Right after my daughter was born, a good friend invited me to her house for coffee and adult conversation. As I hesitated, thinking about the Herculean effort it would take to get my 3-year-old and newborn out of the house, she said, “Just pack them up and come. My kids are older and it’s easier for me to clean up a mess, and you need to get out of the house.” I quickly threw on my least stained T-shirt and dragged my kids to her house, where my son proceeded to destroy her family room as we chatted over coffee.
As I left her house, I thanked her for having us, and she smiled and said, “Having babies is hard! I remember. You are always welcome here.”
We spent many a morning at her kitchen table, and I’ve never forgotten her kindness in those early months of mothering two babies. It was during those mornings that my friend gave me quite possibly the best advice, the advice that often saved me from the panic I felt when I was alone with two babies under 3.
She told me to try to tidy up the house in the morning, pack the kids up, and spend the morning out, preferably at a house of a friend with older kids. She smiled wryly and said, “Toddlers can’t wreck a house they aren’t in.” And she was right. We settled into a routine of spending our mornings out and returning home for nap time. I needed the fresh air and the social interaction, and the kids always napped better when they were worn out from an activity.
Her simple kindness of offering me a place to come where I could truly relax and not have to worry about every little thing helped me navigate those turbulent months of breastfeeding, sleep deprivation, and sheer exhaustion.
My friend is a mom who recognized how fucking hard it was to keep your head above water when you are tired and depressed after a baby. She is a mom who cared more about her friend’s well-being than a toddler who would likely leave a tornado of toys and cracker crumbs in his wake.
And she is a mom who, because she has children older than mine, was willing to extend her home and kindness to me, a mom deep in the trenches. I will never forget that.
Because of her kindness, now that my babies are officially big kids, I also have an open door policy for my friends with little ones.
I remember what it was like to feel so tired that it felt like an effort to lift my arms, much less the infant carrier.
I remember what it was like to go to a house that was decorated perfectly and pray that my toddler wouldn’t put his feet on the fancy couch.
I remember what it was like to have moms judge me as my toddler melted down in a cafe while I waited for a hot coffee — and wanting to melt down on the floor right next to him.
To those moms who are in the trenches, I want you to know there is always a spot at my kitchen table for you.
And hot coffee. Or wine. Whatever you prefer.
I don’t give a shit if you show up with your T-shirt on inside out and backwards.
And you can whip your boobs out and breastfeed right at my kitchen table. You won’t be the first friend to do so, and you certainly won’t be the last. Free the nipple, mama.
You can bring your baby here and take a nap if the thought of conversing is too exhausting. Seriously. Because now that my kids are grown, there’s nothing more I’d love to do than sit with an infant and breathe in the sweet smell of their little baby head. I’ll gladly sit in a rocking chair while you nap.
It is so easy to forget how hard those first years were, how much you survived in the long days of diapers, potty training, and temper tantrums. It’s easy to pass judgment when you are so close to the light at the end of the tunnel that you are blinded by your new life with mostly independent teenagers.
And it’s easy for people like Amanda Blum to write articles titled, “Sorry, But Your Kids Aren’t Welcome in My House,” and declare that kids aren’t welcome in her home simply because she doesn’t like the chaos that kids bring. Of course, her house, her rules, and her opinion, but have we all really gotten to a place where we need to declare that our friends and their choices to have children are so offensive that we’d rather not invite them to visit, lest our stainless steel refrigerators get covered in fingerprints?
Frankly, Amanda, I wouldn’t have wanted to come to your place when I had little ones because you sound stressful and hostile. And I’m glad I had friends who welcomed my kids, and enjoyed their company, and didn’t fret over the placement of their throw pillows while they supported me through the darkest months of my mothering career.
So, Amanda, you go ahead and sit in your perfect house with your perfect furniture and continue having your perfectly uninterrupted adult conversations. I’m sure your guests will feel right at home in the quiet, sterile, perfect castle you’ve created.
The rest of us will be in my kitchen, sipping coffee and sharing a Costco sheet cake while we listen to the sounds of our happy kids having a pillow fight with my clearance throw pillows.