The older woman looked down into the stroller and smiled, “How old is she?”
“Eight weeks,” I answered. We went on to chat about babies and sleep and 2:00 am feedings while she rang up my clothing purchase. She was so much older, wiser, had already done this thing that was so new to me. It felt good to talk to her.
She was someone who understood.
And then it happened again when I went to the grocery. The bookstore. The gym. Finally I realized; there’s something about having a child that bonds women. I thought to myself, I’m in a club now, The Motherhood Club.
Because never before had older women in department stores stopped and talked to me. They didn’t ask personal questions about my life, my family or my sleep habits. But once I got pregnant, once my belly began to reveal itself, everything changed.
Those ahead of us in the game of life like nothing better than to share. They share their experiences, their advice, their war stories. Sometimes they share too much.
And thank God. Because if I didn’t have their stories to make me realize I’m not alone in my circumstances, then I surely wouldn’t survive.
Because whatever it is I am going through, it’s the people I go through it with who help me get to the other side.
When my daughter was three months old, I went back to work. It’s hard to be a working mom. Hard to show up on time when your two-year-old throws a tantrum over pink socks. Hard to be on your game in the boardroom when you’ve been up all night.
So it was then that I bonded with other working moms. Together we commiserated about how there aren’t enough hours in the day and the guilt of missing our child’s first step, first word, first lost tooth. We also taught each other how to make dinner in a flash, make the most of the moments we had with our children and how to Let. The. House. Go.
I became a full-fledged member of the Working Mothers Club. But not for long.
Because when I had daughter number two, I quit my job and became a stay-at-home mom. This too, was an adjustment. Because while I loved being with my children, I also loved coffee breaks and satisfying work and adult conversation.
Being at home alone with little ones was sometimes lonely. So I joined a real, live mom’s club, and it literally saved me. This club was full of women who could relate to being up all night, being thrown up on, and being home all day but still getting nothing done. They had empathy, advice, and knew better than anyone how to get purple nail polish out of white carpet.
Life is about stages. About experiencing joy, difficulty and adjustment to new and different circumstances. How do I best I get through these stages? I join a club. In other words, I bond with people like me, people in the same place I’m in, people who can guide me through.
Currently I’ve joined a new club. It’s called the Grieving Club. It’s not a physical club like my mom’s club, but it is a club. Most of the members have been through what I’ve been through. They empathize. They reach out. They send me a text or a card or just call to check in.
I am grateful.
For most of my life, I have wanted to keep my struggles, my adjustments, my fears and sadness to myself. I don’t want to be a Debbie Downer, don’t want to bother other people. Sometimes I just don’t want to face my feelings, don’t want to be…vulnerable.
But the older I get, the more I realize this: God did not design me to be a solitary creature. He does not want me to go through my trials alone and in fact, he reminds me that I’m never alone. He is with me always.
But it’s nice to have some physical companions too. So he gave me family, friends, and complete strangers who exhibit empathy and compassion. What a blessing.
There’s a lot I don’t understand about how God works. But I do know this: God created each of us with an empathetic heart and when we feel the pull we are meant to act.
So I guess when it’s my turn, when I’m ready, it will be my job to pay it forward in the Grieving Club. To be that person who commiserates, reaches out, calls or sends a text or card just to check in. I’m not there yet, haven’t felt the pull, but when I do, I’ll be more than ready to complete the assignment.