Free shipping on all orders over $75🎄

It’s possible I wasn’t the average new mom.

The middle of six children, I’d been a babysitter since age 10 (I know, it was the ’80s). Also a nanny, camp counselor, preschool teacher, elementary school teacher, Children’s National Medical Center ER staff, psychotherapist, and holder of two advanced degrees in Child Study and Social Work.

Honestly, with all that education and experience I’d hoped to feel more confident and less terrified.

All it took was an early stroller outing to Starbucks. An older mom cooed over my obviously fresh out of the oven baby.

“How old is she?” 

I froze. How old WAS she?

I had no idea. ZERO. Was she six days old? Eighteen? WHAT KIND OF A MOTHER doesn’t know how old HER BABY is?

I’m pretty sure I nodded vigorously, feigning a lack of English comprehension, grabbed my coffee, and fled. 

There may have been one or two hysterical calls to a husband or a mother. It’s hard to recall.

But I do recall the FEAR.

RELATED: You Have Enough on Your Plate Right Now Mama, Don’t Add Guilt

The constant fear that I was doing it all wrong. That I hadn’t read the right books or taken the right class. That with all the studying and work I had done, I just didn’t have the innate motherly instincts to safely raise a tiny human.

Of course, I was also completely sleep-deprived, which doesn’t help. 

And utterly, madly besotted with my daughter in a way I’d never loved anything or anyone. 

It was terrifying.

And in that state of completely overstimulated exhaustion, I mostly found myself around other new moms.

Not on purpose particularly, though I did join one new mom’s group intentionally at the recommendation of a friend who’d found it “comforting.”

I am sure it was comforting at times. But mostly what I remember about being a new mom around other new moms was the judgment.

Are you breastfeeding? Cloth diapering? Crying it out? Learning sign language?

Not since high school had I hit up against so much comparison with the terror of getting it wrong. It was devastating to find myself back in a place of such worry and self-consciousness.

And let me be clear, I am not saying people WERE judging me. But I FELT judged. And I definitely judged people back.

That’s what my fear does. 

It whispers all the crappy “not enough-ness” until I’m wild-eyed with terror, clutching everyone else’s choices in the hopes that deep comparison analysis will help me find my way forward.

As far as motherhood goes, I had two more babies, turned forty, and curated friendships with women whose Instagram feeds included posts like: “Just realized I left my kid in the gym daycare. Should I go back and get him or just wait for child protective services? #killingit #blessed”

For a while, I was in a sweet spot of minimal fear and good enough.

RELATED: You Are the Mom. Period.

Enter COVID-19.

Sweet holy mother.

My husband now calls 6 p.m. “worry o’clock.”

I’ve been wondering how much of it might be connected to being parent-less. 

Certainly, I don’t have much confidence in the adults who are minding the store when it comes to managing this pandemic.

That’s not even a political statement. I refuse to believe that anyone is without fear right now. The pandemic is global and lethal and there is not enough science or leadership to truly allow anyone an easy night’s sleep.

If I’m being honest, my childhood was a pretty good training ground for not trusting decision-makers. My father was a little too absent, and my mother too dripping with kids, for me to feel like I had a solid backstop if something went wrong.

I constantly braced for impact.

I went to therapy in my twenties and I’ve been there ever since. The kind, and openly flawed woman who first offered me a glimpse of a new way to be, suggested my job in life isn’t to protect against every potential problem.

It’s to live in the faith that I am enough.

I love that.

It took me a long time to realize that enough doesn’t have to mean alone.

For me, enough means people. 

Women who show up the minute I flash the bat signal and sometimes even before. A husband who believes my fears deserve our attention, but shouldn’t be handed the keys to the bus and a work-life that grounds me in emotional integrity most days.

RELATED: Life is Too Short For Fake Cheese and Fake Friends

I have collected a good-sized team of people who tell the truth, offer support even through conflict if need be, and generally believe in enough.

But you guys.

This COVID thing.

Suddenly fear keeps trying to hijack the bus. 

And we are judging the heck out of each other. Even people we care about.

Without clear guidance of any kind, we are collectively comparing each other’s choices. Trying to find our own answers. 

Are your kids going to soccer camp? I feel some kind of way about that. You seem like a reasonable person and I trust you, should I send MY kids to soccer camp?

Or the opposite.

I’ve decided to send my kid to soccer camp. I feel all kinds of ways about that. Please don’t ask me why we are doing soccer, I don’t want to justify my choices.

But here is the thing.

The comparisons don’t work. Our needs are different. 

