Finding the village

The SOS text came across my phone Tuesday afternoon like the bat signal in a dark summer sky. It was on a text chain that, for all intents and purposes, has been one of my lifelines for the last year. We are a group of girlfriends and fellow moms who text constantly during our best moments and our worst, sharing everything from parenting advice, to recipes we’ve tried, to crazy things our kids have done, to support and encouragement on a tough day. And so on Tuesday when my phone buzzed the familiar tone, I looked immediately and saw a friend’s plea.

“I just can’t keep up with everything. I’m so overwhelmed. Please tell me I’m not alone.”

Quickly, the eight of us jumped in, those three speech bubble dots on our phone screens appearing in a melodic pattern one after another as we responded. 

“You’re not alone.”

“I feel the same way as you!”

“This week has been no joke. Is it Friday yet?”

“Take a breath. You are enough.”

That last one hit home for all of us: You are enough. Three simple words. Three simple words that are easily forgotten, taken for granted, or sabotaged by our inner critic who is trying to do it all, be it all, have to all, and give it all…all at the same time. I wish I could say that text chains like this were uncommon among my friends but in the reality of motherhood, it seems that we feel as though we’re floundering as often as we feel that we’re conquering. 

Over the last few days, I’ve thought a lot about that pressure we put on ourselves as moms and as women and realized that when it comes to motherhood, pressure is a collective experience. As new moms, we’re given endless, well-meaning and often unsolicited advice. Sleep when the baby sleeps. Don’t hold the baby too much. Don’t put the baby down too much. Enjoy every moment. And so on. Even before we have children, people ask WHEN we are going to have children. Let’s face it… the cycle of advice, pressure and opinions (both from external sources and even from within) starts before we’re even moms.

During the early days of quarantine last Spring, “self-care” was a big buzz word. It’s a common term in my professional life and Google has endless suggestions for what it could mean or look like. And yet, in the last twelve months, article after article has denounced the activities many moms have come to appreciate as that coveted self-care as not being “self-care” at all. Activities like grocery shopping alone. Going to Target alone. Taking a shower with the door closed. Articles claimed that these are just necessities in life and not actually self-care because, for example, showering is essential for hygiene and grocery shopping is essential to eating. (And if you’re questioning those examples, try telling the average suburban mom that Target isn’t essential.) 

Here’s the thing. Does a day at the spa being pampered sound more relaxing than hiding in my bathroom with a face mask on while I listen to yelling in the other room? Yes. Does time to myself without a “to do” list sound more rejuvenating than running errands alone while enjoying full control of the radio? Of course. But sometimes, those activities aren’t possible and so self-care has to fit in to the nooks and crannies of life until a more “acceptable” form of self-care can happen.  And, for what it’s worth, I I LOVE grocery shopping alone because it’s an opportunity for me to discover foods I haven’t seen before, envision dinner ideas inspired by ingredients in the aisles, and picture myself somewhere between being a contestant on Top Chef and Supermarket Sweep. For me, it’s self-care, and also productive and effective… I’m nothing if not efficient at multi-tasking. 

So, this Mother’s Day, for the moms in your life, and all the moms in mine… hear this: Whether you get time alone to pee or a whole day to yourself, whether you define self-care as snuggling with your kids or curling up alone with a good book, or anything in between (Target included), don’t let other people’s opinions get in the way of you doing what’s best for you.

You are enough. You are not alone. You are doing great.

And, the next time you feel like you’re floundering, find a group of fellow moms and tell them. Let them lift you up. And then when the time comes, lift up the next one feeling that way. We’re all in this together. 

It really does take a village, not just to raise our kids, but to raise ourselves too. Happy Mother’s Day!

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