There has not been a dull moment in the past two years. I’ve learned so much from being Charlotte’s mother that I’m not sure I could relate it all.
But, on Mother’s Day I want to tell you all a little about the mothers I know. You see, I don’t believe in competitive parenting. Philippe and I know parents who have children with more complicated medical demands than Charlotte and we are amazed with the grace and fortitude they bring to their lives. We know parents whose children are blessedly healthy and who have their own struggles to get through.
Parenting is an experience we can share with each other, but that no two families are the same and comparing our struggles to yours is counterproductive.
Here’s what I’ve learned, then, from the mothers in my life, in no particular order:
(I’m naming a few mothers, those who have made their mothering public already. The rest of you will be mostly anonymous. You’ll recognize yourselves, I think, but I’m not going to identify you.)
I have many mommy friends. They juggle so much in a day it leaves me breathless. I have a friend with four children ages 6 and under. Her house is a whirlwind of activity. Her children are bright, beautiful and energetic. I’m not sure how she keeps up her energy, but she always has a smile and a hug for Charlotte.
I have a friend with 2 typically developing kids and a child with sensory integration disorder. She manages to maintain a balance between the energy spent on her challenged child and that spent on her other two. And she manages to keep a (very sardonic) sense of humor. She’s recently added a part time job to that!
One girlfriend has an almost two year old and is pregnant with her second. She works fulltime. And her mother is struggling with a life-threatening illness. Yet, she always has time to return my phone calls and chat.
These friends teach me about balance and humor, two things easily lost by a mother (as easily as keys and sunglasses), but most needed and hardest to replace.
My newest girlfriend taught me last year that I have to remember to carve out time for myself. When our girls (who are the same age) were not yet walking, that meant taking our coffee to the park, plunking the babies in the swings, and drinking HOT coffee while we chatted. This was a revelation for me. We’ve been fast friends ever since. When she went back to work last fall I was a bit lonely. But, in listening to her excitement about her job, I learned that I needed to find that for myself. I’m working on it and everyone at my house thinks I’m a happier mommy because of that lesson.
My cousin Lynn, my hero and role model. Lynn is herself a heart patient, having undergone open heart surgery as an infant. She is now a mother of two. Her eldest child is autistic. Lynn’s response has been to educate herself and those around her. With her parents and husband, she founded The Faison School, a nonprofit autism center dedicated to providing resources for children with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) and their families in Richmond VA.
Francie. In response to her son’s diagnosis of complex congenital heart defect, she and her husband founded The Saving Tiny Hearts Society. Their goal is to raise money for research into America’s leading birth defect, CHD.
Together, Francie and Lynn have taught me that the best reaction to our situations is action. Action that not only helps our own children, but that turns what might have been a tragedy into a bounty for other families.
Thida and Darshani, my online mama friends. Thida struggles with her own movement disorder. She has two children whom she describes this way: a typical daughter and a son with multiple delays who was born with a life-threatening tumor from which he has recovered. Thida is a writer who shares her life via two blogs, and who is working on a wonderful book to help parents deal with time in the NICU.
Darshani has two children who have struggled with reflux, one of whom is g-tube fed, like Charlotte. Darshani maintains a website about her daughter’s journey that has been an incredible resource to other parents with reflux babies. She encouraged me to join P2P where I have found an incredible amount of support.
Thida and Darshani have taught me that we can use our experiences to help others. We can turn our struggles into beautiful prose and perhaps inspire other parents. And they have demonstrated to me that sometimes the best friends can be the ones who answer your 3 a.m. emails with a good dose of humor.
My two bestest girlfriends hold my hands, long-distance, better than anyone else. They have 5 girls between them One balances her full time medical practice with a 10 year old, a 6 year old and a 6 month old. She taught me that if you love being a mommy, you just keep doing it! You can imagine her crazy schedule–she manages to be home to meet the school bus and then they’re all on the go. But, she knows when I need her and at that just that moment the phone will ring. The other has a 9 year old and a 6 year old whose education she is shepherding through one of the worst school districts in the country, without sending the kids to private school. She inspires me in so many ways. Last year she even let me “crash”her Mother’s Day celebration because we needed a girlfriend visit. What these two have taught me about motherhood is only overshadowed by what they’ve taught me about friendship.
Last, but not least, my mom. Beyond helping me learn to walk, talk and love books, she’s taught me the importance of philanthropy, of giving back to the community of which I am a part. (More on our amazing trip to Boston soon.)
Thanks to all you moms. You’re the greatest.
p.s. If you’re not seeing yourself here, it’s because I needed to stop somewhere so that this post didn’t become so long that no one read it!