by Macy Morrow
Building a mom-squad is hard. If you’re not in an active pregnancy group leading up to the birth of your child, the aftermath can be isolating. Heck, even if you’ve done all the things, new motherhood is hard.
Old friends struggle to fit in your babyland. New friends are too fresh to ride the postpartum waves.
Where do you go from here?
Although there are many ways to build a squad. Here are 5 unconventional ways I’ve built mine:
1) Put yourself out there. I get it, ok. You’re sleep deprived, you haven’t showered in 3+ days, you feel like the substance that’s currently smeared on your leggings. It’s hard to remember that you have something to offer to the world, but you do. Remember when you used to sing karaoke? When you stayed up all night to drive to California? How about the time you knitted your own pair of shitty socks? Those are fun stories that someone would love to hear. I promise.
About three and a half years ago I was sitting at a coffee shop where the table rose just above my bulging pregnant belly. A hot cop approached, smiled and began flirting with me, and I totally let him. At the end of the conversation he tipped his head and said, “mam.” And HONEST TO GOD I’ve been living on this interaction for THREE AND A HALF YEARS. Now, just imagine that the hot cop is actually a really cool girl that you could actually grab coffee with (and not commit adultery). Neat, right?! You never know what’s out there until you take the first step. “I like your shirt!”, “Cool phone case!” these are just two phrases you could use to open with. It helps to remember: most people feel just as nervous as you do.
2) Don’t count out the singletons. My first postpartum experience, I sought out companionship of only mothers because I thought it would provide me with some comfort. Misery loves company, right? However, the more I solely associated with other moms, the more I realized that I was just swapping war stories with other overrun, scraggly women. Do you need mom friends? ABSOLUTELY. They have the closest understanding to what you’re going through, but you can’t pour from an empty cup.
Collectively, new moms can be kind of needy in postpartum. More than kind-of. We are really needy. During the #fourthtrimester you need friendship, flexibility, empathy, babysitting, comic relief, style and design advice, willingness to talk about nipples and/or vaginas, etc… Sure, other moms understand this stuff, but we’re all so tired, and truth be told, a bit “flakey.” Not because we suddenly only want to be with our babies, but because there are so many variables in getting two moms together to hang out. Did we sleep well last night? Did we just get thrown up on? Have we run out of coffee? We don’t know what the minute-to-minute will be like, and we need someone with adaptability to show up wherever we are.
Friends without kids provide rejuvenating stories, and spontaneity. They help remind us of who we were before the baby, and what we still hope to prioritize in ourselves! Look for the singletons, for they will enliven your life.
3) Bring the baby. Listen, sometimes you can’t find a sitter, or your partner (if you have one) is busy doing godknowswhat. Usually, that’d be an instant veto for hanging out, BUT what about if you just did the damn thing and loaded the baby in the car/uber? True, you won’t be able to cut loose as much as you were hoping, but it’s a start, and it’s a change of scenery.
One of the most liberating moments I had as a new mom was passing my baby off to a friend at a brewery, and drinking a pint with both of my hands free. BOTH, I TELL YOU! It’s not normal, and you’ll definitely get some weird looks, but I guarantee: if you give your friends the option of you with a baby or you not at all, they will choose to hang with you no matter the plus one sitch!
4) Find a commonality/try something new. I found out I was pregnant with my second because I had a catastrophic meltdown in which I questioned my existence. I sobbed to my husband at the dining room table. It felt like I was slipping into the role of wherever I was needed in our family, and was thus losing myself, and my interests. He opened up the community college website and helped me enroll in my first few classes that night. I can’t tell you how many times I puked in the Austin Community College bathroom with morning sickness, but I finished that semester, and every semester since, making friends along the way. School friends are built in. They serve a purpose per semester, and if there’s no connection, there’s no commitment in continuing on after the semester is over.
For me, school been a fulfilling and productive outlet to remind myself that I can do hard things. Oftentimes while nursing a baby, or doing Kegels. If you can’t commit to school right now, try looking in your city’s organized activities to see if there is something you can commit to. Austin has a great center for continued education. Pottery, painting, collages, writing. There’s no time like motherhood to jump in and try something unconventional to make friendships.
