Becoming a mom changed every single thing about me. Starting this blog when I fell pregnant was the first step in a journey to me discovering depths of love and understanding I never knew existed. For my baby, yes; but also for and with some of the most incredible women I could imagine. The friendships I have been blessed with since becoming a mom are beyond what anybody deserves. Least of all me with my constant busyness and exhaustion and inability to talk on a phone or drive any distance. And yet, these women get that. Not only do they get it, they live it too and it is part of the reason our relationships are so strong. Only another mom knows…
As somebody who au paired for many years, and even worked in a kindergarten briefly, I was the baby whisperer. Every baby and child adored me and I was able to instantly soothe them no matter what the circumstances. So, when people said, “only another mom can know”, I didn’t just roll my eyes I got furiously angry.
I did everything any mother did. I was with my little boy every moment of the day and often into and through the night. I fed him, bathed him, dressed him, changed diapers, potty trained him, read to him, played with him, swam with him, taught him manners, taught him to talk, to draw, to write, I slept with him, looked after him when he was sick, dried his tears when he fell… I answered telephone calls at all hours of the day and night when he was overseas, because he wouldn’t sleep without hearing my voice. I loved him more than anything. What exactly was it that people thought I wouldn’t understand???
I was wrong. While I loved him, as if he were my own, I wasn’t physically connected to him. Nothing anybody ever told me could have prepared me for the deep forever physical connection Charly and I have. From the second I found out I was pregnant it was there. I lost myself in it completely until she was over a year old. It still knocks the breath out of me at random times. And there are still these utterly surreal moments where I am hit all over again that she is part of me, and from me and by me and for me. That feeling, and all the insanity, uncertainty, guilt, pride, love, fear, obsession, frustration, adoration, the all encompassing bone deep exhaustion wrapped in and around the certainty that you can do and be and overcome and destroy and build absolutely anything for this human that YOU are raising… Nobody other than another mom can understand that.
And that’s what these forever friendships are built on. This deep, sometimes unspoken, but often exploding out of you the second you are around them, knowledge that they will understand you. They know, that when you are freaking out because your child hasn’t slept in 2 years and their favourite thing to do is kangaroo kick you in the throat and you are calling that precious part of your soul every awful thing you can think of and talking about getting in the car and just driving as fast and as far as you can… They know you aren’t an insane psycho who hates your child…
Another mom knows that you get up every single time your child whimpers in the night and stroke their hair and sing to them. They know that when that kangaroo kick has literally left you with a crushed windpipe, you see the fright your child got and instantly reach for them to comfort them. They know that if you heard your child call you or sense they need you, you would stop halfway through your desperately needed rampage to them and run full-tilt towards your little human to catch them / pick them up / dust them off or replace the apple with a “funny spot” on it with a new unspotty one.
Another mom knows that stressing and being furious and feeling helpless doesn’t for even a second mean you love your child any less or wish you weren’t a mom. And they will nod and empathize and share their own story of when their child was behaving like a schizophrenic vampire, and then you will laugh together about how gorgeous they are when they have their “cross-face” on.
Another mom is probably not going to be mad at you for running late to something. They aren’t going to sulk and ignore you if you haven’t organized a coffee date in a month. They aren’t going to be offended if you vanish half way through a Whatsapp chat (because who has time to talk on a phone or is willing to risk waking a sleeping child or catching their attention when they have just settled to colour in and it is blissfully quiet). They will even likely smile in recognition when you blink halfway through a sentence and have absolutely no idea what you were saying. There is even a very good chance that, even though they were immersed in the story, they won’t be able to pick up the thread either. Mom-brain is a legitimate thing.
I wouldn’t make it through the day without my touchstone moms. I have a whatsapp group of moms where we talk on and off all day. As if we were in each other’s kitchens. We will be at work, on a conference call, between lectures, settling a kid to sleep, watching a child throwing a massive tantrum and one of us will say “shew, mom life hey?” We will talk for a few minutes and then carry on. Every day. All day. We are gathered around our imaginary coffee table, drinking coffee, sharing the minutiae of our days and sometimes huge, life changing decisions, marriage issues, and always the constantly shifting emotions of motherhood… One in the suburbs, one by the sea and one in the winelands of Cape Town, one in Joburg and one in Port Elizabeth. These are some of my very closest friends. They know more about me that anybody should, and what’s more, they still love me! (You could be their friends too: Jonelle blogs at Tyranny of Pink, Cassey at Bits & Pieces, Zoe at BornGeek and Eleanor at Just Ella Bella).
They aren’t the only ones though. I am surrounded by powerful, beautiful moms, moms-to-be; moms of one, two, three and even four. Adoptive moms, moms whose children were carried by surrogates, IVF moms, moms who battled with and overcame infertility, moms who have lost children… I shatter for them. There are foster moms, kangaroo care moms, step-moms, single moms, gay moms, divorced moms, married moms, engaged moms and moms in long-term relationships. Moms who gave natural birth, chose c-sections, had emergency c-sections, who breastfed, who formula fed, who co-sleep, who moved their babies to their own cots in their own rooms from day one. There are moms who work, who stay at home, who work from home. There is even a Cape Town based homeschooling mom, whose journey I follow closely, who has EIGHT children that she birthed herself, at home, if I remember correctly.
