If you know me then you know that I have an awesome mother, a total rock star, do-it-all kind of mom. I recently had this epiphany that when I was five (around the age that most kids start to consolidate long-term memories), my mom was 30, the age that I am now. That means this is the first time in my life that I am old enough to remember her when she was my age. She was once like me, a mom of young children, hoping that we would turn out to be decent, happy people and trying to put together a life for us that would lead to that. She did a lot of really great things for my siblings and I that I could write about for days, but this article is about one specific, really important thing she did. She made really great girlfriends. My mom had many good friends but she surrounded herself with three specific women (if you are reading this you know who you are) who were awesome mothers themselves, and also just plain exemplary people. These women and their families were who we did life with, and still do to some degree. I don’t pretend to know the ins and outs of those adult friendships that I only glimpsed from a child’s perspective through the years. I am sure there were imperfections, but I do know that they were there for each other and that they showed up when it mattered.
I didn’t know it back then but I now know that these women impacted my life just by being there for my mom. Moms are better moms when they have good friends holding them up, reminding them that they are worthy, giving advice and making them laugh when it’s needed. The other thing that made all the difference, and my point here, is that these ladies truly loved my siblings and I, as my parents did their kids. They cared about us and they invested in our lives in a million ways from the time that we were little into adulthood. So many times throughout my life these women were there for me in ways that really mattered. From comforting and cleaning up after 10-year-old me when I vomited in one of their living rooms at a sleepover, to supporting me emotionally and medically through a serious eating disorder, to counseling my now husband and I through our dating years. These women gave me extra perspectives, extra examples of womanhood and motherhood and marriage. There were three extra women cheering me on into adulthood, celebrating my accomplishments and loving me through my failures. My mother didn’t need help loving us. She filled us up with love and set an awesome example on her own. But how amazing is it to have bonus moms to look up to? (I also have six amazing Aunts who are all of this and more, but that’s for another really long and emotional blog post).
I’m betting many of you have these kinds of women in your life, “other” mothers who influenced you, were there for you, who are role models for you. The question I want to pose here is: who will be YOUR kids’ “other” moms? Are you surrounding yourself with women who will love on your kids, set examples for your kids, give sound advice when your kids are in the throes of adolescence and will listen to anyone but you? Are you investing in deep and meaningful friendships that will last? Most importantly, are you being real with those friends so that when stuff is hard and ugly with you or your kids you can reach out instead of being inhibited by keeping up a façade? Are you asking your friends for help? Are you letting them into your life in a real way?
Finally, are you being “that mom” to your friends’ kids? Are you truly there for your girlfriends in this motherhood walk? Are you giving grace and encouragement and refraining from gossip and judgment? Do you care about your friends’ kids enough to take the time to build relationships with them? Would you be there for them if you knew they needed it? My kids and most of my friends’ kids are currently under age five, so their version of needing me in their lives includes that I bring good snacks to play dates and am willing to wipe their boogers if their mom is unavailable at the moment. But this is where it starts. If I want those kids to give a darn what I have to say when they are 12, I better start building trust now. I need to look those little ones in the eye, get down at their level, offer to babysit so that my friends can get a break and so that I can bond with them. Invest. I’m not suggesting that you become best friends with every kid of every acquaintance you have. But think of the handful of people you hope to do parenthood with for the long haul. Can you invest in those friends’ kids? If you want the keys to the hearts of your close friends, show their kids love, grace and compassion.
I’m not all that great at this right now, thus why I am writing about it. I can barely keep my own two kids afloat some days, so investing in other kids in a real way can seem daunting. I want to be better though. I want my kids to have what I had growing up, and I do truly love my friends’ kids, so I want to be that for them too.
Thank you to my friends who love on my kids and allow me the privilege of loving theirs. And thank you to the bonus mothers in my life. If you have good ones (or even if you don’t), pay it forward and be one.