5) Start something. If signing up for something isn’t feasible for you right now, try doing something in your own home. OR if that’s overwhelming, just offer your home to an already existing group. In the past two years I’ve hosted: A Christmas Craft-a-thon, A book club (I’m sorry we’ve not been meeting bb’s! We’ll get back to it ASAP!), a DIY cocktail night, a clothing swap, Bachelor night, and floral arrangements. There’s never a shortage of things to invent in the spirit of hanging out. Organizing an activity is a soft cushion to get to know people better, and takes the initial pressures off.
Making new friends can be daunting, but if you pick any number from above, you can plant the seeds that eventually build your squad. Stop trying to force the mom-friends, and let the mom friends come to you by finding yourself, and inviting others to know you too.
Ugga Mugga, Mugga Fuggas,
From the time my son was conceived, I asked myself, “how can I balance being a working mom?” It was no secret that I wanted to go back to work, and my husband was 100% supportive in that.
I love to work, I love my field and I love making my own money—even if the money isn’t great, #hellosocialwork! One of the hardest realities I faced in new motherhood was the lack of my own paycheck hitting direct deposit while I was away on maternity leave .
Besides financial gains, my work also keeps my mind in a relative perspective. My profession deals with acutely psychotic, predominantly homeless populations. Therefore, it has become an easy reflex to have reflective “heart checks” (reality checks) regarding the severity (or lack thereof) of stressors in my life.
The fact that I spilled my coffee, my kid pooped as we were walking out the door or that I forgot to make my smoothie (again) becomes absolutely minuscule in comparison to the feats my patients are facing every day. With this relativity comes gratitude. My work has taught me to be thankful for my coping skills, thankful for my ability to communicate needs with my partner and thankful for a brain that does not betray my ability to maintain reality and self-awareness.
So, I’m a working mom… and I love it. Not only that, but I feel encouraged that I get this opportunity over being a stay at home mom.
Stay at home moms (SAHM’s) are teachers, entertainers, short order cooks, house keepers, etc… That’s a job I feel overwhelmed by. Though the expectations from SAHM’s can run very similar to some I experience at work (such as problem solving with a very demanding population) the thought of stepping into this role for my own family without the ability to unplug made me feel anxious .
When I’m with my son, the choices I make directly affect the choices he has to live with. At my job, however, I’m able to distantly facilitate choices being made by my patients (or on behalf of them) for betterment of their lives. The merit of those pressures weigh differently on my conscience.
Although, I haven’t directly sourced the anxiety for why the two feel so differently weighted, much stems from the explicit mandate of doing these things daily with Pinterest creativity and an Instagram photo op moments. At my work, I know my “influence” and guidance can only create healthy patterns—there’s a clear line to walk. At home, I walk a crooked line, taxed with a melting pot of social media posts chiding me for all the things I could be doing in “betterment” of my child.
This work is exactly where I want to be, yet, I still have my doubts, and heavy doses of mom guilt for not wanting to be a SAHM. I’m not free from the pangs of missing my child while I’m away, but sometimes the days can slip away from me.
My work demands a fast pace, and insists my full attention. In fact, most days I’m so busy I almost pee my pants. From the time I arrive, to the time I leave, my thoughts and efforts are geared toward the needs of others . Countless times, I’ve gone through the day only to realize I have no idea how my son’s day went . Things I usually do to connect with him, like checking his daycare app, or texting with my husband, who is with him right now, are forgotten .
Occupationally, I teach empowerment, self-awareness and mindfulness. In personal practice, however, the shame and guilt following the days I forgot to check in seemed to be all-consuming. Convicted by my own lack of coping, I began to pinpoint my own practice of mindfulness to connect with my son throughout the day. In sharing this list, I hope that all working moms know they’re not alone, and that it takes a lot of effort to become aware of your needs, and make a proactive plan to meet them.
Here are a few of mine:
- I carry a paci in my pocket. Every time I reach in for a pen or keys I receive a gentle reminder of my little one.
