Finding safety in numbers

A funny thing happens when you have kids – you are suddenly and simultaneously filled with love, awe and amazement (not to mention the slight fear that this tiny being is relying utterly and entirely on you for everything), while also catapulted into a new kind of loneliness and isolation that exists among midnight feedings, sleepless nights and the depths of mother(or father)hood. This juxtaposition is jarring and unexpected no matter how much planning and preparation new parents go through. I went through this with both my of my babies, and both times was shocked at these conflicting feelings and experiences.

with elizabeth

Courtesy of a three year old future photographer

Before having kids, I’d heard that motherhood was the next transition point in friendship – where some friends would inevitably disappear and others would emerge. The actualization of this transition was stark. As predicted, some friendships dimmed as our priorities shifted farther apart (and some showed their true strength), and I made some incredible new friends through daycare drop-offs, play dates, the occasional parents’ night out and random evenings of sneaking out after the kids go to bed to meet a girlfriend for a scoop of ice cream (yes, the drink of our twenties has been replaced with the ice cream scoop of our thirties… and we’re okay with that).

A few nights ago I had an opportunity to get a rare mother’s night out with a friend whose daughter is exactly one week younger than my second child. We reminisced about our pregnancies and the agony of waiting those final few (uncomfortable, sleepless, anticipation-riden) weeks before our daughters were born. However, the real shared experiences came in the weeks and months after the births of our bundles of joy. They came in the 3am text conversations we had while desperately rocking our kids to sleep, and in the midday maternity leave FaceTime chats that ultimately evolved into each of us staring at the other’s ceilings while trying to breastfeed/pump/get the baby to take the bottle. It was in those moments that I understood some of the deepest and most raw moments of friendship.

This wasn’t the first time that I experienced this kind of safety in numbers. When my first daughter was born, I joined a local mother’s group, thinking it would give me a chance to get to know other women in my new neighborhood and get out of the house with my young baby for a while. Never could I have imagined how life altering joining the group would be. Every Friday, six to ten of us would meet in someone’s living room and spread blankets on the floor for the babies to “play” while we swapped stories about poop, sleep cycles, sore nipples, and extreme exhaustion (ah, motherhood!). These women became my lifeline to a new normal, and without those Friday mornings, midnight texts and crazy stories, I’m not sure I would have made it sanely (mostly) through those early months of motherhood.

Although we see each other less now (and get a bit more sleep…on a good day), those are the ties that bind. We celebrate that fact every few months with a mother’s night out and a bottle of wine. There is a shared bond that we have — that all mothers have — that is an unspoken but real link between us. That’s not to say that I don’t cherish (and need!) my friendships with those without children (I DO!), or those that are not women (I DO!), but more to say that the safety and security that comes in numbers (and text messages) at 3am is not to be taken lightly.

How have you found your own safety in numbers?

3 thoughts on “Finding safety in numbers

  1. Well said, Ryley! Us moms need our support group to cope with the stresses of motherhood. Keep up the great writing!

  2. When my now grown sons were little my “safety in numbers” was through La Leche League, a breastfeeding (and really also an attachment parenting) support group. I needed that support again when they were teens and generally it came from the same people since we shared parenting philosophies. I think for me it was the reassurance that I wasn’t “doing it wrong” (i.e. screwing up my kids) that was so helpful. And oh those rare adult “play dates” with a bottle of wine! There were times I thought I’d lose my mind if I didn’t have some adult conversation that had nothing to do with parenting!

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