Years ago we moved to a new town. My husband’s mom had moved a few years prior. I was pregnant with our first son, and we were about to apply to become foster parents for a child in our extended family. My mothering journey was going to start by jumping into the deep end of the pool!
While I had moved across the country on my own at the young age of 20, I hadn’t ever relocated to a new town with children. Mostly this was because I never had children. Now I was going to go from being a mom of zero to having two in a matter of months. To complicate things (why not?) my husband didn’t have a job in the city where we were transferring our entire life. He had applied to some key positions, but nothing had panned out yet. Still, we felt called here, so we moved forward.
starting from scratch
For the first few months of our time in this new home, my husband commuted down to LA every Monday morning. He stayed in a tiny back garage apartment through Friday evening. On weekends he drove the two and a half hours home to be with us. Meanwhile, our friends from LA had gotten a job here, but had no home yet. We invited them to live in the other wing of our house until they found a place of their own.
Mothering a child through a transition between families takes a toll on everyone. I started with dreamy visions of girliness, decorating her room in cream and lavender with a canopy bed (no joke, it even had a lace top). I don’t know what I imagined, but it was not the regular visits to see her mom, followed by the meltdowns that happened like clock-work when we had to return to our routine. She had so many needs. I had diminished reserves. I was a new mom – trying to nurse my infant, get him to sleep, keep him from catching every cold she brought home from her half-day preschool, and usually trying to find my roaming cup of coffee just so I could stay awake for it all.
Through this draining stage of motherhood, I found a few spots where I was supported. One was a precious church where I attended MOPS. The group of moms there were all in the same boat one way or another. For one glorious morning a month, we would drop our children off in the care of loving workers so we could sit together, be refreshed by adult conversation, receive instead of giving, and even make a craft. Don’t scoff at that craft. A mom of an infant rarely finishes eating breakfast. To start and complete something in one day was monumental. Mostly, I found camaraderie in those meetings. I didn’t even have to share all the ups and downs of our unusual family configuration. I simply showed up and took a breath.
One other way God supported my mothering in those days was through a few women who happened to have just moved into town within the past year as well. One of these women was the friend who came to live with us. She had a front row seat to our crazy – and joked that she was going to buy me a T-shirt that said, “Where’s my coffee?” We would go for walks as she listened to my concerns about our foster daughter. Even though she wasn’t a mom yet, she cared and invested in me. Another woman offered to take my children so that I could read or a nap. It blew my mind that she would do that. It’s no small sacrifice to host an emotionally struggling four-year-old and a brand new infant.
building friendships that go the distance
Through the years, I’ve cultivated friendships in this town. I’ve dug into the soil of our community and established my roots here. We attended the same church for eleven years of our time here. Several of those moms are still some of my closest friends. When I have to travel for work or speaking engagements, they host my children. When they need someone to pick up their children, listen to their heart, or pray for them, they call me. We have walked this mothering journey together.
Over the past few years, as that infant I brought into this home has grown older, we have faced new trials as he navigates adolescence. I have continued to receive encouragement, wisdom, and shoulders to cry on from my mentor, a therapist, and a number of trusted friends. These relationships didn’t just plop in my lap. Only one woman (and that’s another story entirely) came out of the blue to my doorstep to bless me when I didn’t know her at all. Other than her outstretched generosity, I have had to pursue and invest, and most of all take risks, to gain the relationships that have carried me along my mothering journey.
taking the risk to connect
I haven’t always been surrounded by amazing women who love me well. There were years when I felt lonely – especially those early years when it was hard to get out of the home. I’ve also held back during family crises, not wanting to put our personal struggles out into the public eye for scrutiny during seasons when we were fragile. Isolation can be lovely when it is chosen for solitude and refreshment. When it becomes a pattern in our lives, we suffer.
I encourage you today. Don’t mom-it alone. You don’t have to. Find someone to share your heart with, take one small step to reach out and bless another mom. She may become the woman who walks this long road with you as you grow together.