- I check his daycare app, or text my husband; I set aside time to check in . (Even if it’s only a minute or two!)
- I bring my son into conversation more— using him as a focal point with coworkers. Connecting them and myself with his new words , or a story I found funny .
- I changed my inner dialogue from “ I wonder if he’s ok ?” to “ I wonder what he learned today? ”, from “Is he going to be less bonded to me ?” to “ developing friendships and different attachments makes for a healthy well rounded child”, and from “Am I being selfish for wanting to work” to “ having passion for more than one thing is not selfish”.
- When I walk in the door, I try to put my phone away, and leave work at work. I choose to engage fully . When I’m home , I’m home . (This is my hardest , and a constant work in progress.)
When I think about “learned behaviors” for my son, I want to engage with him in a practice of grace. I hope that by extending grace to himself, he will also excel in grace toward others. I would love to say I’ve identified my specific needs, embraced them 100%, and no longer struggle with mom guilt, but that would make me a robot and not a woman. So instead, I try to celebrate the days I succeed and gain better understanding on the days I struggle.
I’m essential personnel, which means I’ve been working through the pandemic. The steps I’ve taken to establish connection while I’m away from my son feel extra necessary right now, and are a comfort to me in the unknown.
To all my SAHM , y’all are badasses. To all my working moms, go ahead girl go ahead get down.
Motherhood is hard enough, but when we face the challenges of pregnancy and motherhood all alone, it can be so lonely.
At Motherlift we want to tell stories that inspire, educate, and remind you: you aren’t the only one.
We want to allow women to share honestly about their experiences without all the fear and anxiety we usually find on the internet. We will be posting stories of joy, anticipation, surprise, grief, endurance, and most of all, strength. Consider this blog a place to listen to a friend’s experience of motherhood.
Come as you are.
Leave your anxieties at the door.
See that you aren’t alone in your story.
We are asking for stories from women who experienced the unexpected when they were expecting. If you want to share your story about conception, pregnancy, childbirth or motherhood, submit it here.
One of my favorite and most recommended “homework” assignments for clients who recently had a baby is self-care. This is simply taking time to do something that is restorative for yourself. It’s a time for you to listen to that inner voice that makes you, you. This helps you remember yourself in a season of life where you and your needs seem to be pushed to the bottom of the list. Note: to learn more about the particulars of postpartum depression read this post about it.
Sacrificial Love Does Not Equal Sacrificing Self
The line between sacrificial love and losing ourselves is a narrow divide. New mothers fall in love with their little bundles of joy! Their mothering instincts kick in and they snuggle, protect, and attach to their babies. It’s a roller coaster ride. When I was a new mom I found that just about every part of my body was taken over by the needs of my little one. Every minute of my day was altered, crunched, and squeezed for every last drop of energy and nurturing I could muster. Our babies get their physical and emotional needs met from us almost exclusively- depending on how much support we get from our significant others.
Can we all be honest and say, motherhood is not what we see on instagram or in magazines?
With their nowhere-in-sight baby gear and gorgeous white sofas? And there is a faulty assumption in our culture that as soon as we have children we will no longer have needs and we’re totally fine with it! And when we are faced with the choice of ours or our child’s needs, we will probably choose our child’s needs.
The biggest hurdle on the journey toward self care is quieting that voice inside that says “selfish.” When we fly on an airplane we are all told to put our oxygen masks on first before our children! We have to fill ourselves up so we have something to give. As we care for ourselves we cultivate our inner identity, energy, confidence, and passion. When we listen to our needs we refill what has been drained from us in caring for others. In doing this we model for our families what a fulfilling life looks like, and we also show them that they are separate, but securely attached individuals. Maybe as we refill ourselves it gives us some energy back give to our significant others. This also models for our children healthy relationships and creates a safe and secure environment for our families.
4 tips for self care:
Stop ignoring your needs and start ignoring the “selfish” voice. Advocate for your needs.
Make a plan and schedule it
Don’t apologize for it and ignore the guilt!
Incorporate your support system.