Let’s face it – much of mommyhood is far from glamorous. Since giving birth, a single room of my house may resemble “kind of clean, maybe, if you don’t have particularly high standards,” but never two or more rooms at once. I feel like I’m totally winning if every piece of clothing I wear in a day is clean.
Oh, and showers? My husband and I usually display the “I’m doing complex math” face every time we try to figure out how many days it’s been since we’ve showered AND washed our hair.
If the baby is sick, being a mommy means baby will have had four outfit changes after she vomited all over you and herself, but you have yet to change your clothes because you’re too busy caring for her. And even when she’s perfectly healthy, it’s incredible how much poo, pee and puke such a tiny human can produce.
Having someone dependent on you 24 hours a day can isolate even the most outgoing of moms. In the midst of all of these adjustments, a lot of women’s entire social structure suddenly changes or even disappears after having a baby.
A common chorus that I read about in my online mommy groups is how suddenly so many moms find themselves alone, without friends. Maybe their old friends are in different places in their lives or just don’t get the mommy life. Whether they are single or don’t have kids, it could be hard to relate to someone whose life is now consumed with the minutia of poo color and frequency, worries over milk supply, or how exciting the smallest things our babies do can be.
“Dude, she’s saying ‘agoo’ now! Isn’t that the cutest thing ever? … No, no, last week it was ‘apoo.’ … Wait, what do you mean I’m boring?”
For me, my isolation period started during my pregnancy. I had just moved to the state from Florida for a second chance at marriage and immediately got pregnant. It’s always harder making friends as an adult, but it was even harder as an introvert in my early 30s. Especially as I was working on a second degree and the only people I was around were the 18 to early 20-somethings at USC. I may as well have been walking around with a cane and a Bingo blotter for as much as most of us had in common. It took me five months, but I finally made my first friend in my Maymester ethics course, and we bonded over our shared love for board games and geekery.
Exhaustion, morning sickness and my introvert tendencies kept me from getting over my “new kid” apprehension and attending open game night at the local game store, swing dance nights, or seeking out a new belly dance studio – all things I’d intended on doing upon moving to the Columbia area. By the time I was over the first trimester awfulness, the heat of summer was upon us and I felt like a giant pregnant whale, and there was little that could pry me out of my air conditioned house. Having a September baby means you get to spend the most uncomfortable months of pregnancy sweltering through every. Single. Moment. Of summer. So by the time my daughter was born at the end of September last year, I was feeling lonely and dying to get out and finally meet some friends.
Ironically, I think my isolation during pregnancy benefitted me in the long run because it motivated me to get out of the house and join some mommy groups. As soon as I was cleared to drive at two weeks postpartum, my newborn and I attended her first La Leche League meeting. At three weeks postpartum, she and I trekked out to our first Babywearing International of Columbia meeting.
If I’d already had an established social network, I don’t know that I would have been as motivated to seek out these groups and attend so regularly. Soon I was attending every weekday babywearing meeting, and now each meeting feels like coming home. I will forever be grateful for these groups, as I not only got wonderful advice, assistance and knowledge from them, I also finally established a little tribe. A small group of us clicked and get together several times a week for playdates and lots of hikes – all while wearing our babies.
Thanks to that desire to finally get out of the house, I finally have a great group of friends. We can discuss, boast and complain about all that baby-related minutia that might bore a non-parent because we get it. We’re living it.
We’re thrilled for each other when one of our babies starts to army crawl on his own or she sits up unassisted for the first time. We understand the exhaustion when one of our babies is teething and in the middle of a leap and we spend more of the night awake, rocking and nursing our baby, than we do asleep. We all share in the battiness that overtakes us when we’re stuck inside all day with our little ones, so we help each other get out of the house and share in ideas for ways to entertain our babies.
As supportive and wonderful as our husbands are, there’s something unique about the stay-at-home-mom experience, and it’s so important to have other moms to talk to who are doing the same thing.
With so many changes after having a baby, it’s crucial to still try to take care of yourself and stay connected. Maybe these groups don’t resonate for you like they did for me, but I urge any new mother to join something – whatever calls to you. Get out with other moms and dads going through the same things you are so you can talk about your experiences together. It makes a huge difference, and as your children get older, it will also teach them about healthy relationships, both between adults and between parents and children.