I am fortunate to have a wonderful and supportive group of female friends in my life. They are a diverse bunch including lifelong pals that I grew up with in New Hampshire, neighbors here in Annapolis, college and grad school friends who now live far and wide, colleagues from my professional life, and fellow members of my moms and dads group. This network has grown and expanded over the past 40 years and my relationships with everyone in it have evolved as well. Gone are the days of getting dressed up and going dancing until the wee hours of the morning. My “new normal” involves sharing a glass of wine on my neighbor’s back porch while my kids play in the yard.
I love the new dynamic, and I’ve come to appreciate the perspective that these women give me. Being a mom isn’t easy, and neither is being a working mom. Thank goodness I have certain women in my life to act as a support network and provide me inspiration. This blog is a tribute to them.
I have to start with Gretchen. When I was pregnant, a certain friend told me that, as a mother, I would get lots of advice on how to parent my children. HER advice was to identify someone who has kids that I would like my children to be like, and to only take that person’s advice. For me, that person was Gretchen. She has three beautiful boys, all of whom are kind, polite, happy and healthy, and all of whom clearly adore their mother. Because I had a little boy, I turned to Gretchen for support in the early days of motherhood when I needed to get my then 3 month old son on a nap schedule.
I’ll never forget when she came over. Gretchen took one look at Wyatt rubbing his eyes in his vibrating chair and stated, “This child is tired.” She then informed me that we were going to put him in his crib and the two of us were going to go sit on my back porch and chat. I was not to re-enter the house for at least an hour, even if I heard lots of crying. And, yes, there was lots of crying! But the great part was that the crying eventually stopped and Wyatt had his first nap in his crib.
The most beautiful gift that Gretchen gave me – and I still think about it almost every day – was to release me from my guilt as a mother and let me know that it was okay if my baby cried. I now use that same gift when I’m in the grocery store and Wyatt (now almost 5) wants candy. He can produce tears like a master thespian, but I know (thanks to Gretchen) that those tears don’t make me a bad mom and its okay to say “no.”
As Wyatt got older, I discovered other moms within my circle of friends who inspired me in different ways. One of the first women I connected with as a mom was my friend Julie. We shared a background in consulting and discovered that our two boys clicked well on play dates.
Julie has always blown me away by her ability to juggle. When I met her, she was raising her then two year old son and volunteering as the Treasurer of our local Junior League. Over the course of the next few years, she would expand her volunteering to include service on the Board of our community association, helping to found an anti-crime group in Annapolis, acting as the Treasurer of a local non-profit, serving as the PTA President at her son’s school, and working on the campaign of a State Delegate. Where she found the time (not to mention the energy), I will never know!
If Julie is my multi-tasking role model, then Kelly is my Slacker Mom partner in crime. Kelly and I have boys around the same age and we share a very laid back attitude towards parenting, as well as an appreciation for wine. In the Fall, Winter and Spring, Kelly hosts a happy hour play group at her house that I regularly attend. Every Monday, five or six moms descend on her back porch and share snacks, drinks and conversation while the kids play in her fenced-in yard. Inevitably, the group of moms falls into two categories – those (like me) who sit at the table chatting while their kids run around, and those who never sit down because they are running after their children.
I confess – I’m a slacker mom. My attitude has always been “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” This means if you eat a little dirt, you’ll be okay. If you drink out of someone else’s cup, it’s not the end of the world, and if another child pushes you, it’s not a big deal unless someone is bleeding. My mantra when the kids fight? “Work it out!”
Not surprisingly, there are many moms who don’t share my approach. Then there is Kelly. She and I are solidly on the same page about mothering and she makes me feel better about my Slacker Mom-dom. Her boys are great and I think my son is pretty fantastic as well (I know, I am really, really biased!). And while I kid around about being a slacker, I believe that what Kelly and I really share is the belief that kids need the freedom to explore, experiment, make mistakes, and pick themselves back up again. We both believe that by giving our boys a long leash, we’re building stronger, more independent men.
Another mom that I’ve always been blown away by is Phebe. She seems to have discovered the secret to that elusive balance for which I’m always searching. Phebe is married and has three children. She has a busy schedule, but always finds (or maybe I should say “makes”) the time for exercise and is a pretty competitive triathlete and runner. She also has regular date nights with her husband and always seems to be planning fun getaways with the family. She shuttles her kids to school and activities, but also makes the time to spend with each of them one-on-one. Throughout all of this, she is also one of the calmest, most peaceful people I know!
In the last two months, Phebe was diagnosed with a form of brain cancer and now, in addition to being the most balanced mom I know, she is setting the standard for dealing with health challenges. With her incredible attitude, endless energy, and unmatched strength, I know she will beat cancer. In the process, she will teach us all a lesson about living life to the fullest every day.
This brings me to Andi, my friend and neighbor who is due to give birth to her first child in the next few weeks. As I think about my experience as a mother, my advice to her is to form her own network of moms who inspire her. There is no one “right” way to mother and no one person can possibly be the perfect mom. Instead, the beauty of motherhood lies in finding the right approach for you and your child and then surrounding yourself with women who, as a group, can provide you the support and inspiration to stay the course and enjoy the journey!