An open love letter to my mother’s group: “You’ve kept me sane all these years”

Female friends

Dear girls,

Well, it’s coming up to our eighth anniversary. I’ve been thinking of you all a lot recently. Maybe it’s because I’m about to turn forty and reflecting on who is important to me. Maybe it’s because being outnumbered by The Little People is the definition of “difficult” most days — and I miss you all being around, especially when it gets really tough. I miss you because you all made things a lot less overwhelming at the start of this whole mothering thing. You all made me laugh. And you were all so important to how I have gotten to know myself as a mother.

In the last eight years, we’ve been through operations, divorce and more recently, heartbreakingly, have lost loved ones. We’ve had subsequent children, renovated or moved house and uprooted and moved countries. We’ve been to parties that have ended with 2am swimming sessions in a stranger’s backyard pool. Boozy nights at local Indian restaurants have resulted in the disappearance of odd knick-knacks and table decorations. Our kids have started school and some of us have kids who’ve finished school. We’ve holidayed together and cried at the end of it all before boarding separate aircraft. And then cried again all the way home.

So, as I say goodbye to my thirties, life has become less dominated by nappies and is shaped more by school routine, weekend sport and meal planning. As priorities shift, I want you to know how special you are to me. Perhaps my lack of sisters is one of the reasons I feel such a strong connection to you all. I don’t know. Maybe something horribly hormonal is happening as I’m approaching the age of forty. Maybe both. Either way, as I look back, I’m appalled that I really didn’t know how incredible those early days we shared as new mothers really were.

What I do know is this …

When my first baby was little and everything (including my own body) felt so strange and new and alien, I felt quite lost. I was dubious about the old fashioned idea of joining a mother’s group but now I’m not sure how I would have coped without having you girls to hold my hand. Sharing the weirdness of this whole new world of parenting has made our friendship different from any other relationship I have known.

In fact, without you, I’m not sure if I would have stayed sane in those early days. When my anxiety was at its worst, when it was difficult to breathe because I didn’t feel that I was getting the whole mother thing right, when making simple decisions felt like astrophysics, I’d meet with you all for a few hours and be able to breathe again. I’d see that my baby was normal, there weren’t too many right or wrong answers and it was just up to me to work out what I felt worked for my family. So, even if some of you are now very, very far away, you are never far from my thoughts. If ever my chest tightens at the idea my parenting strategies are going to cause some lasting, horrific damage, I ask myself “What would the girls say?” and the fist in my chest begins to relax and release its grip.

I still giggle when I think of us walking together when our first babies were small

Like a line of happy ducks, proudly pushing our offspring, we chatted about breasts and milk and bottles and poo and vaginas and partners and scarred bellies and prams and work … and we’d just met.

I was so happy to be outside the four oppressive walls of the house. At home, no job was ever seen through to the end and I was so tired and I couldn’t explain why everything was such a mess — all. of. the. time. Never did I feel: “Ah ha! All jobs are complete. Time to relax.”

So, I fed on your collective energy and positivity. I watched and learned from you all and was nourished in the process. I escaped the home and as my baby changed and grew I took him here, there and everywhere with you girls by my side. We took ferries and buses, went to the Botanical Gardens, libraries, beaches, cafes, movies and each other’s homes. And we never, ever ran out of conversation.

When I went back to work part time and reconnected with old work mates, I remember feeling a weird sense of disconnection. These people with whom I now met daily challenges were lovely, kind and loyal but were no longer my chief colleagues. You girls were. It was your company and your conversations I now felt lost without.

All new mums need a gaggle of sisters

These days, when I see a woman walking alone with her new bubba on the same stretch we walked a million times, I wonder: where is her gaggle of sisters? I hope for her sake that she is enjoying some alone time on purpose. I hope that she will be with her colleagues tomorrow. I hope that together they will digest all the boring, weird, wonderful, disgusting things going on in their new lives.

So, as I blow out my birthday candles and say goodbye to my 30’s, I will also raise my glass to you all. I am forever grateful that you were the mothers put in my path at the Baby Health Centre eight years ago. My life now would be much less shiny without having met you and my crazy, anxious voice would certainly be much louder without you girls in my head to drown her out.

Loads of love to you all,

Kirsty.

xxx

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