everything i needed to know in life, i learned from my friend who just moved away
I’ll never forget the day I lay on my couch, barely not pregnant anymore, barely sleeping, barely myself, barely hanging on, and texted the only woman my age I knew with a child slightly older than mine.
We’d taken one class together in college and had a few mutual friends, including my husband. But we weren’t close.
“Hi,” I texted.
“Hi!” She said back. “How are you???”
“This is really hard,” I said to a person who wasn’t really my friend yet.
She didn’t say, “Don’t worry!” and she didn’t say “You think it’s hard now, just wait until he starts crawling.” She didn’t say “Tell me what you’re struggling with and I’ll tell you how to fix it.” She didn’t say, “But you look great!”
She said, “It is SO hard. I remember it like it was yesterday.”
She said, “Never forget that you are the very best mom in the world for your son.”
I say that to so many moms now: It is SO hard. I remember it like it was yesterday.
I’ll never forget the day she told me that when she had the choice to have an unmedicated birth or an epidural, she agonized as she lay in the hospital bed. We both belong to a bougie-natural Seattle culture that doesn’t necessarily frown upon epidurals, per se, but it celebrates the shit out of unmedicated births. She wanted an epidural but she didn’t feel like she should want one.
I’ll never forget the way she told me that she came to a place in that hospital room where she said to herself, “You know what? I don’t have to be great at unmedicated birth. I can be good at other things.”
I say that to so many moms now: You can be good at other things.
I’ll never forget the day I told her I didn’t usually offer to help other moms in public, as a sign of respect, as a kind of nod - I understood that popping into whatever meltdown was happening as a well-intentioned stranger would only make things worse. She told me she understood, but also, why not ask if you can help? Why not help?
After all, we’re the only people qualified to do it. Why else do we shlep these backpacks to the zoo?
I say that to so many moms now: Why not help?
We both have closer friends than each other, but every day that it’s SO hard, I remember it like it was yesterday: I don’t have to be good at everything; I can be good at other things. Why not help.
My friend moved away but before she did she gave this to me and I want to give it to you, because you don’t need to be a friend for me to recognize you. I didn’t need to be hers when she recognized me.
There’s a reason I reach for the Hunger Games salute gif more often than any other when I’m talking to another parent. It’s a battlefield out there and we salute each other across the chaos, the screams, the bloody knees and barf and what the fuck, Buster, did you just spit out a hot, wet glob of COARSE KOSHER SALT into my hand?
In the battle, allegiances are constantly shifting. Sometimes it’s me and my husband against my kid. Sometimes it’s me and my kid against the judgy barista. Sometimes it’s me alone against my nightmares, sometimes it’s my husband and my kid against me, and sometimes, once a year, it’s me and the Mall Santa against my kid and my husband, who honestly does not see the point but wtf Ryan you can’t undercut me in front of Santa. Come on.
But sometimes, if you’re lucky, you find someone who is on your side no matter what. It won’t be your kid and it won’t be your partner. It’ll be a friend who is wise enough NOT to tell you that you think it’s hard now, wait until he starts crawling; smart enough to accept that no mother is the best at everything; and kind enough to help, just help, just because she can.
People come in and out of my life and I’m working on reframing that narrative, away from “I’m broken inside” and toward ”I’m a firm believer in the KonMari school of relationships.” I have come to believe that it’s okay to experience your friends during the season of your friendship, and then let that time end beautifully on its own terms. Seasons end; it doesn’t mean they failed. We all have so many seasons ahead of us.
But this is different. People come in and out of your life but you never forget the people who changed yours. It feels so dramatic and a little embarrassing to say it that way, but it’s true. My friend moved away but first she showed me how to be a lighthouse, a comrade, an ally. These things she said changed the way I thought about my parenthood. They changed the way I love my children and myself, more gently, and the way I reach out to others.
My friend moved away but before she did I wanted to make sure you heard her say the things she said to me. Because they kept me in the good fight. They keep me there now.