Mothering is wonderful and exhausting. It’s hard, but incredible work. Spinoff Parents editor Emily Writes talks about how life becomes easier when you surround yourself with brilliant and amazing women.
Mothers don’t just exist. We become mothers through a process that some think only involves birth. But we know – those of us who are aunties official or not, other mothers, mums who adopt or foster – that we are born as mothers in many different ways.
When we start out as mothers we are as new as babies. We are unsure but excited. Scared but hopefully sure too.
It is a journey, and it’s a journey that requires others. This is something I know more than anything now that I’m five years in.
As we parent, we meet other mothers, we watch them, we mimic them, and through doing so we grow with them. We lean on our friends without children, celebrate with them, live vicariously through them, feel strengthened by them. We look to our elders and those younger than us to get advice, support, and guidance. So many people work together to lift mothers up and make us who we are. They help us by mothering us.
Mothering is an action. It’s a whole-hearted love for another person – a protective barrier made human. We mother in many different ways.
I have so many mentors in mothering. So many women, with and without children, who build me up so that I know I can be the mother I want to be. When I am feeling lost, they are the ones who come to me and guide me back onto a path that leads me to where I want to be. They’re my compass.
When my husband and I were really struggling with sleep deprivation, like two sinking ships in the night, my friends made a roster to help us so that we could have just a few hours to sleep in the same bed at the same time.
My little boys have dozens of aunties and mamas. They are known by the prefix Mama. Mama Gem. Mama Jean. Mama Miriam. Mama Kiki. They know they’re good for cuddles. Good for another set of arms to be held in. My baby Ham said “Jodie”, the name of one of my closest friends, before he said almost anyone else’s name. Sawah and Oueese are my kids’ Sunday friends and beloved aunties to almost all of Wellington’s ballet loving children. The list goes on…
My kindy mum friends are with me despite my worried 2am thoughts that I’m far too useless to make kindy mum friends.
My son’s teachers are part of the mama system. They teach me as much as they teach my children. My former boss who has been unfailingly supportive since my very first child – so much so that I promised I would follow her wherever she went – is there too. As is my real sister who is the reason why I can never pay my phone bill on time and also the reason why I haven’t lost my mind. And all of my unofficial sisters.
There are so many working together to build a community that sits behind a mum.
I think often of these women. Those who celebrate who I am as a mum, but don’t see me as only a mum.
When we all get together we shed our mum selves like cloaks and hold space for each other to feel those raw and unjust agonies of parenting – that pressure and that pain – it is so powerful. When we celebrate the lives we have – no matter how those lives look to the world – we create something so special.
Somewhere in this mix my children are growing with the most incredible role models in their lives. They will run into the arms of my friends, snuggle in, talk to them for hours (whether they like it or not).
Nobody has ever told you just how much you will love your friends’ children. How you will cuddle them and feel like they’re your own. How you will beam with pride when they succeed, and burn with anger when anyone crosses them.
You don’t have to birth a baby to know that love. My love for my niece and nephews and the babies of my friends is so strong. When we muddle through life together, making mistakes on this path, pulling each other up, helping each other out – we are bonded.
These babies are babies I have fed myself, some from my own breast, have rocked to sleep, sung to. I have cried for them, laughed with them. And their mothers have done the same with my babies. And those without babies of their own have opened their hearts to all of these babies and watched with delight and joy as our babies have adopted them.
So to all of the brilliant and amazing women in my life, on today, an ordinary day, I want to say thank you.
As I age I have realised the redemptive and awesome wonder of women friendships. I spent too much as a teenager internalising bullshit about women – too much time trying to leave the turbulent relationships of my teens and early twenties. Now, at 33, I know I cannot function without my sisters, my coven, my girl gang, my wāhine, wives, loves, mothers. And even if I could, I wouldn’t want to. The ties that bind us together are beautiful – we finally feel secure in a way that I wish all young women could feel.
Thank you for being the glue that mends the broken. Thank you for being the shoulder to cry on, the chocolate, the glass of wine, the stinky cheese and crackers, the real proper coffee on a Sunday morning. In sickness and in health. The most deep, meaningful, and abiding friendships of my life will be here and now when they’re most needed.