A girlfriend of mine with three young boys recently lamented, “I see friends doing all of these things — like going away on girls’ trips together — and I just have no idea how they’re doing it.” A flurry of disparate thoughts drew immediately to the surface, in seek of expression. This is a brief season of life. What nobody tells you about breastfeeding (which she is currently in the midst of): you are tethered to the baby until you wean, which is both a blessing and a challenge. Comparison is the thief of joy. Social media is bioluminescent, anyway: we see sparks in the dark water without knowing the full outline of things. For all we know, those moms are making tough tradeoffs to be on those trips.
But I saw the shape of her solitude, and also the familiar strain of “Does everyone else ‘get it’ but me?”
Phases of motherhood can feel achingly lonely. Even when you know that there are mothers all over the world — hell, all over your neighborhood! — shuffling out of bed to quiet midnight cries just as you are, and marching through the same morning routines just as you are, it can feel at times as though you are a tiny planet orbiting around a tiny universe, colliding with nothing. An enclosed atmosphere.
Earlier this year, I read excerpts from a fascinating book on winter by author Kate May. In it, she writes:
“It is all very well to survive the abundant months of spring and summer, but in winter, we witness the full glory of nature’s flourishing in lean times…Plants and animals don’t fight the winter; they don’t pretend it’s not happening and attempt to carry on living the same lives they lived in the summer. They prepare. They adapt. They perform extraordinary acts of metamorphosis to get them through. Wintering is a time of withdrawing from the world, maximizing scant resources, carrying out acts of brutal efficiency and vanishing from sight; but that’s where the transformation occurs. Winter is not the death of the life cycle, but its crucible.”
Some of this language does not fit the context of motherhood: early motherhood is anything but “lean.” But there is a rich parallel here in the sense that early motherhood — at least for me — demanded a withdrawal, and I was not always at peace with that change. Still, looking back, I am struck by “the extraordinary acts of metamorphosis” I performed to make my way through. Because during that time, when my social life and desire for domestic organization and even my bandwidth to attend to my older daughter ran uncomfortably thin, I was becoming. I was spinning myself into the loving mother I have become. I was discovering new angles, new strengths, new tendernesses that I had never before seen in myself.
What I mean to say to my friend, to myself, to my fellow Magpies, is that we are in a season of life, and that the foliage looks different now. It is OK to embrace that view for what it is. It is OK to say no to social engagements. It is OK to not volunteer to be class mom. It is OK to skip the birthday parties. It is OK that you are not the mom hanging out with the other moms after carpool. You can give a friendly wave and crawl quietly into the hibernation of winter at home. As I wrote elsewhere on this subject: “our movements in times of adversity need not always be so frictional and against the grain. Maybe there are seasons designed for fallowness. Maybe we learn important things there, in the quiet and bare.”
To my moms in the quiet and bare:
I see you.
+My Dad (a many-time marathoner and longtime daily runner) has been raving about Saucony’s new Endorphin 3 running shoe. He is not usually prone to exclamations, but he wrote me a text that read: “It may be the best running shoe I’v ever had. Light but great cushion.” I think I am going to order a pair next.
+Another great Toteme-inspired striped knit — this one $71.
+Target is running a buy-one-get-one-50%-off deal on all shoes. A great time to buy a pair of trending Western boots (Isabel Marant vibes) and throw in these fab rain boots, too (love the sleek, minimalist design and come in such great colors). Alternately: their popular clog boot (reminiscent of No6’s celebrated style) is included.
+A great kitchen runner for this season. (Has an anti-slip back!)
+We are hosting a little fall party for the neighborhood (Mr. Magpie smoking a pork butt to make pulled pork!) in a week, and I bought these adorable lanterns to string up with twine between the trees and these affordable gingham tablecloths for the event.
+Target has some really cute boots for little girls at the moment — love these floral Doc Marten-inspired ones (imagine with cableknit tights << these are THE best; I buy ever year! and a little jumper), these Western ones, and these lugsoles (they look like the Native Treklites!)
+And you can match with her in these!