So when I met Melanie last last year, we talked about being moms raising kids, hers skinning knees on suburban sidewalks, and mine running through farm fields, and she told me she remembers to count the gifts each day. And really, one of the most fantabulous gifts of motherhood is sharing it with friends, although the friend-acquiring process can be…a little awkward. In between the carpools and playdates, Melanie Dale wrote a book about it, Women Are Scary: The Totally Awkward Adventure of Finding Mom Friends. What if we could stop walking around wounded, share our burdens, and link arms around the world? She believes that we are better together. We make each other better moms, better humans. We need each other, because mothering is just plain hard. It’s a grace to welcome Melanie to the farm’s front porch today…
Have you ever trudged through a time when your family life was messy and hard?
Maybe your marriage was being sucked into a black hole, or one of your kids was cracking apart, or you were struggling with depression, or even all three at one awful time?
Our adoption process took two years, and during that time, I blogged and shared and dreamed and wrote my future daughter gooey love notes on the internet for the whole world to see.
I blinked on rose-colored contact lenses and just knew that all the heartache would end if we could just get her here with us.
When we finally brought her home, the only gooey feeling I had was the feel of the boogers streaming down my face as I sobbed over how dang hard everything was.
Adoption is beautiful and our daughter is incredible and smart and funny and loving.
But becoming a safe place for a child who doesn’t understand what’s happening to her is a road. A long, difficult road.
Life got insanely hard while we adjusted to this new normal, and after half a year, I was a shriveled former human being.
I felt like one of those blow-up Santas that people put out on their yards at Christmas. I was sad and deflated on the front lawn and someone had detached the thingy that blows in air.
A friend who knew my struggle invited me to a Bible study at a church that wasn’t mine.
I’d already attended a few worship services here and there at other churches, and I was beginning to feel like a church cheater, some kind of spiritual junkie who ran from church to church for a hit of Holy Spirit.
Whatever. This church had free child care if you went to its young moms’ study on Wednesday mornings. That’s all I needed to know.
It was a Methodist church, and I didn’t know anything about Methodists, except that they were cool to offer free childcare to nonmember, church-hopping floozies like me. I grabbed my complimentary coffee and slid into my seat as they powered up Beth Moore on the DVD player.
I wasn’t there to make friends.
I was there to sit by myself and hide from my daughter. And then the most horrible thing you can think of happened.
The video ended and they began circling up the chairs.
Oh, you have got to be kidding me.
The chairs were blocking the doors and I couldn’t decide which was worse, facing my daughter one hour early or facing these women.
They flipped the lights back on and I looked around. I judged. Oh, I did.
I judged that room full of mamas. To me, it felt like the whole room was filled with perfectly coifed women who wore adorable sandals and tucked in their shirts and had cute belts that matched their sandals.
I didn’t even know where to buy the cute sandals and I was pretty sure my child was downstairs in the nursery devouring their young.
Apparently there was a discussion and prayer request section of the morning that I somehow missed in my sprint toward free childcare. After checking out the room, I decided that I was a big, big freak and couldn’t possibly have one thing in common with these women.
Well, I was right about the first part. I was a big, big freak, but it turned out that half the women in there had adopted children.
All of them were genius rock stars with beautiful faith. I didn’t know what a Methodist was, but these girls with the pretty sandals knew a lot more about life than I did.
And they knew something about feeling like they were failing.
After working through my utter shame over being a totally judgmental zit up in my head, I ran headlong into relationship with them and kept coming back, week after week.
It was so easy for me to size up that room and think I knew everything about those other women.
When we see each other out of context of our home lives, we can assume that everyone else has it all together and we’re the only ones hanging on by a thread.
The truth is, so many of us are messy and cracked. We’re just afraid to talk about it.
We all judge other women and are judged in return. Other moms judge our kids, our parenting choices, our appearance. Even when we don’t mean to, we make snap decisions about other women, and we’re so dang intimidating to one another.
So I’m learning not to judge a girl by her sandals and to discover the vast array of mommies being their awesome selves.
When I boil it down, judgment stems from my own insecurity.
And as I begin to treat the root of the problem, my own self-worth in Christ and ability to love myself because of Christ, I see other moms as the unique, incredible people they are.
I had to figure out that God made me and loves me for me — not because I’m trying to be someone else.
He loves me.
A basic, Sunday-school-level truth that I’m still trying to learn in my mid-thirties.
And He loves you.
Oh so much.
Melanie Dale is a geek on a God-ride, a minivan mama and total weirdo who stinks at small talk. Her laugh is a combination honk-snort, and it’s so bad that people have moved away from her in the movie theater. She adores sci-fi and superheroes and is terrified of Pinterest. Author of Women Are Scary: The Totally Awkward Adventure of Finding Mom Friends, she’s also a contributor for Coffee+Crumbs and an advocate for Children’s HopeChest. Living in the Atlanta area, she blogs about motherhood, orphan care, adoption, and sometimes poo.
To learn more about developing authentic, soul-soothing “momlationships?” Check it out: Women Are Scary: The Totally Awkward Adventure of Finding Mom Friends