HELLO & GOODBYE
Two sides of motherhood and how friends help you through them
Sometimes to be a good mom, you have to get away from it all.
Once a year, I go on an annual “girls’ trip” with four former college buddies. Every February the five of us gather in a different city and enjoy a few days of laughter, love, and letting go. We take turns picking the destination and the four whose turn it isn’t; fly in from four different states to where they’re told to show up. Sometimes we haven’t seen each other since our last trip. Next year I get to choose the destination but feel a bit under pressure being that’s it’s our “10th anniversary” trip. Truth be told, we could go anywhere and have the time of our lives, but I want next year to be extraordinary.
Each trip has been memorable but, for some reason even we can’t figure out, 2009 was particularly special. For some magical reason, that year’s outing was no different, yet at the same time, very different. You see, before we arrived in Sea Island,Georgia, we had reached some monumental motherhood milestones during the previous year.
Barbara became a mom again, giving birth to sweet Huntley, a little bundle ofTennessee joy who joined a big sister and brother in the family. Huntley is our group’s first baby in many years and we couldn’t get enough of Barb’s stories and photos. Even though we were away from our husbands and kids and the responsibilities that go with them, much of what we talked about was our families.
During our time together, we shared a year’s worth of our kids’ heartbreaks and achievements. Many hours were spent asking about Huntley. “What’s it like having a baby in the house again?” “How do you juggle a high school senior, a high school sophomore, and a one-year-old?” “How are the other two with him?”
The answer to the last question came unexpectedly while driving to a restaurant. Barb’s daughter called her in tears. She was worried because Huntley was upset and out of sorts. To make matters worse, Huntley’s dad was at work and her brother was of no help. The compassionate and seasoned mom that she is, Barbara handled it all calmly and carefully. While she did, the rest of us turned down the 80s music we were rocking out to, listened quietly and anxiously, and were subconsciously reminded that in the end, we are all moms through and through, near or far.
Shelley, on the other hand, was experiencing a totally different side of the motherhood spectrum. Her son was in the middle of his freshman year of college. She was the first in our group to send a child off to college, and although it’s our goals and dreams to do so, it comes with an emotional price.
Even though he’s grown up to become the young man she hoped for and is only an hour’s drive away from their home, Shelley missed her little boy. Born with a baby face identical to his dad’s, he was now officially in college…the very college the five of us attended and the one where our event-filled story started. In a way, it was difficult for us accept, or maybe just to admit, this. Blake can’t be in college because we feel we were just there!
Now, four short years later, we as a group boast a total of 7 college-aged sons and daughters. I’m the first empty nester but, this fall, Shelley will join me as her daughter heads off to school. Yes, days go slow and years go fast.
Still, to me at least, we all look the same and feel the same. Ann is forever our rock. Christie continues to be our voice of reason and style. Barb, she’s our “idea” person. And Shelley is the life of our party. Me? I really don’t know what I am except grateful.
All of this really bubbled to the surface during those few but frenetically-prized days we spent together at The Cloister. We laughed. We cried. We worried. We re-lived treasured past memories and envisioned promising futures. We went shopping for ourselves yet we were constantly searching for that perfect something to take home to the kids. They are always on our minds and forever in our hearts. We don’t stop being moms just because our kids grow up and we don’t stop being friends just because we live in different states.
Whole families benefit from happy moms and being a mom is hard work. It’s even harder without fellow moms you connect with and respect. You could say motherhood is our group’s new sorority. The five of us literally look forward to next year’s trip the minute we’re boarding our planes after the conclusion of one. Yes, it’s sometimes difficult to get away for just a few days, but it’s worth every effort just to reconnect and recharge. While mom is gone, kids cope, dads learn, and we all grow. As Barbara says, “happy wife, happy life.”
Ann, Barbara, Christie and Shelley make me happy. We laugh till we cry and say things that still make us laugh years later. They also make me confident, thankful and just plain better; all qualities you need to be a good mom. As the saying goes: good friends are like stars. You don’t always see them, but you always know they’re there. The same could be said about moms.