Tonight, I wanted to stay home.
My family moved to Georgia two weeks ago, and I’m exhausted. Our house still has cardboard boxes piled up in every room. My kids are needy and uncertain, not yet confident in their new home, and tired of being cooped up while my husband and I unpack all day. I’m an introvert, and what I wanted more than anything was to curl up in the book nook I just finished putting together and eat a pint of ice cream.
But, someone at church invited me to Supper Club, and I felt like I should go.
“Should” is such a terrible word, right? It’s such a nasty little burden, not outright demanding anything of you, but nevertheless sitting on your shoulders until you acknowledge it. I’ve read self-help books that tell me I should (there it is again) learn to let it go, but I haven’t reached that stage of self-actualization quite yet.
Anyway, I felt like I should go, so I put together my favorite salad (the theme of the night was Salad Garden Social) and changed into clean clothes and put on lipstick. I hurried my daughter into bed and tapped the address into my phone and told my husband I’d be back in no more than an hour because I had stuff to do, and I wasn’t really in the mood to be social, and I was just going because I felt like I should make an effort to make friends in our new home.
I’m sure you know how this story ends.
I spent the entire evening chatting with the women at my table, and wound up being one of the last people to leave. I loved the conversation and found myself completely restored by talking with other women, even though before tonight I hadn’t exchanged a word with any of them. As I sit here, tapping out the blog post that I “should” have stayed home from the get together to finish, I feel more myself, more confident and comfortable in this new place.
Before I became a mother, friendship with women wasn’t my priority. I’d been the brunt of more than one Mean Girls-esque shunning, and I was jaded. I was interested in boys. I loved dating and always had a boyfriend or at the very least a crush, but I even preferred just hanging out with guy friends rather than girl friends.
But something changed when I crossed the borderlands into motherhood.
I’d been initiated into a life and state of mind I couldn’t imagine before my little boy was lifted from my body and into the cold air of the operating room. Now, I looked at the mothers around me and I knew that we shared this passage, this transformation. An uncertain acolyte, I craved their wisdom and experience.
My transition into motherhood was rocky. I had a traumatic birth, a difficult time breastfeeding, and a baby who needed to be hospitalized at six weeks old for a respiratory infection. I felt like I was failing, and I felt alone. At first, what kept me going were the stories other women shared. In the middle of the night as I tried to nurse my son hooked up to tubes delivering supplemental formula, I would comb through stories of other mothers—both those who were struggling, like me, and the ones who seemed to know all the answers. Even at 3 a.m. when I felt like I was the only person awake in our apartment building, I could feel the shining threads of shared experience connecting me to other women.
Those redemptive moments scrolling through other women’s stories are what inspired me to try writing my own—to put my own voice out into the world in the hope that some other lonely mother might find a moment of comfort and connection.
As my husband’s military service has taken us across the United States, I’ve had the opportunity to get to know so many women who have blessed my experience as a mother. One friend is creative and constantly thinking up engaging learning experiences for her children. Another knows all the best baby gear brands. I have friends who inspire me as they pass on their spiritual convictions to their children. I know a woman who, every time I saw her, was bringing a meal to another new mother or watching the child of another friend whose babysitter had fallen through once again. I’ve been blessed by women who share my love language of baked goods, friends I can communicate with completely through gifs and emojis, friends who send me guided meditations when they can tell I’m about to implode.
Introvert though I may be, I’m no island, and I wouldn’t be the mother I am today (a mother who has a lot of room for improvement, but who is certainly stronger and more confident than that scared new mom asking Google if she’d ever shower again) without these women.
Tonight, I’m glad I listened to that “should” on my shoulder, encouraging me to leave my comfort zone and begin the process of rebuilding a tribe around me, step by tiny step.
This post was written as part of a blog hop with Exhale—an online community of women pursuing creativity alongside motherhood, led by the writing team behind Coffee + Crumbs. Click here to read the next post in this series "We're Better Mothers Together."