Before I became a mom, I could not fully comprehend the challenges a young mom would face. I would often see my friends who had became a mother overnight struggling to keep a smile on their faces. Most would be seen carrying a big load of baby stuff in their bags, with dark eye rings and messier hair than before. Their constant complaints about baby waking up umpteen times in the middle of the night and breastfeeding issues would always fly pass my head like how a dart would miss the bull’s eye.
After I became a mom, the challenges that were often heard of and read as complaints were no longer alien to me – the experience of having engorged breasts, a fussing baby, dealing with sleep and feeding routines, managing diaper explosive experiences, waking up umpteen times in the wee hours of the night and being on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for year after year is really not for the faint-hearted.
A Season Of New Friendships
Other than dealing with the hormonal and emotional changes in my body and the sudden change of role in my life, I was faced with the daily battles from my relatives and parents on strict confinement rules, how to better care for my child and my own battle of self questioning as a young mother. Yet during this period of time, I was also welcomed into this new phase of life by a hand full of friends who are experienced mothers. These “new” friends and acquaintances whom I have not been in contact for the longest time or even shared my life with before have become my closest soul mates in my motherhood journey. They would share my pains and my joys, gave me encouragement and support during this challenging phase of time.
Even mothers whom I have befriended on the forums have all suddenly become my closer friends who would understand my challenges even before I will need to explain them. They would assure me that the emotional disconnection with my child and the struggles that I face daily were nothing but NORMAL. These reunited or newly formed friendships have definitely given me tons of support, encouragement and sanity through the beginnings of my motherhood journey.
A Season of Loss with Old Friends
While entering motherhood could be a season of new friendships, it can also be a season of loss with old friends. While each of us do not intentionally leave or abandon friendships when one of our friends becomes a parent, the unfamiliarity of the challenges our friend now face and the different phase in our lives will somehow distant the friendship and would now need a little more effort to empathize and understand. It is important for us to know that it is not anyone’s fault if the friendship distanced due to the different phases in our lives.
Single friends whom I’ve hang out with for the longest time suddenly didn’t felt that we were close anymore. A normal “How have you been?” would trigger my emotional and hormonal senses to grumble about my new uphill journey. Some would be upset if I was late for an appointment due to the need to settle a wailing toddler at home, or if I took a longer time to walk due to my heavy pregnancy bump. The struggles that I share during our conversation would probably be alien to them like how it was for me before I became a mother.
Some would try to give advice to offer help such as “Why don’t you leave your baby alone and let him cry out loud? I heard it works.” Some would question the need for us to give our spouses instructions on how to carry out bedtime routines before we can skip out of our homes, or their sudden change in the conversation topic would sometimes make me feel that they probably didn’t understand the extent of my challenges and exhaustion as a new mother. Please don’t get me wrong. I don’t think it’s their fault not to understand the full extent of it, as I didn’t before this too.
That said, thankfully I still have some good single friends whom I’ve kept in touch with even though my time is now limited as I am adjusting to life as a new mom. Some of these friends chose to stay even when my life responsibilities have changed, sought to understand and extend their grace as I maneuver haphazardly making mistakes in my journey and relearning how to manage my friendships and motherhood all over again. I really appreciate their patience, efforts and understanding in maintaining the friendship with me. Some of these girlfriends did eventually become a mom and we also got closer thereafter.
Losing Friends To A New Battle – Competitive Mothering
Entering motherhood also open doors to a new battleground for competitive mothering. The competition would begin right from the moment we deliver our child – how we choose to deliver, whether we choose to breastfeed, how we choose to raise our child – on our own or to entrust them lovingly to another caregiver and the list goes on. When our child becomes a toddler the battle would evolve to competing to see whose child can walk or run, who is speaking more words, who is potty trained earlier than the other, or who is still breastfeeding the longest etc. Even though we may not intentionally compete, the differences in our mindsets such as our school of thought or values in parenting, our mothering instincts, insecurities and self-guard will drive each of us differently consciously and unconsciously to start one or to protect ourselves from one.
With competitions like these, it’s hard not to lose friends or even family members either intentionally or unintentionally – such as mother friends whom we have made for the longest period of time, those who have walked with you before your delivery or even family members who may unconsciously make unfair parenting judgments on your choice of parenting.
While most motherhood journeys aren’t smooth sailing like how the movies would depict it would be, we take comfort to know that all mothers go through the similar challenges and that we are not alone. I have to constantly remind myself that there is a season and time for everything under the sun.
While this could be a season for me to focus on my child, I will choose to focus on my mothering journey with confidence and pride knowing that this will only be for a season. While I know that it can be challenging to manage old friendships and to help them to understand my new journey, I take comfort and trust to know that they will understand eventually when their turn comes, and it is not anyone’s fault.
If you are sad knowing that you are losing a bulk of your friends who are in a different season as you are now, we can choose to rejoice to know that we now have new mother friends whom we can walk our rocky journeys with.
If you are bothered by the competitive vibe among your mother friends around you, know that this is just another manifestation of parental anxiety, which we all suffer from occasionally.
Choose to leave the group if it’s bothering you too much and if they are constantly competing against one another – as this may be a healthier option for your mind and soul for this season. But should you decide to stay on, rather than choosing to always defend our child, we can choose a different stance.
We can reply these self-praising moms and their constant sharing about their nursery school genius by saying something encouraging like, “Wow, that is great.” And then choose to move on.
There are plenty of other supportive mothers whom we can invest our time and energy to build better relationships with, so that we can build each other up rather than to tear each other down.
By Yvonne Chee