“I mean, I just don’t understand why you want children, you work with them, isn’t that enough?” My childhood friend Nancy stated as she drove down the interstate on our way to meet up with a group of other women chosen to be bridesmaids for an up coming spring wedding.
“I don’t expect you to understand it, you never were child oriented, but yes, when I marry, I want children, I want pets and I want kids.” I rolled my widow down further to drink in the warm breeze that whipped my hair into my eyes.
“We really are different people now aren’t we?” Nancy said in a soft voice as she looked over at me.
Yes, we were. Funny what happens to grade school girls who braid each others hair and play hopscotch together. High School sleep overs and giggles about that first kiss we hope to land in the next year, gives way to graduation and different college choices. Our new sorority sisters may be girls knew from back home, or new friends we are bonding with over glasses of sweet ice tea and charity fund raising plans. Soon we are in the work force meeting new people again and bonding over lunch dates and conversations about the latest job project.
What happens when a woman has that first child changes everything. Does she remain in the work place and if she does, suddenly does she discover she is drawn to talking to other Mothers she may not have noticed in the past? Does she quit her job to be a stay at home Mom and if she does, where does she find friends now? Church, others from birth class or chance encounters at play groups in the park? What if her child has special needs? Does she bond only with other Mothers like herself?
I was lucky enough to be bonded and grounded with a couple of close friends before I found myself in the situation of being a special needs Momma. Despite that, I quickly found myself seeking the company of others in my similar situation for comfort, advice, and that age old understanding of life when the situation has changed from familiar to uncharted waters. If I could go back and revisit myself at a young age, I would have some sage advise for myself I had to learn the hard way. I would tell myself to be careful not to lock myself way because, Mommas need play dates too. To stay fresh you need friends regardless of whether these friends have children or not and whether their child has special needs or not. Special needs Mommas don’t need to wall themselves off into a box where only disability is discussed and your only adult conversations are about IEP’s and doctor visits.
As I moved both physically and mentally into different stages of life, I lost contact with friends. I woke up one day to find myself almost totally alone. I felt if a friend didn’t understand my situation or life choices that we would have little to nothing in common. What I didn’t know then, was life is bigger than the place were you are standing. I may have left the work force years ago and not returned, but it does not mean I don’t understand the part of my friends life who never left work, but is raising a child as a working Mom. We had that part, the raising a child, in common. My friends may not understand having a disabled child, but they understand making plans, seeking answers, searching for help. Moms have always understood loving a child and having dreams for that child. I just didn’t see it, back then.
I learned, thank you Facebook, the locations and outcome of the lives of many friends from my past. I have, again thank you Facebook, sat down with some of them to discover as different as we are, we are still women, and women need to support each other regardless of our life situations. What I have learned most of all, is a play date for Momma now does not require I seek out like minded and like situation women but seek out friends. Just being at dinner with another woman and having time to talk, to laugh at a situation, to share a memory, or morn for the loss of someone from our childhood, is wonderful food for the soul.
Nothing refreshes a worn out worn down Momma like taking two hours to spend with a friend. Walk away from your own life for a while and talk about something else. Ask your friend about their life, and go on, enjoy the story about a normal child doing a normal thing. Heart breaking, yes, it is at times, but it’s also critical to let them have the stage to share a happy minute with someone who genuinely cares. Besides, when your special needs child does something special to you, you need to have a buddy to brag to, so go on, build that bond with a Momma of a neurotypical child and see just how much you really do have in common.
As for my friend Nancy, she never had children. She was career military and I could not be prouder of her. Despite huge difference in our lives, we have the love of dogs in common and she writes me letters about how her dog reacted when she returned from being deployed. I sent her boxes with supplies and little gifts while she was deployed. Something in common, there are always threads, you just have to stop looking for the ropes that bind us together and hold instead, to the threads that weave into the tapestry that is your life. Go Momma, call someone and make a play date. See what beauty you can weave back into your life with the help of a few good friends.
(Photo via Google Images)