Where's your net?
One week in November I found myself at Saint Timothy's Anglican Church. A week later I was at Manor Road United Church. Come January, you could find me at the Anglican Church of St John the Baptist. In February it was St Vincent de Paul Catholic Church.
I wasn't having a faith crisis or sampling different doctrines. I was in the lucky role of delivering faith and optimism that All Will Be Well. Just like the prayer of the famous Christian mystic Julian of Norwich, All shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well. I volunteered to be on the speakers list for a dynamic association called MumNet. It's a charitable organization, founded and run by volunteer women that supports new moms. The usual format is that the women have an hour-long workout followed by a speaker. There is childcare for their babies in the room next door, often provided by a bevy of beautiful eastern European granny types à la Magda from Sex and the City.
This may sound like stale gathering, but I suspect those rooms in church basements have never heard such juicy conversations. These women connect through equal measure of tears and humor. There are no holds barred, graphic accounts of labor and delivery. Conversations around where did all this guilt and anxiety come from?!' and how do I escape a violent relationship?'. Women weep as they discuss feeling guilty for not returning to work or feeling guilty because they can't wait to return to work. One group, which shall remain unnamed, always seems to swing the topic around to sex with details that would make a playboy editor blush.
I'm not sure where the name mumnet came from, but I am certain that these women become each other's safety net. They are one another's lifelines when it all seems overwhelming and they doubt their own parenting abilities. Life with new babies, and with toddlers, can be lonely and isolating. Days can tick by at such a snail's pace you may imagine the clock batteries are dead. Winters in Canada are often long, dark, and cold. And yet, these women bundle up their babies and themselves and tramp through the freezing temperatures and snow banks for the levity and comfort of other women in the trenches. Women who are ready to say, I'm not as together as I hoped I'd be and I'm struggling. I always make sure to bring tissue to these groups, prepared for emotions to bubble up and seep through the cracks created by sleep deprivation.
I try my best to make time to speak with these groups because I love observing the camaraderie and sustenance of women supporting women. I remember what life in the trenches was like when exhaustion made me brittle and the laundry seemed endless. I'm speaking to these moms, not only as a therapist, but also as a fellow mom who recalls the early years vividly. My eldest, Ella turned 4 a week before my youngest, Max was born. Then there was 18 month old Eve in the middle. I had three kids, 4 and under, a thriving therapy practice, a puppy, and an ongoing house renovation.
Just like Dickens's famous first line in A Tale of Two Cities, it was the best of times, it was the worst of times . I remember one morning, after another sleepless night, reaching into the refrigerator for coffee cream (Java - AKA elixir of life at that life stage. My single coffee of the day, a strong Americano, savored with rapture). A massive container of spinach slid out and upended all over the kitchen floor. I sunk to my knees to clean it up, silent tears dribbled down my cheeks. Baby Max squawked in the background. Little Ella came and gently rubbed my back and said, it's OK Mamma, it's OK. Then Eve, the middle kid and court jester came over, thrust her diaper clad crotch in my face as I was on all fours, and squealed with delight, I'm go pee in your face!!. Then, of course, we did the only thing we could, we laughed til our sides hurt. My tears of exhaustion turned to tears of gratitude. Ella brought the nurturing, Eve brought the humor, and Max was a willing audience to the insanity. Not a whole lot has changed.
The insanity of parenting continues with the wild emotional roller coaster ride through peaks of bliss and valleys of frustration. The net you create, your own Mum Net, will be there to catch you. You aren't alone.