My sister in law was 7 weeks postpartum with her first baby when we first went out to coffee. At the time I was entering the third trimester with our fourth, my mom had scheduled us both massages and then told us to go for coffee while she kept the kids and gave us a morning of freedom. We spent the time talking about life, breast feeding, and babies poop schedules but at one point when we were opening up about some of the struggles in motherhood and navigating those first few months of it in particular she asked me “so, who are your closest friends? Are they working moms, stay at home moms, or a mix?” It was at that moment I realized just how important it is to surround ourselves with like-minded moms. There are all sorts of labels that moms can wear out there; crunchy moms, helicopter moms, hands off moms, non vax moms, WAHM moms, SAHM moms, work out of the home moms, step moms, adopted moms, grand-moms, homeschool moms, PTO moms, soccer moms, the list could go on and on.
But the one thing all of these moms have in common is this little narrative we all play in our heads telling us that we need to fit into the role of one of these moms, and we spend hours and weeks and months trying to figure out just which kind of mom we are and then when we finally do make a decision a new narrative begins telling us all the reasons we were wrong to pick that ‘type’ of mom. The stay at home moms wonder if they’re missing out on life outside of motherhood, the working moms feel guilty for not being with their kids, the part time working moms stress that they aren’t good at either of their roles, the step mom's question if they are up to par, helicopter moms worry they’re over crowding, hands off moms worry they aren’t crowding enough. And so we seek answers, we read books, search for blogs, join moms groups, confide in coworkers, call our moms all in an attempt to find validation of what we are already sure of.. we made the wrong mom choice.
But my sister in law's question kind of spiraled my mind into asking some questions about motherhood and our roles.
- Why do we have to pick just one?
- What is the key to finding peace in the role(s) we have chosen?
While I want you to answer those questions for yourself, I also think it’s important to share the answers I came up with in asking myself these same questions.
I hated labels in high school, and I hate labels today. Nevertheless labels are a way to distinguish characteristics that link us to other human beings. It’s a way our brains process the potential to connect with other humans, and help us decipher the things we can relate to in an acquaintance and whether or not we would be compatible friends. It’s like our brains organizing people into categories that we can remember them by and while society has developed the keen ability to rip apart that process and exploit how ‘unfair’ it is, it’s also something that is inevitable and if done right, helpful. The problem I think that society actually has with labels (and maybe just has a hard time verbalizing) is when we become limited by the label we carry. Like “oh, she’s a pastor's daughter, she can’t possibly like Usher”. There’s a label that is limiting and untrue. Or “She has four young kids? She would be irresponsible to start a business right now”. Also limiting and untrue. One of the greatest things I think God did when He created us was to make us multifaceted. It’s one of the best parts about being human and cultivating relationships because no two people are exactly alike. Some peoples playlists include Beyoncé and Elevation Worship, some have the Moana Soundtrack and Breaking Benjamin. Yet when it comes to motherhood we think we have to limit ourselves to one genre of mom. That belief is both limiting and untrue, and I think it’s so much of why we as moms struggle with the narrative we have playing in our head. We leave room for ourselves to like two different types of music but we don’t allow space to be two kinds of mom and then we beat ourselves up when our nature takes us from one type of mom to the next.
I challenge you to sit down and write down all the types of mom that you are, or maybe even all the types of mom that you want to be. Write down a list and then read it over and over, and as you read all the different labels you carry as a mom I challenge you to accept, appreciate and love each one of those things about you. Our society needs to stop teaching that we are limited by the labels we wear but we as moms need to stop telling ourselves that we can only wear one label. You can be more than one type of mom! You are more than one type of mom. You are a special brand of mom that only you can embody. You are fearfully and wonderfully made into a unique mixture of whatever makes you, you. And I really do want you to sit down and write out all the ‘labels’ you wear as a mom and view the masterpiece that is you as a mom when you’re done. Take in the fact that no one on earth has that unique combination of mom, and that means that there is no standard that you need to live up to except for the one you choose to strive for. That means that no one can tell you that your version of motherhood is wrong, that means that no one gets to have a say in how you navigate being a mom because no one can 100% understand the magic that is you as a mom. God gave you these unique characteristics because He knew your special brand of mom is exactly what your kids needed. Take pride in that! Imagine what the world would be if every mom loved the type of mom they were rather than focus on how they aren’t little Johnny's mom from down the street. Johnny’s mom is what Johnny needs, and your kids are nothing like Johnny so why are you trying to give them a mom that doesn’t meet the needs that your kids have? You are exactly what your kids need. Read that again, you are exactly what your kids need. Own it. Be proud of it. Wear it like a badge of honor.
