Thursday, September 3, 2009

Find Your Sisters Where You Can

When I first started the monthly Moms' Night Out (MNO) group, I had a 14-month-old and a husband who worked 12-hour days. I had four girlfriends with toddlers the same age as mine, and, as much as we loved playgroup and Tumble Tots, we needed some kid-free time. Our husbands all worked long days, and our kids were fed, bathed, and in bed by the time they got home. Coley, Jill, Leslie, Brandy and I were single-handedly running our households and caring for our children while the daddies worked hard so we could (happily! gratefully!) stay home with our babies. None of us had our mothers or sisters nearby, and we'd become each other's support systems. But we were all starting to feel a little overwhelmed - and more than a little burned out. So the five of us agreed that on the third Thursday of each month, we'd head out to dinner - without husbands, kids, or mommy guilt.

At first, it was kind of strange eating somewhere other than the mall's food court. We chose restaurants with linen tablecothes, no play area, no kids' menu, no high chairs or booster seats. We ordered things that our husbands and kids would NEVER eat, shared appetizers and entrees, even ordered dessert and coffee. After all, we weren't paying a babysitter and we didn't have to rush home to take care of the elaborate bedtime routines that all of us first-time moms thought we needed (and later found out that none of the daddies were following, just dumping them in their cribs with a quick pat on the bum. But more on that another time.).

With everyone now driving minivans or SUVs, we certainly had enough room to ride together. Besides, we were all getting pregnant again - first Leslie, then Coley, then me - and that way we always had a designated driver. We continued our MNO through the summer and into the fall. Dressing up, putting on a little more makeup than usual, eating at new restaurants, all made us feel like people again, more than just a harried mommy with spit up in her hair and ketchup on her shirt. We liked not being responsible for little people, for their safety, health, education, enrichment - even if it was just for two hours. And no one's husband begrudged her a little time off, a few apple martinis, a night out with the girls now and then, did he?

Sometimes our kids cried when we left and we felt guilty, but we went anyway. Sometimes our husbands cried when we left, and we definitely went anyway! But the kids got over it, and the daddies got over it, and we continued for the next year. Our second babies were all born three months apart, one after the other. By the time one of us was ready to give birth, the last one had recovered enough to help out. Once or twice, someone brought a newborn out with us, but more often we left them at home for a bit, laughing through leaking breast pads and sore "lady parts", and discussed the proper way to "pump and dump" after a glass or two of wine.

My husband quickly learned that a happy wife meant he'd be happy...later, if you know what I mean. I came home refreshed, renewed, re-energized. My friends recognized me for the funny, smart, interesting woman I had once been, and didn't just see me as a chef, housekeeper, accountant, doctor, finder of lost binkies, all things to all people. It was fun, it was good for me, and it was good for my family.

Over time, we've all gone our separate ways. I moved away when the big kids were 2 1/2, and started a MNO group in my new town. The others continued for awhile after I left, but eventually their kids went to different preschools and made new friends. But for the time that these women were in my life, they were more than just my friends. We spent holidays and birthdays together. When a new baby was born or one of us had to go on bedrest, the rest of us took care of the older children and fed the family. Whatever anyone needed, we provided. We were the extended family we created for ourselves. They were the sisters I needed, since my own was so far away. They gave me advice, they cared for my family, they loved my daughters, and I loved their kids. And even though our contact is mostly limited to Christmas cards now, I still remember them fondly, still love their kids, and I'm still so grateful for the time I had with them.

Slacker Mom Says...cherish your friendships. Enjoy and celebrate the women in your life. Leave the dusting and go to lunch; forget the laundry and get a pedicure together. Grab some girlfriends and start your own MNO. Your kids will be fine. Your husband will (eventually) be fine. Take in a movie, have coffee, meet at the gym, and don't feel guilty if the beds aren't made and the kids' uniforms are a little wrinkled. They won't remember that, but you will remember your friendships forever. And time off makes us all better moms!

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