I know perfect moms. I’m not kidding. Those moms that are always perfectly dressed, made up, and have something nice to say. The ones that have well-mannered, healthy, smart, adoring adorable children. The mom whose dreamboat husband sweeps her off her feet and off on secret getaways. That mom who shares photos of the perfect, well-balanced mouthwatering meals she has created from scratch, after running a successful business all day, and never missing a school event. The one who shares a “stop and click” selfie where she is feeling her worst and she looks like a supermodel with slightly ruffled hair wearing a onesie. They are not only “picture perfect”, they are great friends who always have time to listen to you gripe and there are two that have offered to bring me a meal after I’ve had a rough day, even though they work full time and have two or more kids.
You know what makes them perfect to me? They swear like sailors, they admit their weaknesses and they cry when their kid has been a nasty ass bully to them.. because every single child goes through that. And they are also tired of keeping all the balls in the air. They are just moms. Superwomen, but just moms.
I also have the “mess” moms. I AM a mess mom. I never cook, I forget to shop, my kid goes through phases where she eats toasted cheese sandwiches with bovril or good-old tomato sauce for every single meal. I wash my hair once a week, if I am lucky, and it lives in plaited pigtails or a mom-bun 6 days out of 7. I have been known to take off my pjs to shower and get right back into them – for days at a time. I work too much. I shout if I am shouted at. I cry if I am hurt or tired or sad or angry. I’m a mess.
I want to be more, I want to be better. And I am working on something that I believe will help other moms do that too… because I think we ALL want that. But we are moms. We have no time and no energy and as badly as we want to dress well and shave under our arms, and put on makeup, most days we just can’t. Most days our energy, our focus, our time and our money, goes to making sure we have amazing, happy, healthy, well-balanced kids.
Being a mom can be incredibly lonely. If you don’t have other moms in your world, you can feel like you are a complete failure. That everything you do is wrong and that you are the worst mom ever. If you happen to have lots of non-parent friends, they may even go out of their way to offer you their unsolicited unwelcome uninformed advice. And you will feel bad because you don’t feel like getting dolled up and going to a fancy dinner with your 6-week old strapped to your chest, even though that is totally what your friend is planning on doing when she has a kid.
As a mom, no matter what age or stage you are in and no matter how your child became yours, you need other moms. You need to hear that you are normal. That your child is absolutely normal and every other child of or around their age is doing exactly the same awful thing that makes you believe you have broken them forever. You need to be able to vent to another mom without worrying that person is going to call child-services on you. You need to be able to say, I really don’t like my kid today, without somebody thinking that means you don’t love your kid. You need another mom to tell you that it is incredibly terrifyingly hard, but it gets easier. You need somebody to agree that your husband or partner is the laziest most selfish person EVER, while knowing that you still love them. You need somebody who always has your back, who will always stand by your side and who will cry with you until you feel it pass.
Becoming a mom, and starting this space on the internet where I hope I am ALWAYS that mom who is there holding your hand and sharing the hardship and telling you it happens to all of us and you WILL be fine… It has made me appreciate and love my gran, my mom, my sister, my aunts and cousins and the incredible moms and women they are. It has led me to find that there are other women just like me out there… People who care and give no matter what. People who are always looking for ways to support others, to bring others together, to share their passion and their heart.
One of these women, one of these incredible perfect mothers, is Julie Mentor. I met her through her wonderful funny smart husband, who many of you will know and adore, Terence Mentor, the one and only AfroDaddy. These are the kinds of humans that everybody should strive to be like. They are warm, loving, self-deprecating people who make the world a better place.
They were temporary safe care parents, the most selfless thing a person can be in my opinion. In South Africa, a biological parent has 60 days between putting their baby up for adoption and their being placed with a forever family. Families like the Mentors surround that precious little life with every drop of love and security and dedication, during a time where their birth mother gets to process and make sure she is doing the best thing for her baby and herself. They fill them with love when they are at their most vulnerable and then have to let them go. What incredible selfless souls you just have to do that. Let alone 14 times. Which is what the Mentors did.
Why did they stop? Because they met their son, Liam. And shortly after that, they had their second son Eli. These experiences created a deep calling for Julie. To find ways to support moms in the vital first 1000 days of a child’s life. She does this through her work at Cape Town Embrace. Embrace creates events and moments for moms from across all divides to connect and bond and build those desperately needed mom-based support systems. Because motherhood is the great leveler. Another mom understands the feelings you have as a mother, even if she can’t understand your circumstances outside of motherhood.
Because of my relationship with these beautiful humans, Julie knows how I feel about true and meaningful connection and supporting parents. She asked me to help “rally the troops”, so to speak, for her passion project she runs through EMBRACE, #MothersDayConnect. My job was to get amazing bloggers from across South Africa to share their own stories of motherhood and inspire their family, friends, networks and readers to LIKE and SIGN UP on the Facebook event page and get involved with #MothersDayConnect. Julie beautifully shares everything you need to know about #MothersDayConnect and how you can get involved in the below video.
I am passionate about this project. I think it is a beautiful thing coming from a beautiful place. I will never forget how vulnerable I felt the day I became a mom, and I had every single advantage – from having my loving husband with me every step of the way, to having a warm caring obgyn, to having a private room in a private hospital where I was flooded with family and friends and flowers and love. And I felt overwhelmed, terrified, unprepared and completely vulnerable. Imagine having nobody with you, being in a public hospital surrounded by strangers, having a total stranger delivering your baby, nurses who are run off their feet, tired and underpaid and just wishing they could be at home with their own families. Motherhood can be the loneliest journey, I hope you reach out and get involved to make this Mother’s Day a little less lonely for another mom.
Sending all the love xxx