As I mentioned in this post, I’m going to start sharing some posts, essays, etc. from the archives, which will hopefully mean I have more time to work on my novel. All of these posts will be labeled as “Recycled Series.” Enjoy!
Attention Editors: These columns have been previously published, but are available for reprint. Please contact me at kmwicker[at]gmail[dot]com for reprint fees and further information.
A few years back I was in a cramped public bathroom stall supervising my preschooler’s potty business when I met a new friend.
“Mommy, I have to poop.”
This little tête-à-tête wasn’t between my daughter and me (at the time, she refused to poop in public and often tried to get out of BMs at home, too), but with my bathroom neighbors – a mom with her young son.
I continued to eavesdrop. I couldn’t help it – the boy wasn’t being shy at all about making his “stinky.”
“I did it, Mommy! I made a big stinky!”
“Great job, Honey!”
Our children’s toilets flushed at the same time, and we nearly bumped into one another as we existed the stalls.
“I’m impressed. I can’t believe how quickly he pooped in a public restroom. I have trouble getting my preschooler to poop at all,” I found myself saying.
“I know. He’s our little pooper. Oh, your baby’s so cute. How old is she?”
“Is she walking yet?”
“Not yet,” I said.
“Don’t worry. He didn’t walk until 16 months, and now he runs and jumps all over the place. Have a good day.”
And we went our separate ways – her with her talented, pooping toddler, me with my not-walking-yet-baby and poop-resistant preschooler.
I didn’t use to talk about poop with complete strangers, but something happens when you become a mom. An easy camaraderie develops between those who have shared combat. And if anyone knows what it means to be in the trenches, it’s another mom.
I can’t count the number of times I’ve struck up a conversation with fellow mothers or reached out to help one of my own kind. Once, I saw a frazzled woman at the grocery store. Her baby was crying and her older child was whining. I could tell she was on the verge of losing it, so I said to her little boy, “I love that dinosaur on your shirt.”
He immediately stopped pining for a candy bar and started telling me all about his favorite animals. His mom smiled and mouthed a heartfelt, “Thank you.”
Other moms have done the same for me. One took my antsy baby from my arms during a First Friday Mass. “So you can actually pay attention,” she whispered. Others have held the door for me when my arms were full and a preschooler was clinging to my pants’ legs. Veteran moms who know what lies ahead have uttered words of encouragement after noticing I was looking a wee bit weary toting around two kids under 4 for a “quick” errand.
“You’re doing great,” they cheer. Or, “It gets easier.”
Then there are my real friends – not just passing strangers who knowingly nod their heads or smile in support when my child has a meltdown in the produce section. Some were girlfriends long before anyone ever called us Mommy, and it’s amazing how much closer we’ve become since we’ve been passed the holy torch of motherhood.
When one of my kids refuses to nap (day after day) or turns beet-red during a bowel movement, I don’t immediately call my pediatrician, consult my stack of parenting books, or Google “baby + constipation.” Instead, I call one of my mom friends.
Unlike my childless companions, it’s only other moms who can truly offer maternal empathy. They’re the friends who won’t be totally grossed out if I talk about the color of my baby’s poop. They’re the ones who know what it’s like to notice the beautiful curve of a newborn’s ear while she nurses and to want to cry because it’s so perfect. They’re quick to trade tricks of the trade like how to get marker doodles off your bedspread. They still think you’re beautiful even with the white streak of diaper ointment smeared in your hair. They understand the flattening lethargy the daily grind of motherhood can bring, the profundity of giving birth to a child, the way an infant’s cries can rip you apart, and the intense love and joy that goes hand-in-hand with being a mom.
They’re the ones who can say, “I’ve been there,” and really mean it. Because in the end, we’re really just looking for the sense that we’re not alone in this journey.
Like it or not, as mothers we’re plunged into the trenches. And just like soldiers, we need people who’ve got our backs and are going to give us cover. Sometimes during times of peace, we can laugh at our kids’ antics and share our favorite parts of being a mom. But sometimes, let’s face it, motherhood is a war (a battle of wills, a grueling campaign for sleep or pooping on the potty), and we can either be the medic and offer our support to fellow moms or humbly accept help as the wounded soldier.
I’m very fortunate because my personal mom friends are eager to enter the front line to give me a break when I admit that being a mother is tough, really, really tough. But they’re also the ones who remind me that a lot of things are hard in life – like performing brain surgery, living under a socialist regime, and going no-carb. Some things are worth it. Swearing off pasta, if you ask me, isn’t.
But kids and the whole dirty, messy, tiring, endless job we call mothering most certainly is well worth everything – the endless laundry, another hour of sleep you didn’t get, the purple stretch marks, the “I-don’t-want-to-go-to-bed” tantrums, the crushed Cheerios in the car upholstery, the calamitous diaper incidents, the handprint smudges all over the walls and your brand-new white pants, and the insufferable whining over a silly plastic toy at the dollar store.
Ask most any mom – from the one you’ve just met in the public restroom to your close friends – and they’ll tell you that kids may hijack our sleep, flat abs, and sometimes our sanity, but if we’re not careful, they’ll hijack our hearts, too.