I went out to dinner last night with two of my best mama friends. It was a night we had planned for months, scheduled and rescheduled, working around each other’s busy lives and each other’s kid’s busy lives and that general exhausted insurmountable inability to leave the house too that happens by the end of another crazy week. It was supposed to be four of us, but even still one couldn’t make it, even after all that.
And yet dinner was incredible, of course. And not just the food, itself made much more delicious just by virtue of not having been cooked by our own hands. Not the drink either, which flowed freely, or the sweet waitress who cleaned up after us (what a royal treat, to be cleaned up after) or politely ignored us for lingering hours after we had finished because we couldn’t bare it yet to go back to our lives.
All of that was lovely too, but what made it so desperately wonderful was to be in the company of women. Of mothers. Of people who get it, the alternating beauty and struggle that is this life of raising little ones, often while working, usually while trying to stay married and maintain a house and a home and some semblance of sanity.
What a gift it is to be able to say “I’m struggling today,” or “I’m just so tired,” or “I worry I’m screwing it all up royally every minute of every day,” and have these women nod, smile, listen. To have then actually HEAR you. To have them say “yes, sister. Me too,” or even the magical “it gets better.”
Motherhood is lonely work. It’s funny to say that, illogical even, considering so many of us are never actually alone, not even in the bathroom, not even when we desperately wish to be even if just for a second. But while our children and even our husbands are the light and the love and the purpose, they are also not this. They are not the women, the sisterhood.
They are not the village.
Because here’s the thing about motherhood: you cannot do it alone. And you shouldn’t. I watch the neighborhood girls gather in the street and play together for hours, drifting from house to house and checking in and checking each other and growing up together and I can see just how essential these connections are, how much we do for each other just by standing next to one another and holding space and by running at each other’s side.
But it isn’t easy either, not now that we live siloed from each other, one family per house, doing each by ourselves what whole communities used to do together. The village has certainly had to evolve. Now instead of washing laundry together and watching each other’s children play in the river, we text each other, little bursts of connection reaching across miles and into each other’s homes to say things like “yes Liz, it’s perfectly okay to call in sick to work because you have a large pimple on the side of your forehead,” or “girl, I feel you. My coffee’s gone cold too.”
We sneak hugs in when we run into each other at the grocery store or school drop off. We set the alarm for ungodly early hours to rise before the sun and meet for a walk through the quiet streets that’s more about the sacredness of sunrise conversation than it is about exercise. We schedule and reschedule these occasional dinners too, and then we fantasize over our salads about the someday when life is calm and the bank accounts are full and maybe we can actually schedule that girls weekend away somewhere. And we linger over saying goodbye until or exhaustion catches back up with us and we stagger back into our homes again, back to our children and our husbands and our lives, renewed once again.
Until the next time.
Liz is a writer, blogger, teller of stories, believer in truth, and mama to four. She shares her stories on lizpetrone.com and all over the Internet, and recently finished a sloppy first draft of her first book. She can also be found on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.