By Vanessa Copeland
Some of you know that being a mother is equally the most rewarding and the most challenging role you’ll ever play. You will feel a love so intense you feel like your heart may actually burst while simultaneously feeling like such a failure you convince yourself you are the first mom in the history of moms that just can’t mom. Moms usually tend to talk about the good stuff, because let’s be honest, the good stuff is sooo good. But the hard stuff is also really hard and isn’t spoken of as often. The hard stuff can take many first-time moms by surprise. I remember after my son came home from the hospital, sitting up at night crying along with my newborn because nothing I did would comfort him. I felt like a failure, I felt inadequate and so, so tired. I had no idea I could even feel that tired. If I were to poll 100 mothers, I would bet that at least 95 would report similar feelings and the other 5 are lying through their teeth. Obviously, when your child is born they become number one in your life, as they should. No one would, or rather should, argue that point. Trying to learn how to function with this whole new, all-consuming responsibility can let other areas of our life fall by the wayside. One of the areas it quickly becomes most noticeable is in our relationships. The thing to remember is that while your child is now the most important person in your life, it does not mean that others are no longer important. Mothers, especially struggling mothers, need their friendships maybe more than most. So, here are a few tips to help you find the “balance.”
Tip #1: Your friendship does not have to look the same as it did before.
This may seem like something obvious, but I have seen relationships fail because one or both parties think it will always look the same as it has before. The truth is relationships are about give and take and no relationship will ever be equal when it comes to this. Sometimes you are the taker and sometimes you are the giver. Relationships that fail do so, many times, because one person is always the giver and one person is always the taker. If you tend to be the giver and now find yourself in the taker role, do not be ashamed. Tell your friends that you can no longer participate in your traditional Sunday brunches, because you cannot even find the time or energy to bathe yourself. Tell your friends the best you can muster is some semi-witty banter via text or an invite for them to come over and watch you cry while trying to get your newborn to breastfeed. At the end of the day, all we want is to know that we matter to those who matter to us. Your friends will understand that late Saturday night shenanigans have now turned into early bird special dinners. Don’t not call or message your friends because you’re afraid they won’t want to be part of your “normal” life. The friends who are meant to stay will evolve with the relationship, if you are legitimately trying.
Tip # 2: Choose your words carefully.
This should be something we all practice anyway, mother or not. However, life-changing events, such as motherhood, can tend to make us a bit narcissistic. We become so consumed with our new role and this new tiny human that we forget the things we do and say can have an effect on others. Avoid phrases like: “Moms never rest.” “You’ll understand once you have children of your own.” “Well, I’m a mom, so…” The hard truth is, a lot of your friends would give anything to be “as tired as a mom.” While these phrases may be uttered with complete innocence, they can sting as much as any insult. They can also ostracize your friends. This kind of sentiment will only breed hurt and resentment. Try to see things from their point of view; which is not as easy as it sounds when all of your thoughts are occupied with keeping your lovebug happy and healthy. Try anyway.
Tip # 3: Make time for your friends
This may seem like an impossible task or maybe even an unfair challenge considering you have yet to find the time to breath, let alone check on someone else. However, the drowning days of motherhood don’t actually last that long and with each passing day the ocean of needs from your child recede. The fact of it is, we all get busy in life, we all have things that take up every second of our time and leave time for little else. But people make time for what’s important to them. That is a truth many cannot admit. It’s much nicer and less guilt inducing to say, “I have no idea what’s going on in your life because my kid consumes all of my time” rather than, “I have no idea what’s going on in your life because finding out just isn’t a priority to me.” Just know that regardless of the words you utter, your actions are saying the latter. Friendship doesn’t have to be some grand gesture, it can be as simple as a text of encouragement when you know your friend has a big interview coming up. But you won’t know those things unless you make the time to stay in touch. Don’t take your girlfriends for granted. They will be who you need to call when your teenager says he hates you for the first time. They will be the ones to meet you for drinks the day your son leaves for college. They will be your life after kids. Don’t wait until after your kids are gone to be a good friend.