Hi, remember me? Your friend who doesn’t have children? I’m still here. I still love you and want to be part of your life. But I can see that your life has undergone a huge change that I can only partially understand and relate to. If we were to follow societal norms, our friendship would fade over time as I keep inviting you to social events that you can’t attend, and your friendships would deepen with others who are at a similar stage of life.
Here’s the truth: I want to support and help you in this next phase of life, but I don’t know how. I think I have had a pretty average experience for a woman growing up in American culture. I’ve seen babies before, I’ve even held several for short periods of time. I’ve pinched their cheeks and fought the urge to eat up those chubby thighs. I moved out of the house as soon as I graduated high school, went to start my independent life at university, entered the workforce and got my first real grown-up job working in an office. University and work had a lot of new things for me to experience, but neither of them had any babies. My experience with children is tragically limited. I blame it on a loss of communal spirit in our society.
I don’t know at what point the myth emerged in our individualistic society that needing help makes you weak or that charity is only for those who are destitute. We have been receiving and giving help to each other our entire lives. So why do we have such a hard time asking for help? I’m terrible at it, truly terrible, but I have noticed, as you no doubt have, my quality of life has been significantly higher when I have made myself more open to receiving and giving help.
So, please, let me help you. It may be hard at first; I won’t know what will be helpful to you, and you’ll have to explain it to me. You’ll have to articulate your needs and be vulnerable. I will be intimidated and feel out of my element as I watch you navigate motherhood with what feels like some kind of magical prowess that I do not possess.
There will be times when I still won’t get what your new life means. And there will be times when I’ll see something you wish I hadn’t. But you will be helping me, too—and not just in the way we all grow when we help others and are helped by them. You will help me gain exposure to what it means to be a mother and a chance to develop those capacities.
Fingers crossed, I will be a better mother for it when the time comes. And that’s got to be better for everyone, right?