The Mums I Couldn’t Get By Without (& Why I’m So Thankful for Them)

Since becoming a mum this time last year, I’ve learned a lot. One thing that’s very clear is that as a mother in a world with internet, mobile devices and social sharing, my opportunities and sense of community are vast. When I have a question or a problem I have multiple networks and sources I can check for advice and information. When I’m curious to see how a distant friend is doing, I’m able to scroll my phone and see happy snaps of her and her growing family.

But alongside all of the knowledge as a global community of mums, I’ve noticed something else, something sad. These ridiculous “Mummy Wars” I’d heard alluded to before I had a child are real. There is competition now on a level that far exceeds what my own mum dealt with at P&C meetings or play dates in the ’80s and ’90s. With more opportunity to share and to learn, something has happened to mums that has made us feel like we need to compete. We need to know everything, do everything and always look over our shoulder for another mum that might be judging our actions, our choices.

I’ve seen it all —  bottle-shaming, one-upping over who’s lost the baby weight, and all-out wars on whether the cry-it-out method is a hands-down necessity of parenting or a form of abuse and neglect. Sometimes I am afraid to post anything, to text anything, to say anything, because I worry about what kind of flack I’ll get from judgmental mums right inside my circle. It’s hard and it’s hurtful and it often makes me feel like hiding in my home with my husband and our daughter and just keeping our choices to ourselves.

But then bursting through the drama come these awesome beacons of friendship, empowerment and kindness where I’m not always expecting it. There’s a reason I continue to take my daughter to classes and play dates (okay, aside from her well-being and social development). This year, I’ve seen a lot on the mummy circuit and some of it was hard to watch. But so much more of it was pleasant, helpful and real. So I’d like to take a moment to express how great it feels to have those mums around who show they care.

I’m thankful for the mum who came over to my apartment in her husband’s tracky pants because I texted her beforehand, lamenting that I’d been so busy and exhausted taking care of my newborn, I hadn’t taken a shower in two days.

Thankful, too, for the mum who is actually a friend I once had a falling-out with. We hadn’t spoken in years, but she sent me a Facebook message out of the blue to tell me she’d seen my blog posts and pictures and that I was doing a good job. This happened on a particularly rough day for me, and her words meant so much.

I’m beyond thankful for the mum who didn’t bat an eyelash when she saw me on a rickety bench in the ladies room at the mall, bent over my daughter crying. I was trying unsuccessfully to breastfeed her and she refused to latch — this fellow mum didn’t have to say a word. She saw us and hustled her kids out to give me some space, sending a knowing glance my way.

I’m thankful for the grace and forgiveness of the women in the new mum’s circle I fell into a few months ago. We’re so tired that someone often uses the wrong word, asks a weird question or pauses mid-sentence and it’s all forgiven instantly. We speak a sort of patchwork language, we mums. It’s nice to know I can count on these women to get over it and move on.

There are not enough words in the dictionary to express my gratitude for the mum who shows up at my apartment with chocolate, coffee or wine. Let’s face it — parenting is tough stuff, and a vice or two goes a long way on a long day.

I’m thankful for the mum who is herself quite punctual, but somehow always manages to forgive my 20-minute lateness to our coffee or lunch date with the kids. She knows at this point that it’s inevitable, that it’s not the “real” me, but it’s the mum-me. And she knows I’m doing my best; she’s just learned to show up a little late herself now, too.

I’m thankful for the mum who absolutely crushes that Pinterest project at play group, bringing expertly crafted vessels filled with homemade, healthy snacks that are personalised with all the kids’ namesWe need mums like that, even if we envy their togetherness. These mums show they care by putting tremendous effort into adorable pursuits for all to enjoy.

But I’m also thankful for the mum in that same group who forgot it was her day to bring a snack the next week, and let us all scrape together some vending machine change for a couple bags of passed chips. I am usually in the second camp, despite my love of Pinterest.

I’m thankful for any mum who invites me over and ushers me into a home that’s as messy and love-filled as my own. Don’t get me wrong, I love a clean house and respect an organised moum who can keep it up, but sometimes it’s good to know I’m not the only one who has trouble maintaining that.

I can’t even begin to say how thankful I am for the mums who gave me advice about breastfeeding, birth recovery, sleep-training, marriage woes and cars seat brands… all while knowing that I would take what I needed and leave the rest. Resting on the tips and tricks of fellow mums while feeling comfortable making my own decisions has been solid gold this first year as a mum.

There’s a special place in my heart, of course, for the mum who is mine. I never understood how much she loved me until I had my daughter. Watching her watch me as a mum — with respect, empathy, and adoration — has been magic. I couldn’t be more grateful for everything she’s taught me and the rules she’s told me to break.

Becoming a mum was the single most transformative event of my life thus far. And like any monumental change, with it have come many challenges. I’m so thankful for the mums who have stood by my side, whether we know each other or not. The ones who offer a knowing smile when my baby is having a public meltdown, or toss a few wipes my way when a dummy hits the footpath.

Thankful, too, for the mums who go out of their way to introduce themselves at the park when they could go on in their own world, letting me adjust to a new city, a new world, on my own. I’m thankful for my little girl, because she’s turned me into the mum I always wanted to be — and I hope that one day, whatever she does in life, she is lucky enough to have the support and love in a community of women that I have found from so many mums this year.

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Photo: Getty