I get it, this is all easier said than done. It’s easy to write down a list and feel good about it for a few days and then completely forget about it in a week and come back to comparing ourselves to Johnny’s mom. Which brings me to the second question I asked myself. If we logically know and believe that we don’t have to pick one type of mom, how then do we implement that belief into our lives after years of feeling like we need to fit in? What can we do to stay on the straight and narrow of wearing our special mom badge with honor? Is there a trick or a secret to finding peace and contentment in our brand of mom?
Yep, there is.
Going back to the question my sister in law asked me when we were out to coffee. She asked “who are your friends?”
My friends, you guys, are the secret ingredient to how I stay grounded in who I am as a mom. And no, I don’t mean the moms that I know and talk to once a month at the kids soccer practice. I mean the friends I have that are moms that speak life into who I am as a mom. The moms who’s ‘labels’ are similar to mine. The moms who are walking through similar seasons of motherhood with kids my kids ages, moms who are working a side hustle while raising kids, the moms who have 4+ kids, the moms whose husbands work long hours, the moms who thrive on personal development. Not all of my mom friends carry all of these characteristics but the ones who have the most similarities to my brand of mom are the ones who get me the most. They are the ones who speak life into me when I feel empty. They are the ones who don’t make me feel like I need to compete or live up to a certain standard of mom, they are the ones who accept me for who I am, right where I am. Guys, I have 5 friends. 5 people who are my sounding board for when life gets too heavy. 5 people who have their own special brand of mom who speak life to my brand of mom in different, unique and just what I need ways. These women have walked through things that I have walked through, they are experiencing life in ways that are similar to me, some of them are more successful, some of them are less successful but the stuff that makes up who are as women and moms is sewn together from the same threads. When I forget who I am, they remind me that who I am is enough. When I forget my brand of mom, they remind me that my brand is exactly what my kids need. Finding these women has been a vital piece of knowing, accepting and loving my own special brand of mom.
Some friendships however, are seasonal. When I was a stay at home mom I had a completely different group of mom friends, because I was in a different season of motherhood then. At that time of my life, my fellow stay at home moms were the ones who got me, and I understood them. But seasons change, and that’s ok. That’s life. There are some friendships that can withstand the change of season but some friendships are meant to be a part of your life for a certain season to help you navigate it and then there may come a point where you are both heading different directions and THAT IS OK! It doesn’t mean there has to be a big blow up fight or drama because we are adults now but it does mean you can drift apart and it still be a healthy transition. I have friends who in previous seasons of motherhood were my lifeline to getting through and as time went on we ended up going down two different paths of motherhood. I will forever look back on our times with such fondness and a deep gratitude for what those friendships meant to me in that season but we are both aware that we are different people now, on different paths of motherhood and what we need in friendships looks different now so to try and force the friendship we had into a new season of life wouldn’t work for either of us. We will always love each other, and we will always pray for and cheer each other on but she needs encouragement and close community in a way that I can’t understand because I’m not walking the same walk that she is now and vice versa. Understanding that in a healthy way will not only keep you from burning bridges and adding to the guilt that you already carry but the knowledge and acceptance of that will help you cultivate new, healthy friendships as you enter new seasons of motherhood.
Finding these friendships is hard, I get it. But because you have made that list of your special brand of mom you know where to start. If you are a believer, look at church. If you are a maker, look to your fellow maker community. If you are a working mom, look to your coworkers. If you’re a stay at home mom, seek other stay at home moms. You are going to have to do some work to find the friendships that will breathe life into you, it will take a little trial and error, but the reward will be well worth it. Because mama, you are one special super hero brand of mom and you deserve to be surrounded by people who will love you and encourage you to wear that badge proudly.