Three under four wasn’t (see: isn’t) always easy. It takes a village, that’s for sure. And this is why I miss my mothers’ group.
For those who may not be so familiar with the (Australian) term, a mothers’ group is a group of first-time mothers and their babies assigned a group by their local council based on their location and the date of baby’s birth. Some groups can be brilliant, others not so much. But my group was one-of-a-kind.
Let me tell you why.
Ladies, this is my love letter to you.
I’m here, with three kids, and I’m missing you, my friends. As you well know, I’m used to an active social life and it goes without saying that my friends are as close to me as family. You were the women living closest to me, and the ones I saw most often. You were the ones who salvaged my sanity when I became a mother.
When I had Clara and was living in Brighton, I was seriously nervous about what my mothers’ group would be like. Brighton, for those who aren’t familiar with it, is an affluent, coastal suburb of Melbourne. It’s very, well, white and mainly populated by old, rich folk, celebrities, and politicians. As a big fan of diversity, I was pretty sure that living in Brighton wouldn’t be my jam. At least so I thought.
Before I’d even met you, ladies, I’d made up my mind that we’d have nothing at all in common. Minds can be such experts in sabotage! I really felt that I knew what you’d be like: super rich, and never having worked a day in your lives! You’d be decked out in tennis whites and fashionable activewear. You’d be footballer’s wives, and you’d have had all the plastic surgery in the world!
I also fooled myself into thinking I didn’t need new friends. After all – I had plenty of parent and non-parent buddies! How wrong I was. About all of this.
Our group was a mix of amazing, accomplished women from all over the world. Women who had careers. Intelligent, well-read, well-travelled women. Women with a diverse set of talents and interests. But what brought us all together was acceptance of each other and each other’s ways of mothering.
Breast or bottle, it didn’t matter. C-section or vaginal birth, it didn’t matter. Co-sleeping or cot sleeping in another room, it didn’t matter. Sleep training or no sleep training, it didn’t matter. Everyone supported each other’s choices. We still do.
We met many times a week. Mainly in coffee shops, but often for long walks along the beach, a trail of a dozen prams spread out along the Elwood and Brighton foreshore. We arranged weekly pilates classes. We picnicked in the local gardens with blankets, good wine, and even better food. We even progressed to Friday afternoon “wine-time” sessions and started once-a-month Friday night dinners, sans babies (something that still continues today, and that I have serious FOMO about now that I’m no longer in Australia). We did joint birthday parties. Christmas parties. Our families became each other’s families.
We’ve had joyful celebrations as a group, and devastating sadness too. But we’ve been there for each other at every twist and turn and I can honestly say that if it wasn’t for you, I’m not sure I’d have made it through. You’ve helped me realise that all the challenges – no matter how big, or small – are worth it.
In the early days of motherhood, Clara was a difficult baby. She never slept. Like, never. Maybe for 20 minutes at a time, a couple of times a day. She’d feed, scream for three hours, then feed again, and the cycle continued. She was diagnosed with reflux at five months of age, something that was obviously contributing to her discomfort. She’d had a difficult birth, and I didn’t produce much breastmilk and so switched to my saviour, formula. I used to panic about meeting up with you and your ‘perfect’ babies. I used to walk the streets of Brighton in tears. Exhausted. Unhappy.
But then I’d bump into one of you women at the shops, and my day could be turned around in an instant. We’d talk, we’d vent, we’d cry. For us, there was always someone ready to listen, and someone ready not to judge.
We talked about sleeplessness, our careers, our changing identities, our partners, and our dreams. Time passed. More babies arrived. Some of us moved interstate or abroad. Some went back to work. Some didn’t. We kept our Facebook group alive. We met in person as often as we could. And our Friday night dinners continued.
And now, even though I’m here in the United States, I know in my heart that we’ll be friends for life.
I miss you so very much. Since I know you’ll likely be reading this at one point or another, what I want you to know is just how much our incredible group means to me, and just how much I feel its support and influence despite my being so many thousands of kilometres away.
You helped me realise just how important it is to be open to new experiences, and throw oneself into the unknown with hope and curiosity for what might come next.
And with that in mind, here I am. Waiting, patiently, to meet some new friends in the States.