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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

it's the thought that counts, especially as a mom

Recently I received a bouquet of edible fruits (strawberries, bananas and apples covered in chocolate, um can you say DELICIOUS!?!) at work from one of my best and oldest friends. She lives states away from me, we see each other once a year and talk mostly via long drawn-out voicemails that sound more like we're actually talking to each other or through text messages three days later when we remember we didn't respond to the message because kids were screaming.

She sent me this thoughtful note, a month after my grandmother died, to say she was thinking of me in that grief. She sent it 17 days after my birthday to say "hope you had an awesome day!" and on my final day of work for the summer, after she'd wanted to send it earlier in the year when I had lots of work stuff going on.

I thought this was amazing!  Not only did she remember some big moments in my life, even if later than she'd planned on, but also her life was in chaos that week with house issues and a sick kiddo and stressful job situation. She still took time to acknowledge our friendship.

A week later I received my birthday card and then a separate sympathy card in the mail. This is like 1 1/2 months after she'd planned to send these notes of encouragement and love.

Did I think, "Um, really? a little too late don't ya think?" HELL NO.
I thought, "are you freakin' kidding me?! she's too much, so thoughtful! LOVE this!"

These cards made my day.

Again, I could picture her writing this at 10 at night after all kids were asleep and before cleaning her messy house. I could see her writing it with a toddler nagging at her and pulling on her dress, "Mama!!! Elmo on, Mama!!! I want snack, Mama!!! Mama!!!" and her having to put the pen down about 10 times before sealing the envelope. I imagined, how the heck did she focus enough to even write my address on the envelope?!

I had nothing but admiration, respect and pure joy from her doing these things for me. Some mom friends would have been annoyed at how "late" she was with acknowledging some big moments. They would have thought she wasn't a good friend because she wasn't "on time" weeks ago with her sentiments.

I truly know how it goes. To be so busy or truly exhausted that you can't think straight, you have no idea what day it really is on the calendar, and how two weeks can pass by when you think it's been a matter of a a few days.

I get it. Which is why I am a better friend to my mommy friends than I ever was pre-mommyhood. I respect that sometimes I won't get a phone call back for a week. I get that sometimes texting during the dinner rush meltdown hour after work is the best it's going to get, even when we're discussing something serious like health concerns or the family member's death. I get that sometimes we won't talk for a month and then be interrupted 10 times when we finally do get on the phone and ultimately hang up with "gotta go, bye!" because the baby is screaming or the big kid just pushed his sister.

It's life. It's our reality when you're a mother that you aren't going to do all you say or want to do. You have to prioritize. And sometimes that means you have to pick up medicine at the pharmacy and don't have time to pick up a card for your friend. Sometimes it means having to choose between keeping your child's strict nap time so she is in a good mood later or getting to your friend's house on time. 

We're making choices constantly as moms. Real friends will understand this. 

Friends without kids won't understand this, these choices and dilemmas we moms are faced with when it comes to our friends mixing with our kids and those different lives overlapping. It's not their fault though, I truly believe that. Give them some slack. Teach them, educate them on what your life is like while not preaching, and try to understand when they just don't get it. You probably didn't get it until your kids were born either.

After you have children, your friendships change. Maybe they only alter slightly, if you're lucky. Most go through transformations, ups and downs, moments of distance and moments of closeness. This is normal. You changed. Your entire world changed. Of course your friendships may change along with that. 

It won't always be like it was when you were dressed up and sassy, dancing at your best bud's wedding, focused on nothing else but how your hair looked and which song was coming on next or who ate the largest piece of cake!

That's sad in some ways, but a relief in others.

You have more to focus on now, more that makes your world brighter. And hopefully, if you put time in and you acknowledge your friends' limitations as a mom now, you both grow together and develop this even thicker bond as mom friends.

Well, I decided to pay it forward, this niceness, a dollar short and a day late (or however that saying goes!).

Yesterday I showed up at preschool to pick up my son and I had three small bouquets of flowers for the preschool teachers. I spent $15 at the flower shop. These bouquets were small (daisies, carnations and sunflowers). But they were gorgeous and simple and sweet, just what I wanted.

I wrote sweet notes to the teachers, "Thank you for your patience through our tough stages of not sharing this year. Thank you for helping him on the potty. Thank you for always having a smile and hug for him every single day. You're wonderful at what you do. We appreciate you very much. You taught him so much more than to write his name this year." Things that were specific and meaningful.

They were shocked, hugged me and so happy to feel appreciated.

I felt guilty. I originally wanted to give them something during Teacher Appreciation Week a month ago - a gift card, a cute Pinterest-inspired water bottle filled with treats or something with my son's hand prints. I felt like I was too late. I had wanted to do something for the last day of the official school year last week. I had thought and thought, but had no time, no money, and got busy doing a zillion other things.

So for a few days I decided, oh well, I'll just catch up with them at Christmas time or next June. No big deal.

But then I realized yesterday, it's important. Even if it doesn't make sense, the timing, even if you're "late." It's important to acknowledge what's special, what's important to us. It's OK if you aren't always on track, if you aren't doing it right when your perfect pre-mommy world mind would tell you to do something.


