One of my biggest fears about being a new mother had nothing to do with actual parenting. I was prepared for the sleepless nights and blowout diapers. I knew my life would “change forever” and I was at peace with that. Well almost. One of my biggest fears about becoming a new mom was how it would affect my friendships.
To understand this fear I have to unpack how I came to form my friendships. The story starts in elementary school. I attended my neighborhood school, and it was some of the best years of my life. I was nurtured and taught at a high level. As a GT student, I was afforded the opportunity to attend a magnet school. The school I selected was clear across town. In one summer I entered a new school and quickly learned that I had no friends there.
To cope with this loss I made new friends, but I also changed how I viewed friends moving forward. They became temporary, disposable, and school-based. This trend continued throughout much of high school. I was friendly with a lot of people, close to some, but I didn’t put in the work necessary to continuously develop my friendships. Thus when signs of trouble came, it was easy to detach and move on.
Then I went off to college and my whole life changed. I was placed in an environment where people who looked like me were only 4.5% of the over 50,000 student population. This isolation caused me to realize how important familiarity matters. Likeness matters, culture matters, and relationships matter. But, that is another post for another day.
Staying on track here – I can remember the exact moment when I knew friends deeply mattered. Stay with me as I continue down the cliche train. I had just experienced what was, at the time, a devastating break up around Valentine’s Day no less. I was in shock and utter confusion trying to figure out how I let myself be so foolish in the first place. And in my tears, away from my family, during my freshmen year of college, my friends were there. They showed up and reminded me that I was a whole person, and my wholeness was not defined by the existence of a romantic relationship. They validated me when I needed it the most.
From that moment on I actively worked to be a better friend to those around me. I became a better listener and a better advice giver. I tried to fill in the gaps that I knew my friends needed at the time. My reward was by the time I graduated college I cultivated meaningful female friendships. I had escaped my pattern of letting go and embraced being vulnerable with other women – other African American women.
Now, back on track here. I was very nervous that I would not be able to provide the level of friendship I thought was appropriate, and that my friendships would suffer because of it. I knew I wouldn’t be able to go out as much, to randomly become available if needed, or simply be present – in the moment.
And so, as I reflect on the past year as a new mom one fascinating aspect of the journey has been that the bond I have with my friends has become stronger. Not because we spend more time together (which we don’t), or because I elevated my friendship game (I have been tired many days), but because they have expressed a new level of love in my life. It is one thing to love your friend. It is another to love her new husband. Yet, it is a completely different and beautiful experience to have your friends love your daughter.
I don’t have many close friends – but I cherish those who choose to walk through life with me. I value our relationships and I continuously remind myself of their importance. They have made me a better wife -constantly affirming my worth. I am a better mother to my daughter because I appreciate and respect the value of human interaction so much more than when I was younger. The intersection of both motherhood and authentic friendship has revealed a unique vulnerability that I fully embrace.
And so I find it fitting that on a day when one of best friends was born I share a piece of myself in honor of her, and all my friends who love me despite myself. I want to thank you for always showing up for me, Charles, and now Vivian. I love you all, and I am eternally grateful God has placed you all in our lives.