 10 diapers and 100 wipes and your kid won't so much as fart. However, if you leave the house with two they will have at least three blow-outs. Thank goodness for kind, better prepared other moms. If I had the time, resources, and skill, I would happily build golden statues of all the parents who have helped me out. Alas, I have none of those things, but I do have an online platform to send out my love and gratitude to all those who come to the aid of their poo-covered sisters.
When They Guarded My Infant Sleeping In Her Car Seat While I Went To Get My Oldest From Preschool
So not strangers per se, since I see these women every day, but I don't necessarily know their last names. Still, the community at our little preschool is lovely and many a time another mom would stand by my car — door open to the breeze in the spring and closed to the chill in the winter — or I hers so we could get our older children quickly without having to schlep our babies. It was really nice to know, close friends or not, we were all willing to do that for one another. That's solidarity, people.
When They Didn't Judge Me Or My Child During A Public Meltdown
Any parent who is being truly honest with themselves knows that at least 30 percent of their child's behavior is based on luck and not on the child's natural disposition, or their skills as a parent, or anything else for that matter. Kids are mercurial AF, so they can go savage at the drop of a hat. It's comforting, in those moments, to know that other parents are going to see your kid acting like a monster and know know that you haven't done anything wrong and, moreover, that your kid isn't always a monster. They're just being a kid and you're doing your best. They will let you know they understand with a sad smile or good-natured eye roll of camaraderie: expressions that say, "I have been in your shoes. Stay strong, mama." Another mom letting me know I'm not the only parent to ever have been embarrassed by their child's behavior has seriously kept me from bursting into tears on more than one occasion.
When They Helped A Kid At The Playground
Maybe I'm across the playground for some reason. Perhaps I'm occupied with another child. In those moments, fellow moms have really stepped up. Whether my toddler needed to be spotted as she climbed the stairs to the slide or my 5 year old needed a push on the swing because the boy refuses to learn how to swing himself (anyone who can give me a tip on how to get him to do this, I'm all ears) it's been nice to have other people willing to lend a hand. I therefore make it my business to do the same for others. We can't be everywhere at once, you guys, because we're not teleporting superhero Nightcrawler from X-Men (no matter how badly we wish we were.)
When They Made Random Recommendations
Hey, did you know that the library has a weekly story hour for toddlers? Were you aware that the local farmer's market has a winery that comes every Saturday and offers free tastings? You know what helps diaper rash better than anything? An all-natural calendula and comfrey salve.
Other moms have the best recommendations, many of which have saved my time, money, sanity, or, in the case of that salve, my baby's literal ass.
When They Spot A Child Escaping
Everyone knows that it can take approximately two seconds for a child to slip away from you (down another aisle, in a clothing rack, behind a column) and send you into panic mode that leaves you moving and sounding like a frantic chicken. Nine times out of 10 these moments usually only last another three seconds, but anyone who has lived through it can assure you that it feels much longer. Fortunately, other moms use their mom superpowers to spot little ones and point them out to their less cool-headed fellow parents. I've done it for people, they've done it for me, and feelings and relieved gratitude abound.
When They Provide A Well-Placed Compliment
Some days life is just determined to defeat your ass, am I right? The kids are acting like a pack of wild animals (the kind that don't ever stop screaming), work is stressful, the house is a mess, and nothing is going right.
However, on the days when life wants to conquer you, fellow moms can come in like a shield going, "NOT TODAY!" This doesn't have to be anything particularly heroic on their behalf. On a bad day only a little bit of kindness is required to buoy sinking spirits. An earnest, "You're doing great!" or, "Tonight, you put your feet up and have a drink. You've earned it, mama!" is enough to let you know you're seen. When someone who isn't really required to try to help you, but recognizes your trials and tribulations and thinks you're doing well regardless, can definitely make you feel less alone.
When They Went The Extra Mile To Help When My Hands Are Full
All parents know what it is to envy an octopus. Whether you could use your tentacles to open a door while carrying a tantrum-throwing toddler, or wrangling three children and six bags of groceries, or carrying a loaded stroller and a child down the subway stairs, they would absolutely come in handy.
So when moms see another mom struggle, they're usually the first ones to help. Moving about in public would have been especially difficult when my children were babies without other parents there to help out without being asked. I've tried to pay it forward as much as possible.
When They Were Chill With Uncouth Child Behavior
Sometimes kids are going to do things that, to the untrained or uninitiated observer, will seem worthy of side-eye. Being rowdy, roughhousing, shrieking for no apparent reason, you name it. While there's certainly a limit on crazy behavior (not to mention a time and place for everything), there have been times (at the park or a play date, for example) when another mom has seen my kid at their craziest,and just kind of shrugged it off.
In those moments it's like, "Oh thank you. You aren't going to make this total non-issue a thing. You recognize kids are kids. I promise I will do the same when your kid is acting like a little psycho/totally normal child."
When They Talked To Me Like An Adult
Because as charming and good-natured as my children and their favorite television characters are, sometimes I need to have a conversation that isn't about, say, shapes or letters. Sometimes, a random mom making small talk has been exactly the brain re-fueling I've needed to make it to bedtime.
When They Just Get It
There are times when you don't even need words and, instead, a look, a smile, or even a polite turn of the head to pretend they didn't see something embarrassing is all it takes to feel that unmistakable sense of sisterhood between two women who have nothing in common other than the fact that they're both moms.