I remember visualizing my life when I was younger – I thought I’d go to college right after high school, maybe join a sorority, and live on campus… or at least not at my parents’ house. Somewhere between pulling all-nighters (both to study and to live up that Greek life) and graduation, I’d meet the love of my life. We’d finish school, I’d start my teaching career (and he’d do whatever it is that makes him happy and helps us save for our white picket fence house in suburbia), we’d get married, buy a house, and start having kids.
All this would be accomplished by age 27.
As I write this, I am a 31-year-old teacher preparing to begin the second year of my career. I am unmarried, not a homeowner, and (with the exception of my cat) I am childless.
So here’s the million dollar question: am I bummed that the future my 15-year-old-self envisioned is far from materializing?
If I’m being honest, sure, sometimes sadness creeps in when I spend too much time obsessing and comparing my life to friends’ and strangers’ alike, but most of the time, I’m not too heartbroken over the fact that motherhood still eludes me.
Like most other thirty-something-year-old women, I find myself with a huge number of married female friends, several of whom have purchased homes, and many who have at least one child, and sometimes it’s hard not to want what they have. Their lives look wonderful, and I hope and plan to build a similar life one day, but I know deep down, despite biology screaming at me to jump on that mom life when I see my friends with their babies, that I’m not there yet.
I know a lot of women my age experience the feeling that they’re losing their friends to wife life and motherhood. If you are one of the women who feel this way, perhaps you experience occasional resentment toward your newlywed or first-time mom friends or the men and children taking your partner in crime away from you. Or worse, maybe you’re afraid because you feel like you’re falling behind.
I feel the pressure too, and I think it’s normal and natural, but this burden — the feelings of loss, resentment, despair, and general panic — doesn’t have to weigh us down.
How can you stop from spinning out of control when you’re in an “I’m still unmarried and childless” stress spiral? It’s actually pretty simple: change the way you view the situation and realize that you’re not losing or missing out on anything. You actually stand to gain a ton from the friends who brave motherhood before you!
Adjust your perspective by first realizing what an amazing blessing and opportunity it is to have mom friends in your life. Instead of lamenting the loss of your drinking buddy or road trip partner, please realize that moms are some of the strongest, most giving, most reliable people on this planet, and not just for their kids, but for you, too!
As someone who one day hopes to be a mom herself, I see these women for the precious gems and treasure troves of knowledge and wisdom they are. I am surrounded by to-be moms, new mom, and moms with kids in their teens, and I can honestly tell you that these women are a wealth of knowledge and I appreciate them more than they could ever know, and even though being around my mom friends with young children sometimes gives me a temporary case of baby fever and empty uterus syndrome, for many reasons I count myself so lucky to be surrounded by badass moms. Here is just a small amount of some important lessons I’ve learned from these strong, fierce, loving mothers:
1. Mom friends give helpful advice, often without even knowing it. One of the things that often comes to mind when I think about my future as a mother is the absence of my own mom. Since she passed away before seeing me become a mother myself, I often feel a void when I think of one day becoming a mom – who will I get advice from? Who will tell me to get off the internet when I start Googling every single strange thing my child does? Who is going to prepare me for the lifelong job ahead? There is so much about pregnancy and motherhood that remains a mystery to those of us not there yet. In my mother’s absence, it’s nice to know that I have so many women in my life who have done it all before me and who will give me real, unfiltered advice.
If you’re lucky enough to have several mom friends who are also friends with each other, make some time to hang out with them. Inevitably, kid talk will happen. Don’t let your eyes glaze over and mentally check out. Your friends are not only sharing about their lives (they listen when you talk about stuff they don’t understand or are terribly intrigued in, right?), but you may be able to glean bits of knowledge and insight that you may not get otherwise. I have learned so much from my friends that they themselves didn’t know about pregnancy, birth, or children until they were already pregnant. Listen to what they have to say, and it may actually help reduce your stress and anxiety later in life if/when you have kids of your own.
2. They help clarify motherhood misconceptions. Just being around my mom friends has answered questions I didn’t realize I had and prepares me for the anxieties and uncertainties that I now know are inevitable for new moms. From these women, I have learned that the mother-child connection is not instant, and that is normal. I learned the difference between actual postpartum depression and “baby blues.” I’ve learned that birth plans rarely work out, and seem to more or less exist to help new parents feel in control when they feel like every single other aspect of life is chaos. I’ve learned that even if things don’t go as planned, everything will turn out fine. I’ve learned how important it is to trust your partner long before the baby arrives, and how difficult that sometimes is for new moms.
3. You and your partner know your baby better than the internet does. The internet has a lot of opinions and unsolicited advice, but not everything that works for one family will work for yours. A friend told me stories about being unable to breastfeed and the ridicule she received for having to turn to formula. Other friends tried the most natural approaches possible, from cloth diapers to organic, homemade foods, but they soon realized that the excessive work and costs were causing them to burn out. Some friends have been able to successfully maintain the parenting approach they envisioned with very few adjustments. The bottom line is, as you and your partner learn more about your baby and develop your parenting styles, you will be able to determine what works best. As long as your family is healthy, don’t let the internet, relatives, or unsolicited-advice-givers shame you.
4. New moms — get a hobby! Find something and make time for something that you enjoy doing outside of being a mom. When your baby comes, you don’t cease to be you. My mom friends have stressed the importance of freeing yourself of 24/7 mommy duty by asking your partner to hang out with your bundle of joy while you go out with the girls, go for a run, meditate, or do whatever it is that you liked to do for yourself before you were a mom. They tell me some moms have trouble doing this without guilt, and others can’t wait to hand the baby off to a partner or relative. The important thing is that you remember you and your baby are two separate people — you don’t always need to be attached to each other. It’s not healthy for either of you or for your partner.
Speaking of partners, don’t forget that your partner needs this time and space, too. It’s important for you to split the work and the “me time.” Equally important, you and your partner need time to be the two of you. Plan date nights, go out, enjoy each others’ company. I’m told a lot of new parents struggle with this, but it is essential in maintaining a happy and healthy family.
5. It is still entirely possible to be a fully-functioning human who eats, sleeps, and works after the baby comes. So many of my experienced mom friends have told me that despite what you think (you, uninformed non-mother, like myself), babies don’t need to be held all. The. Time. They are perfectly happy in a bouncer or getting tummy time while you do what you need to do… say, eat or shower. Nap when they nap, eat when they eat and don’t be afraid to lean on friends and family for help. These things will help new moms save their sanity and better moms, partners, and people.
There are so many more pieces of priceless information I have gleaned from my mom friends. I could go on at length, but odds are, if you have mom friends of your own you’ll learn much more from them than you will from this post, but I do want to share one last incredibly powerful and key piece of information with you:
The most important thing I have learned from these amazing moms and strong women is that motherhood doesn’t look like any one thing. Motherhood can come as a happy surprise to a thirty-four-year-old and her boyfriend. It can look like a forty-something-year-old finally having a successful pregnancy after years of complications and heartache. It can look like a thirty-year-old and her husband learning as they go with their first pregnancy. It can look like a long and arduous adoption process. I know all of these moms and so many more. Motherhood isn’t any one thing, and I thank each of them from the bottom of my heart for reminding me of that, without saying a word, all the time.
In short, build friendships with some badass mothers. They’re tough. They’re smart as hell. They’ve got experience. They have patience like no other human you will ever meet. They give. They love. They are the women you need in your life.