As any stay-at-home mom knows, the job can be lonely. Of course I always have company, but it's not the kind I so often need. I've come to realize just how true the adage, "It takes a village" really is. I'm really lucky that I have family close by. I have people I can call if I need someone to pick up my kid from preschool or to watch my kids while I go to appointments. But really, I rely on my close circle of mom friends as much as I do on my family. And without them, I'd be lost.
I'm naturally an extrovert. I crave social interactions. Days when I don't leave the house are really rough for me. My partner gets home and I nearly attack him, dying to fill him in on the minutiae of my day, even though I know it's far from thrilling. But the days when I'm happiest are the days I see my friends. And although I'm sure most people feel this way, I seriously have the best friends a woman of two (soon to be three) kids could ever ask for. They've not only made my life fuller, richer, happier — they've helped me through the highs and lows of parenting, too.
This summer, as I face endless days of entertaining both kids all day, everyday, I was so thankful for playdates and the suggestions my friends offered to meet up at the library or the pool. Even on my laziest days, if I managed to let my kids play with friends, I didn't feel like a terrible mother. I could let my kids have fun while I socialized. Sometimes my friends and I talk about parenting, but more importantly, we talk about the things that are important to us outside of parenting. Being reminded that I'm more than "just a mom" is huge.
They know that watching my kids for even an hour so I can be alone in a coffee shop is a slice of heaven.
I'm a writer, and some of my best friends are writers too. While our kids play, we can talk shop. We can actually discuss artistic pursuits and encourage each other in this unpredictable career path. If it weren't for these friends, I'm not sure I'd even be writing. Even though I studied playwriting in college and devoted many hours in my teens to writing (terribly embarrassing) fan fiction, it hadn't occurred to me that I could be both a stay-at-home mom and a writer. And seriously, taking up writing fiction at my friend's urging saved my sanity. These writer friends who also have kids know what it's like to juggle parenting and writing. They know that sometimes when you're up breastfeeding a newborn, you're also chipping away at a story that won't leave you alone. They know that watching my kids for even an hour so I can be alone in a coffee shop is a slice of heaven.
Most of the time when I have a concern or an issue, I'd love advice, but mostly, I want solidarity and empathy and maybe to see that I'm not the only person woefully behind on dishes.
But I have non-writer friends with kids also. And across the board, these friends make me feel so much better about how I'm doing as a parent. We can admit our struggles to each other. It's so easy to feel alone. I feel like I must have the messiest house, or that I must be the only woman who worries about my kid to the extent that I do. Sometimes, I see these friends and I just need a gut check. I need to know how I'm doing. And not that we just get together and tell each other that we're wonderful parents. (Which we are. Obviously.) But we see firsthand that despite our friends' worries, their children are thriving, and so are ours. Most of the time when I have a concern or an issue, I'd love advice, but mostly, I want solidarity and empathy and maybe to see that I'm not the only person woefully behind on dishes.
I'm very close with my mom. And she, too, was a stay-at-home mom for many years. It's lovely to be able to go to her for advice, but I've found that other women my age understand my struggles so much better. There was a sort of pride in stoicism when my mom was parenting, this sort of deprivation of time/sleep/fun that moms seemed to wear as a badge of honor. Not that my mom would ever say "suck it up, buttercup," but I know she faced a lot of those years fairly alone. There were no online support groups for breastfeeding. Socializing was seen as a luxury, whereas I view it as a necessity. I think it was less acceptable to ask for help from family members, even partners. Women from older generations would surely roll their eyes at us "needy millennials," but I know firsthand that we just want more out of our parenting experiences. I've believe that I can be anything I want and that my needs are important as well as our kids. And, to me, this is a really, really great thing. I am the best parent I can be when I'm nurturing my own happiness and health.
They are listed as emergency contacts at my kids' schools. They are there through every high and every low, supporting me, encouraging me, reminding me that I'm not alone.
My inner circle of friends really is my village. I can tell them about my struggles and triumphs. We support each other in our parenting and in our other pursuits. I can tell them that I was up all night with a sick kid and they'll drop saltines and Pedialyte on my front steps. I can brag that my kid suddenly had a breakthrough in reading, and they'll be happy for him as I am when their kids succeed. They are listed as emergency contacts at my kids' schools. They are there through every high and every low, supporting me, encouraging me, reminding me that I'm not alone. I can text them pictures of my messy house and they'll advise me just to "burn it to the ground." I can send unattractive pictures of myself being a total goof, knowing that they'll laugh. And that they'll send me equally goofy pictures back. I can complain without worrying about being a whiner. I can tell them about my hardest days, about how my heart feels ripped out by the pain of loving my kids so much it physically hurts. And they get it.
Sometimes my partner daydreams of moving our family to someplace totally new and different. And my first thoughts are, but what about my friends?! I can't envision a life as a stay-at-home mom without them. Even in an age where we are all just a text or phone call or social media post away, I'd miss them in a way I don't want to think about. My friends save my sanity on a daily basis. They bring so much joy into my life. Second only to my kids and my partner. They are a crucial part of who I am. I wouldn't want to parent without them.