I can’t really borrow other people’s decision making. I have to make my own choices. 

It will be imperfect. And I will still be afraid.

RELATED: I Bought School Supplies Today, Please Don’t Judge Me

I’ve been talking to my trusted people about this.

We are in agreement fear is at an all-time high particularly as decisions about school openings come rolling in. The conflicting federal vs. local government recommendations are fueling confusion and anger. There is no good way to get to feel about school. Period.

I don’t like fear-based decisions.

(My clients who are reading this are laughing right now. I should have that tattoo or a sign over my door, I say it so often.) 

Reactive decision making always feels defensive to me. An analysis of what is possible and finding the least bad option. Like being told to pick between a grilled cheese or a Ruben (terrific sandwiches both, but possibly not for everyone). 

I mean, what if you wanted a salad?

And my trouble is, if I’m too afraid, I can’t even figure out if I want a salad.

And make no mistake, decisions do need to be made.

Recently I had a shared text thread with a diamond-friend. Something about our conversations is like church to me. I note things down to think about later. They almost always lead to some writing.

I texted her about a family decision my team made that had recently brought some breath back to my chest. She texted back. A few lines from me, a few from her, then she went quiet.

RELATED: As the School Year Nears, Nothing I Choose Feels Right

It wasn’t her normal sign off, so I noticed it, but she has a zillion kids and a life and we are solid so I wondered, but I didn’t worry.

The next day she wrote back: “I have to tell you your message threw me for a huge loop. It’s part of why I disappeared mid-conversation. I was so so happy for you, but I felt lost and jealous . . . I had to take a big step back . . . but then, in the middle of the night, it just hit me. MY PLAN, fully formed. The jealousy guided me to find my own freedom and peace.”

It was so beautiful.

We went on to text about how hard feelings like jealousy and fear can cause disconnection which can sometimes show up as, “OMG, she is doing THAT? I would NEVER.” 

Or, “How come she gets to . . .”

Or, “What kind of person . . .”

But my sweet friend didn’t push me away when I cautiously revealed how I’m making some COVID-based choices. My news created big waves of feelings that she surfed to her exact right shoreline.

So I’m trying this: When I feel afraid, or jealous (or angry, or hopeless) and I want to pass judgment to create a distance between me and the hard feeling, I’m doing the opposite. 

I set my compass points to go toward those feelings. If I react strongly to another person’s story–their choices I ask myself, “What does her choice to send her kid to soccer camp mean about me?”

The judgment we jump to is a distancing tool. It doesn’t actually help us make decisions. It just declares you and I are not alike. 

But we are. Of course we are.

We all have to bushwhack our own paths. 

All our paths are filled with fear and feelings. 

Stay close.

Lord knows, there’s already too much distance between us.

Originally published on the author’s blog

So God Made a Mother book by Leslie Means

If you liked this, you'll love our new book, SO GOD MADE A MOTHER available now!

Order Now

Meghan Riordan Jarvis

Meghan Riordan Jarvis has been working in the field of grief and loss for 17 years in her psychotherapy private practice specializing in trauma in Washington DC. She has a tall, brilliant, Englishman husband, three above average height and decibel children, and a puppy named Madeline Albright. After losing both her parents within two years of each other, she began the blog Grief Is My Side Hustle.

Hey Friend, Meet Me in the Mess

In: Friendship, Living
Friends smiling

If you come to our home, you’ll likely see a basket of folded or unfolded laundry waiting to be put away. You may even see a pile of dirty clothes hanging out by the washer. If you come to our home, you’ll likely find spitty bits in the sink from where little kids brushed their teeth in a hurry and forgot to rinse. Despite my best efforts, they always seem to find their way back. If you come to our home, there’s a 50-50 chance the beds will be made. If they were made, there’s a high chance they were...

Keep Reading

Your Husband Needs Friendship Too

In: Faith, Friendship, Marriage
3 men smiling outside

As the clock inches closer to 7:00 on a Monday evening, I pull out whatever dessert I had prepared that week and set it out on the kitchen counter. This particular week it’s a trifle, but other weeks it may be brownies, pound cake, or cookies of some kind. My eyes do one last sweep to make sure there isn’t a tripping hazard disguised as a dog toy on the floor and that the leftover dinner is put away. Then, my kids and I make ourselves scarce. Sometimes that involves library runs or gym visits, but it mostly looks like...

