I feel enormous empathy with new mothers desperately trying to make sense of the massive upheaval that I call the REAL change of life. Some days all I can promise is that you will make it to the light at the end of the tunnel –and no, that the tiny glimmer in the distance isn’t the headlight of a train coming to rock your already wobbly world.
I have though thought long and hard about how we do get through with our sanity (mostly) intact. Of course, there are those who would debate the definitions of ‘sanity’ and ‘intact’ and I am the first to acknowledge that we become changed beings through the journey of mothering small (and not so small) people, but I am utterly convinced that the most important survival factor for any mum is great girlfriends.
Being there for each other is what girlfriends do. When I was threatening to miscarry my third baby, my friend Sue came and cleaned my house – even the toilet. She simply arrived with food and whipped around without a fuss. I had met Sue a few years earlier when she moved from another town for her husband’s new job managing an art gallery. On her husband’s first day at this new job, Sue went into premature labour and called me (a mutual friend had given her my phone number) desperately seeking somebody to care for her two toddlers. For the next few weeks, Sue’s children shared their days with my tots who were, coincidentally, the same ages, while she walked the precarious line of trying to hang onto her pregnancy until her baby was viable (he grew into a healthy young fellow).
This time, when my baby arrived, my husband was studying at night classes and Sue’s husband was home early. Her kids also went to bed earlier than mine so when my baby had her evening crying time (night after night), Sue would often just ‘arrive’ and either walk my baby while I put the boys to bed or she would read my boys their bedtime stories and tuck them up.
The best thing about good girlfriends is that, as well as sharing our triumphs (he slept four hours straight last night!), we can talk openly about our feelings (I feel like running away – without a lover!) our fantasies (all I want is a loo somewhere – in peace!) and our failings (when will I enjoy sex again?) without feeling judged. They understand and accept us where we are at right now and they let us vent without trying to give advice, tell us we ‘have choices’ or try to ‘fix’ things (like our partners often do). They are also confident enough in our friendships to tell it to us straight when we need some perspective, like the time I expressed my frustration over one of my wilful daughters. As I exclaimed, “where the hell did I get this child?” the girlfriend who knew me all too well, presented me with an ‘aha’ moment when she replied, “she’s just like her mother!”
No matter how busy we are in the everyday muddle of motherhood, it is important to nurture our friendships with our girlfriends – with a phone call, an email, a coffee( with or without kids in tow). It is this support circle that will see us through the ups and downs and help us make it through. We will collect new friends and some of the older ones may drop away due to changing circumstances. This is healthy too – as our children grow we will each need differing support networks: my own mother ‘hood’ now includes women who reflect differing facets of my mothering journey (some aren’t mothers and others aren’t partnered), but my best girlfriends are the handful of women who have shared the journey of watching our babies grow from playgroups to parties and everything in between – we can still have a good whinge or laugh and cry together. But best of all, I don’t have to explain myself and neither do they.
For more support to gently nurture your baby (and yourself) through the important first year, check out Pinky’s book ‘Parenting By Heart’ and, for a regular Mummy confidence boost as you the awesome job or parenting your baby, check out Pinky’s Mummy Member and Mummy Mentor programs. These programs allow access to an archive of recordings of interviews with experts and the Mummy Mentor program also offers structured support, including monthly phone calls with Pinky