Not to brag, but I’ve already received multiple awards for my stellar parenting.
This is due to the fact that my friends generously bestow “mother of the year” accolades to anyone who has spectacularly crashed and burned in this race called motherhood. Consequently, there happens to be a ton of mother of the year awards flying around my group of friends.
If you’ve ever taught a small child your favorite college drinking game in order to entice him to chug Pedialyte when he was sick, welcome to our club. And if you’re the person who invented the explanation that the ice cream man plays music to announce that he’s sold out of treats for the day, you’ve earned a lifetime achievement award.
Somehow, confessing to my friends that I was forced to make PB&J on a defrosted hot dog bun because we ran out of bread that morning helps reinforce a few truths about motherhood: this gig is hard; no one can do it perfectly; and we all need to be on the same team.
I’m lucky enough to be a part of an all-star team of women who make this role of mom so much easier and so much more fun because of their willingness to laugh at the pandemonium and then ask, “What can I do to help?”
Sometimes help comes in the form of play dates and carpools to ease the logistics of needing to be in several places at once. Other times it’s an invitation to go on a hike or grab a coffee or (let’s be honest) a glass of wine to blow off some steam and perhaps discuss the fact that earlier that day, my son had lovingly referred to me as a “beautiful old lady.”
These are the friends who can collectively -‐-‐ at a moment’s notice -‐-‐ cobble together a costume for any school event and who will make a special trip to the grocery store to buy saltines and ginger ale when I’m at home comforting a kid with the stomach flu.
I couldn’t do this job without them. But for a while, I tried.
There was a time when I thought I could handle all of it on my own. I had friends, of course, but I only allowed them to see glimpses of my life when the house was clean, the kids were behaving and I was wearing something other than yoga pants.
That meant we didn’t see each other very often because the domestic holy trinity of house, kids and mom all being presentable at the same time never happens. I had made the mistake of assuming that everyone else had their act together and expected me to do the same.
That kind of life is tidy, but it doesn’t ring true. That life is a polite courtesy laugh when what we’re really craving is a raucous belly laugh that brings tears to our eyes, smears our mascara and makes us wish we’d taken our doctor’s advice about doing those daily Kegel exercises.
For me, the real fun didn’t begin until the jokes about mother of the year started to appear. Slowly, I began to let my guard down and share my true self, parenting disasters and all.
There was freedom in admitting that, while in a fit of rage, my daughter yelled that she wished I was nice – like Caillou’s mom.
It seems counterintuitive, but through these friendships, I became both vulnerable and strong at the same time.
The best result of this honesty was the beautiful discovery that the moms who are willing to admit they need help are also the first to offer a hand to others. The women who can laugh at themselves are also the ones who give their peers the benefit of the doubt. They know the challenges we all face and trust we’re doing the best we can.
These “mothers of the year” are my closest friends. I couldn’t ask for a better village to help raise my kids.
And now that I’ve found these moms, I’m holding on tightly. I try to be a good friend, quick to put together a play date and even quicker to organize a happy hour, but I find myself more often in the position of saying thanks, I owe you one.
I know I’ll have a chance to return the favor since I’ll be friends with these women for a long time – because a bond forged while discussing the fact that when clean laundry is in short supply, bathing suit bottoms make a pretty decent substitute for underwear – is a bond that will withstand whatever life and motherhood can throw its way.