The list of things I would tell my new mom self is about as long as my arm: Not all pacifiers are created equal…. Colic does not last forever…. Listen to your gut, not the outside noise… Let the baby fall asleep on you…. It’s OK to cry because you are past the point of exhaustion…. Make decisions within the walls of your home, not the ways of the world…. Love your body for what it has just created…
After having my first child, I was about as green to motherhood as they come. I quit my teaching job to start my career as a stay-at-home mom, spent my days (and nights) getting to know my brand new, colicky baby, and wondered just how long I would last before I ran to the local nanny agency, begging for a Mary Poppins to take up residence in our guest room. As I look back on those early days of motherhood, the number one must-have on my list comes in the form of a mom, plain and simple. So, sweet 28-year-old mama, before you roam the aisles of Target debating which body wash will be good enough for your bundle of joy, know that you need a mom for that season. And you need a mom for the season of teething. And potty training. And just about every season after that.
The Baby Season Moms
I am fortunate to still have what I call my “Baby Season Mommy Friends.” We met through a local mothers’ group that convened once a month in the evenings to discuss all things motherhood and beyond. We ate dinner together, cried together, and navigated the ways of babyhood together. Because meetings occurred in the evenings, our group was a delightful mix of working moms, fresh from the office, and stay-at-home moms, freshly showered and excited to eat a meal with other adults. I looked forward to the food, fellowship, laughter, and new friendships that this group afforded me. I learned many new tricks of the trade from moms who were on their second or third new baby, and felt connected to other first-time mamas who, just like yours truly, were trying to get an extra hour or two of sleep a night.
My baby season mamas hold such a special place in my heart for various reasons, but mainly because they saw me at the start of this journey. Through sleepless nights and endless days, mismatched clothes with a side of dark circles under the eyes, solid food victories, and one-year-old celebrations, these moms made every stepping stone and milestone a comforting one.
The Toddler Moms
Fortunately for me, some of my Baby Season Mom Friends naturally turned into my Toddler Mommy Friends. If you happen to start your mom friend journey with this stage, consider yourself just as lucky. These are the friends who will probably end up losing weight with you because all you do is chase one- and two-year-olds all day. They are the ones who open their homes and kitchen tables to you while your tiny humans race around one another, playing but not really playing, because they are toddlers and haven’t really mastered that art yet. They are the ones you sync your calendar with for toddler library time, open gym, tiny tot art time, and any other mid-day activity that gets you and your littles out of the house and tuckered out before lunch and nap. If I’m being honest here, my Toddler Mom Friends made the outings and home playdates fun; our kids just happened to be invited.
One of the most amazing traits of Toddler Moms is their inability to judge. No temper tantrum from another child sends them home with their heads shaking. No matter how many times my child would say “no,” it was as if he/she was saying it for the first time around them. Milk is spilled on the ground and an eyelash is barely batted. A certain toddler has a hard time keeping her hands to herself and I am gently reminded that “it’s just a phase.” Someone turns their nose up at the sight of green beans; we pat her on the back and tell her that tomorrow is a new day. I always said that if you wanted to see strong, just look for those moms who are holding their own while their toddlers are throwing an all-out fit from a familiar red cart.
The Preschool Moms
The trek from toddlerhood to preschool-hood is a funny and unique experience. The kiddos transition to certain learning environments while moms feel the effects of that change. My full-time working mom friends juggled and balanced the switch from daycare to preschool while my fellow stay-at-home mom friends found themselves with two hours to themselves two days a week (which usually meant we were at the grocery store or Target). Preschool Mom Friends are crucial because they help set the stage for what our lives will look like when the kiddos reach school age. They hold our hands through that first drop-off and meet us in the parking lot long before pickup, just so we can talk about what we did for those two hours. We dabble in the waters of organizing class parties and teacher gifts, along with fundraisers and end-of-year events. Some preschool moms give us a glimpse into why Bad Moms was written, while others sit back and laugh with us through it all.
In my honest opinion, the Preschool Mom Friends challenge me to be the best mom friend I can be. With Kindergarten and the possibility of different schools for our children looming in the future, they help me stay accountable and committed to making sure we stay in touch and present outside of school. It can be something as easy as a park meetup or as wonderful as lunch and playtime at someone’s home. Whatever the case may be, those preschool moms are the ones I want in my little corner of the playground and parenthood.
The Elementary School Moms
There is no other way to say it: these mamas get school life. If you are lucky enough to have an Elementary School Mama pal with multiple kids in the same school, you need to consider her your golden ticket to life for the next decade or so. Not only will she serve as a reminder for back-to-school day and field day sign ups, but she holds all the knowledge of these events and beyond because she’s been there with her older child/children. Don’t get me wrong: technology nowadays is remarkable and makes communication from school to home seamless, even for the not-so-techy parent (ahem, me). I am referring to the insider information that this certain type of friend possesses, information that cannot be found on the teacher’s weekly newsletter or the lower school’s spotlight email, information that you didn’t know existed until a gem of a friend brings you to the well where she draws such insight. While you nod your head and become self aware of the aha moments you are having, you almost forget to thank her profusely for giving you the heads-up that dance picture day really is a three-hour ordeal and the teacher wasn’t two wine bottles in when making the schedule. Furthermore, she is kind enough to nudge you in the direction of which committee you should help with, all the while knowing you still have a kiddo at home and about an hour a week to spare for volunteer commitments. “Hi, I’m Kathy and I will be in charge of napkins at back-to-school night this year…”
My Elementary School Mom Friends and I are in the thick of it with our firsts, seconds, and thirds all learning the day away while we are over here trying to remember if the uniform has changed for this year (I was not the point person for that question because I had it all wrong), what the names of the P.E. games actually mean, and why there isn’t a coffee truck parked in the drop off line at school each morning.
My present day path with my kiddos has me somewhere between Preschool Mom and Elementary School Mom with a wonderful dose of potty-training woes sprinkled in there for good measure. Just as I lean on the friends I have made through each season of motherhood, I have no doubt that my experiences, coupled with their patient ears and welcoming hearts, have aided in my being a mom of all seasons to those around me. I aim to be the friend who always has a snack in the car and wipes in my purse, an extra gift card or two when you forget it’s teacher appreciation week, and a pair of dance tights when it all together slips your mind that your little ballerina really does need a pair for that picture day.