A gift is a gift no matter when you do it. 
A sweet word is nice to hear whenever you say it. 
A beautiful hand-written note is thoughtful whenever you send it. 

I find there's beauty in being honest as a mom.
You know this to be true if you've read ANYTHING I've written the last few years on this blog! I don't like sugar-coating this motherhood adventure. I like being as real as possible, I think it helps us be better moms, honest.

It's OK to say to the preschool teachers, "I really wanted to do this a month ago, but I was so busy at work that I just didn't get to it," or to say to your best friend, "I am so sorry I didn't send you a card when your grandmother died, I had one picked out two days after I heard from you... but then I had no stamps and I couldn't find your updated address, and then my daughter colored on your envelope so I had to find another one... but know I have thought of you ever day the last month."

Just be honest. Don't make excuses. Nobody likes excuses. Just give reasons, facts, the truth. Sometimes that feels like excuses... but there's a difference. If you share from your heart, genuine, thoughtfully, and with kindness... they will respect you.

Who was there before your partner, before your kids? Your friends, for the most part.
So acknowledge them. Remember them. Tell them you miss them and be honest about your experience.

When they don't call you back right away, be OK with that. Imagine they are covered in poopy diapers or changing some laundry over or making dinner and kids are screaming so they wouldn't be able to hear you anyway.

When they don't get that planning a wedding at 1 p.m. is right in the middle of your kid's nap, forgive them, and roll with it with your tired kid.

When they are late to your play date when you busted your butt to get their on time, pick them up a coffee and pass it over with a smile saying, "I've been there, no worries, we've got plenty of time to play."

When they interrupt you 10 times to tend to their kids when you're talking about your partner who is driving you nuts or your work issue or your child's health scare - things so important to you that you've been dying to talk to someone about all week - take a deep breath, find some patience, and smile at how cute your kids are playing together, and keep talking.

We've all been there. That's what it comes down to. At some point you are going to be the friend forgetting, not being on time, sending things much overdue. You are going to be the one who forgets to call her back, whose child deletes the text message so you didn't see it. 

When you are that friend, you'll want the ladies in your life to accept you, to forgive you and roll with it, understanding that this mothering thing is HARD and doesn't always go as planned. 

We just need a little support from our friends sometimes. It'll make your tough job as mom go much smoother, and probably make you laugh along the way.

Here are a few things you could do to keep your friendships with your momma friends strong:

  • Send an email or FB message if it's easier than sending a card
  • Join FB so that the site reminds you of her birthday and you don't have to ever forget again
  • Call her, even if you have 5 minutes. I know sometimes we think "oh I can't call, I don't have the 30 minutes I'd like to talk to her for" but that doesn't mean you can't call. Just call! I have four friends who I call every week on my commute to work after dropping the kids off... I have literally 5 minutes to talk, that's how close drop off at daycare and my work are together. But if I don't call then, I will never call... so I call. Sometimes we literally only get through the "oh how are you? how have you been?" stage of the call, but so be it. It almost always ends with me saying "sorry, I'm walking into the building now, gotta go, bye!" 
  • If she tells you "I'll call you back later!" and then it's 9 p.m. and she hasn't called, let it go. She got busy with kids or she collapsed on the couch scrolling Facebook. It's all good when you're a mom. Be understanding. 
  • Accept limitations... yours and hers. You can't do it all. I wanted to send flowers when my friend's daughter was in the hospital, but I had no money that week... so couldn't. I felt terrible. So I sent a card. It's OK to do what we can do. 
  • If she forgets your wedding anniversary, even though she was your bridesmaid, but texts you the next day saying she saw it on FB and is so sorry for forgetting but loved being part of your day, believe her. We all forget dates from time to time, do you really always know what day it is today?! 
  • Make friendships a priority... even if they come on the list after household chores, job and kids and partner. Make them on the list. That's the important part. 
  • It's OK to be late on things... but remember that when it's REALLY important (births and deaths, for instance) you should stop whatever chores you have lined up or even skip a birthday party so you can at least call, text, or stop by for 10 minutes to show your love and support. When my grandmother died, my friend didn't send a card or flowers until much later, but she texted me every day and called the night of the funeral to see how I was doing. That was enough at that time. Put in some effort, even when you have no time or energy left in you, when it is important. 
  • Go out once a month with the girls! Make it a set time... first Friday of every month for example. If you can't do a regular girls NIGHT out, then get coffee some morning. Do what works. Just put in some effort to make it happen. 
  • Realize it's OK for friendships to change as you get older, as you gain more kids, as you get busier. It's OK to have some distance, then get closer again, distance, etc. It's a process, this friendship + motherhood stuff. That's normal. It doesn't mean she loves you any less. 
  • Accept that nobody is perfect. Not even you. I don't do all these things on this list, I try, but I'm not the greatest friend either. Give credit for trying, that's what counts. The thought... it's what really counts when your moms.
  • Try to focus when you're with her, try not to talk too much about your kid or how awesome you are at this or that. Try listening more than talking. And always, always be honest. Don't sugar-coat your mom experience. If it's a crappy day, share that. And if your friend shares something with you, don't judge her for it. Be supportive. 

HAVE FUN, LADIES! We need more mom-friends who get us! 

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