Keep Reading

When You Need a Friend, Be a Friend

In: Friendship, Living
Two friends having coffee

We have all seen them—the posts about the door always open, the coffee always on, telling us someone is always there when we need support. I have lived with depression my entire life. From being a nervous child with a couple of ticks to a middle-aged woman with recurrent major depressive and generalized Anxiety disorder diagnoses. Antidepressants, therapy, writing, and friends are my treatments. The first three are easy, my doctor prescribes antidepressants, I make appointments with a therapist, and I write when I feel the need. RELATED: Happy People Can Be Depressed, Too The fourth is hard. As I...

Keep Reading

Give Me Friends to Do Everyday Life With

In: Friendship
Two women at a sporting stadium, color photo

She sees me coming. A small wave from her house window and a silent invitation to come on over for our morning coffee. An unsaid invitation to connect with someone who gets the joys and challenges of being a mother. A quick, small, and valued break from life and stress and my house messes has become the perfect way to start the morning. A neighbor who has become a dear friend. Prior to this encounter, alarm clocks were ringing, breakfast was made, backpacks were packed, and shoes were missing. School mornings are rough. Motherhood is rough. The world around us...

Keep Reading

Sometimes Friendship Is Tested

In: Friendship
Two women friends hugging

Sometimes our own experiences can be hard on our friends, especially when those experiences have to do with fertility and pregnancy. My friend and I met when our children were six months old at a mom’s group Christmas party. She was the only other mom there without a partner, her husband having refused to attend in favor of playing video games in the silence of an empty home just like mine. Her son was a day younger than my daughter. Although she was almost 10 years older than me, we became fast friends, bonding over the loneliness that is staying...

Keep Reading

Give Me Friends Who Aren’t Keeping Up with the Joneses

In: Friendship, Living
Woman standing outside, color photo

Following trends is nothing new. Long before Kitsch curls and Lululemon belt bags, there were perms and, well, the original fanny packs. There’s been a constant, circulating rotation of must-buys for us to feel cool or relevant. And we women have been especially pressured to think we need these things to be accepted and part of the elusive village. Keeping up with the Joneses (or Kardashians for that matter) has just never been my thing. There are plenty of reasons why I’ll never be called a trendy girl: I can’t afford to be one. I lack the stylish eye required....

Keep Reading

Lifelong Friends Are Golden

In: Friendship, Living
Smiling group of women friends

They know all your secrets. They can name your old elementary and high school crushes, your most embarrassing moments, your biggest regrets. They know the one you love and the ones that got away. They celebrate your greatest achievements and empathize with your wish-you-could-do-overs. You don’t have to be wordy in texts, phone calls, or conversations—you get one another. Weeks, months, and sometimes even years may pass, and you pick up right where you left off. Laughter with your crew is like none other—unrefined, unrestrained, childhood bliss relived. RELATED: Good, Long Distance Friendship is Hard But So Worth it You’ve...

Keep Reading

Thank You for Being a Friend Who Grieves Beside Me

In: Friendship, Grief, Loss
Friends with arms around each other photographed from behind

My loss has been one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to endure, and I honestly don’t know if I would be here without you and your love and support. To cry with you and to you. To sit with you in silence or filled with so many words. To feel you holding me literally and emotionally with your gentle and loving arms. RELATED: I’m the Friend With the Dead Mom To understand and witness that my loss is a loss to you too, and to feel that importance of my friendship and life to you. To randomly break...

Keep Reading

As Our Children Get Older, Friends with Young Kids Are Such a Beautiful Gift

In: Friendship, Motherhood
Woman with two young girls, color photo

When I walk into our neighborhood pool these days, I’m often greeted by a small, usually wet, 4-year-old. Her face lights up and she runs toward me, wrapping her arms around my legs, and looking up at me from behind turquoise goggles. We bonded a few months ago when I decorated her wrist with an assortment of rainbow-colored, rubber bracelets and filled her a plate of marshmallows and strawberries. Now she draws pictures for me, jumps to me in the shallow end, and runs toward me if she spots me somewhere.   Sometimes her mom, who is a dear friend...

Keep Reading

Friend, It’s Okay to Say No

In: Friendship, Motherhood
Woman holding coffee cup sitting by window and relaxing

Last week I hosted a sleepover birthday party for six girls. Six 5-year-olds descended on our house, invited by me in a weak moment of expansiveness and generosity to my 5-year-old’s birthday wishes. I fed them pizza and ice cream cake. They demanded candy. They staged a disco party. They stayed awake past midnight. Almost everyone cried at some point. The next morning—after serving six waffles with whipped cream, not with butter, why don’t you have strawberries?—I felt exhausted and annoyed at myself for taking this on. It was unequivocally a terrible idea. I should’ve known it was too much....

Keep Reading