Please pardon me for publishing this about a week late. I am, after all, a new mom.
Friends don’t get enough recognition on Mother’s Day, and they really should. Before I became a mom, I associated Mother’s Day with family. Don’t forget to call mom! Get her some flowers. Say something nice to grandma. But the commercial aspects of Mother’s Day as a biological event only carry us so far.
After all, even before I became a mom, I was aware how painful this day can be for many. For those facing infertility, or loss of pregnancies, children, or parents. For those whose mothers and families have shunned them for their sexual orientation. For those left feeling unrecognized or unappreciated as step-parents, or caregivers, or birth parents. For those who have families that don’t look like the kind that get slapped on the back of a minivan with those little white stencil stickers.
I knew, before experiencing this first Mother’s Day as a mom, that it is friends who carry us through the hard parts of family. What I didn’t know is how much friends could and often would rise to support my journey as a new mom.
During these past 11 months, I have learned how incredibly isolating new motherhood can, at times, feel. There is this crying baby that won’t respond to anything and you haven’t slept or showered in several days and OMG! And then there are those first forays into parenting in front of others. Breastfeeding in public or taking a baby to a restaurant — these are often represented not as personal decisions but something that must be guided by what others think. Being honest can be intimated as a matter of (poor) etiquette: talking about your children is boring, posting pictures of your baby on social media is aggrandizing, discussing the details of birth is TMI. Some people stop giving a shit about you. Some people assume you’ve stopped giving a shit about your career. Sometimes people say judgmental things about your parenting decisions, and it feels like a rusty knife scraping the folds of your psyche.
But the overwhelming truth I have learned is this: Entering into motherhood, like other major life changes, reveals who your true friends are, and sometimes those answers are surprising. People who might have seemed more like casual acquaintances come out of the woodwork, offering support and handwritten cards in the mail. Colleagues and professional contacts who, without prompt, make proactive space to let you know your child is welcome at an after-hours gathering. It has been especially moving to me to see how some of my intentionally child-free feminist friends who really, really, and rightfully don’t like the assumption of a “mother” role for women have noiselessly made space to accommodate a new me, and my little one; and but also how loud-and-proud feminist mothers have welcomed me with open arms and helped me negotiate the complicated feelings that come with being newly beholden to a little one who needs you all the time. Blessed are those who acknowledge that it can take much more time for me to respond to and initiate calls, texts and emails, or make carefree plans to do “adult” things, and value me with patience for what I can give now.
Motherhood is something that we can’t do without support, and usually it’s family that gets the acknowledgement. It is friends, those who are mothers and non-mothers, who are the unsung heroes of Mother’s Day. I was delighted and surprised to learn on my first Mother’s Day as a mom that I would be flooded with love, support and well-wishes not just from family, but from friends. Thank you.