The Mother-Ship

“Well what if we leave a bit earlier tomorrow?” I said to my daughter on the way into school last week, in answer to her complaint that she wouldn’t have enough playtime before class started.

“Yeah, we said that this morning too, and here we are, running at the last minute,” I heard behind me – it was another mum, someone I don’t know.

“And apparently it’s my fault we’re late…” I replied. “I know, same here. It’s always my fault,” she said. She rolled her eyes, smiled, and ran ahead, trailed by three rushing children, a few years older than mine.

It was just a short interaction; a fleeting connection – a shared smile during the morning rush.

Like the woman in the kids’ section of the shoe shop later that morning, who reacted on hearing me say to my toddler “Sorry, I know you’re bored, I’m the worst mum in the world.”
“You’re not,” she said, “You’re great – you’re here, and he’s here, and he’s great – you’ve done brilliantly to get this far together!” (in life, she meant, not in the shoe shop – though that too was an achievement)

We chatted for a minute – she had four kids, all older than mine. We went our separate ways, me with new shoes under my arm and a relieved toddler in tow. I’ll never see the woman again, but her comment lifted me during a slightly stressful moment.

Later that afternoon I watched my girls at their gymnastics class, while chatting to two mothers. I’ve never spoken to them before, but in forty minutes we talked about queuing to enroll in schools and homework and commuting and X-Factor and bosses and kids at bedtime and teething and Ergo carriers and The Good Wife and Thursday night wine and how none of us had anything ready for dinner.

In the seven years since having children, I’ve had conversations like this weekly, sometimes daily.

They’re the chats that keep you going on the tough days, the ones that lift you up on the lonely days.

Chats with mothers who are a few years ahead in the child-rearing game and can pass on a “keep going, you’re doing fine” message with just a few quick words.

Chats with mothers who are at the same stage; muddling along together, nobody knowing the answers. But each gaining some knowledge or confidence through conversations with other mums who are gingerly treading the same rocky part of the path.

Chats with mothers who have younger children – paying it forward – sharing hard-won wisdom, or just saying “It will pass, I promise”.

There’s an intense need to reach out, to connect, to ask and to answer, to share problems, to share knowledge, to vent.
And there’s an unwritten rule that there’s no need to wait for friends or family – it’s just fine to strike up a conversation with any other mother anywhere. A licence to link. A quick tonic for the parenting soul.

Not a friendship in the usual sense – often these are in-depth conversations with people we never see again. But a fleeting friendship of sorts – a universal, fluid thread, weaving through the fabric of motherhood in every corner of the country. So maybe not friendship, but a mothership; keeping us all afloat.

Office Mum post: image of two women
image: commons.wikimedia.org

***

Speaking of challenging times…. when my first baby was tiny, I found it to be a particularly lonely time. Then one day, everything changed – Saved by a Smile is an article I wrote recently for eumom.ie about the tough stuff and the good stuff

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20 thoughts on “The Mother-Ship”

    1. I agree – it’s always more juicy for the focus to be on the times when mothers are at odds with one another. But I really believe that it’s not the norm, especially not offline. Most people just want to be nice to each other.

  1. Really lovely piece and so true. I had two loveky chats with totally random people today and they made a hard day so much better.

    1. That’s it – we’re all pulling each other through and a small gesture on one person’s part can really make another person’s day

  2. I listen to a podcast that celebrates mothering and how we have genius moments and total fails and how we’re all just doing our best, and it’s motto is “you’re doing great mom”. I try in little ways to get that across to other mothers too and remember it myself. You’re so right to highlight this, there really does seem to still be so much mommy-wars crap out there.
    Jill recently posted…Netflix. A family obsessed.My Profile

    1. Queues and waiting rooms are the business 🙂
      I love the exchange of glances when one child or other says something particularly funny #teammammy

  3. Lovely post and so true. In a place where I don’t know many people, conversations with other mums are sometimes what get me through an otherwise very long day! Motherhood can be the best club to be a member of.

  4. Agreed. I find as an ‘older’ mum it is something I actively try to do. There are some parenting moments you never forget, and you just want to reach out to others when you see them happening. Great post and so true.
    tric recently posted…Remembering that day.My Profile

    1. Thanks Tric – I feel like we have to clarify that you are not an older mum at all, but rather your kids are older than mine so you are wiser 🙂 That’s lovely that you actively try to reach out to other mums – I think it can be day-saving

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