Finding your almost two-year-old standing on your kitchen counter digging in the cupboard for candy, completely naked. Calling your mother in tears to exclaim, “I’m running out of places to hide the knives!” or “They figured out the childproofing again!” Having your four-year-old charge head-first into your priest, nearly tackling him. These are all scenarios that I would likely have found somewhat unimaginable (albeit amusing) prior to becoming a parent. Now, they’re simply reality.
I was a nanny all through college for a family of four boys, a family of three boys, and a few other sets of high-energy hooligans. I truly (naively) thought I was prepared for motherhood. At least, as prepared as one can be. Boy, was I ever wrong! Motherhood is so much messier, literally and emotionally, than I ever could have imagined. While there have been many things that have helped keep me at least semi-sane during this crazy journey, one of the most important has been my friends. I have often heard that if you want to find out what kind of friends you have, move. True friends will help you move, an activity that is now in the top five of my “Please God, never again!” list. Our friends not only helped us physically move last fall, but during the five weeks prior brought us boxes, helped us pack, took our kids for hours (days!) to let us pack, brought us meals, baked cupcakes for our two-year-old’s birthday, and a whole host of other selflessly helpful things. To say we have excellent friends would be an understatement. Obviously, it goes without saying that I have never felt lacking in the friendship department, but rather abundantly blessed.
In particular, I have a women’s group I meet with monthly, comprised of my two college roommates and two other women who not only put up with our nonsense but actually seem to enjoy it. (And frankly, add their own level of laugh-until-you-cry hilarity.) When I graduated college, the mom of the family I had lived with for two years told me that I had no idea how lucky I was to have such good girlfriends and how important they would be to me in the years to come. She was right. I have appreciated those women more each year, as we got married over the course of four months and have since had 14 (soon to be 15) kids between us.
One of my other good friends is pregnant with her seventh child. My husband and I were married on her fifth anniversary, and our lives have taken oddly similar paths, with our third children being born exactly six years apart, our first four kids matching genders, and our oldest boys being crazy-high-energy. I have always felt so blessed by this woman’s friendship, in part because each time we’ve discerned a new child, I have thought, “Okay, it’ll be okay to have a (second, third, fourth, etc.) child because M has done it and her kids are thriving.” It has been a reassuring comfort to have someone walking the road ahead of me, someone to learn from, to bounce ideas of off, and send Facebook messages in hysterics.
As Aristotle noted:
Perfect friendship is the friendship of men who are good, and alike in virtue; for these wish well alike to each other qua good, and they are good themselves. Now those who wish well to their friends for their sake are most truly friends; for they do this by reason of own nature and not incidentally; therefore their friendship lasts as long as they are good-and goodness is an enduring thing…But it is natural that such friendships should be infrequent; for such men are rare.
Being that such people are rare, I have always been extremely thankful for women who understand me and who are excellent friends in the truest sense of the word. I share all of this simply to note that I have never felt anything was “missing” in my life. On the contrary, I have always felt overly blessed with such fantastic friendships with incredible women.
Yet over the past year and a half, I have had the chance to get to know a woman from our homeschool co-op much better. She and her family have been an answer to a prayer I didn’t even know I had. Our eight kids are similar ages and have very similar temperaments, meaning neither one of us is phased when a two-year-old strips down in the middle of the living room. Not that we would know anything about that, of course! The kids all play remarkably well together, so little to no adult intervention is required when we get together. My kids are all fairly strong-willed, energetic handfuls — they keep me busy, to put it mildly, and while they are of course wonderful and amazing, as a unit they can be exhausting. Yet, this woman is the kind of friend with whom I am comfortable dropping my whole crew. She gets the chaos of four kids in five years because she is also living it currently. I could never have anticipated the blessings that would come from having a family that “matches” ours so well. Having someone walk through the craziness by our side, a “battle buddy,” has been so encouraging, more than I ever could have imagined.
One of my favorite bloggers, Jen Fulwiler, notes that we were never meant to “do” motherhood alone. In some respect, the way many of us are raising our kids, without close-knit neighborhoods and often far from extended family; makes motherhood even more overwhelming than the day-to-day grind does. It is easy to feel isolated and like our work is in vain. It is easy to get lost in the dishes and laundry and forget that this is the most important thing I will do with my life — raise my kids. To be able to observe a “mirror image,” mom and see the beauty of her busy kids and house is a direct reminder to me of just how blessed I am to be raising this crew. So to end, I’ll borrow a quote from Toy Story‘s Woody, where he is preparing the toys to move: “A moving buddy. You don’t have one…GET ONE!” Do everything possible to find a battle buddy, particularly if you are a stay at home mom of young kids. You will be blessed more than you could ever have imagined.