I was a few months shy of my 31st birthday when I became a mother. Not young by any standard, but life experience doesn’t make the transition into motherhood any less extraordinary. Though I had loving and supportive friends in my life, distance prevented us from gathering together often. It was by circumstance that I first came to rely on the companionship of other mothers.

Four months after our first son was born, we sold our house and moved across the state where my family lived. For the next year, I was surrounded by my sister and closest childhood friend—both mothers. I spent so much time in their company that I took them for granted and it wasn’t until we moved again and had our second child that I understood the gift of their presence.

In some ways, witnessing my sister and friend mother their children gave me a taste of what it might have been like to live in a village. We swapped baby clothes and gear, encouraged each other, and loved each other’s children. We shared meals and messes and did our best to wear our toddlers out before the dinnertime witching hour. They were real, imperfect mothers. They made mistakes, lost their patience, and were frequently late or under-prepared. They shouldered the weight of motherhood while doing the best they could with what they had. Perhaps the most beautiful thing about these women was the way they showed up for me over and over again, even when they felt overwhelmed and over-committed in their own lives. I was reassured by their honesty and their willingness to acknowledge that asking for help is not a sign of weakness.

Without the consistent company of these “real” mothers, I often turned to social media for a sense of community. I knew that meaningful, face-to-face connection could not be replaced with likes and loves and 150 characters, but the convenience of “connecting” from home at any hour made it the easy choice. Through the pinhole of social media, I began to convince myself that my reality wasn’t good enough. I felt isolated, insignificant, and somehow flawed.

I needed to be around other mothers again to witness how they lived, how they handled stress, and how they picked up the pieces after falling apart. I was craving connection with someone who understood all of the feelings associated with motherhood—an experience that has influenced my marriage, priorities, and relationship with God more than I could have imagined.

At first, the idea of inviting a new person (and her children) into my life was daunting. I barely had time—or if I’m honest, energy—for the friends I already had.

I soon learned that building a meaningful friendship with another mom has very little to do with your respective ages, how many children you each have, or your chosen professions. It is simply about finding one who is willing to make space in her life and in her heart for you and your children. From there, everything else will follow.

It took some effort, but I found one who made space for me. If given the chance to read each other’s bios ahead of time, we might not have pursued each other based on what we thought we had in common. She is a good number of years younger than me—with twice as many children—and her upbringing was vastly different from mine, but none of that matters. She was, and is, exactly what I needed: a perfectly imperfect example of a mother who was willing to share part of her life with me.

Mom friends affirm the reality of motherhood. They will greet you with breast milk stains on your shirt, dried bananas on your pants, and a screaming child or two in your arms without running away or turning up their noses. Mom friends are not offended if you cancel last-minute, respond to texts five hours later, or turn down playdates because you are too tired to get ready. You can always count on other moms for a reassuring smile as you wrestle your screaming toddler off the floor at the library, park, or toy aisle at the grocery store. And, on your hard days, they will remind you that you are exactly the mother your children need you to be.

This stage of making friends is not always easy or convenient, but it is worth it. It is worth the sometimes chaotic joining of two or more sets of children. It is worth disrupting routines, getting out of your comfort zone, and making plans and changing them over and over again. It is worth it because friendships forged in motherhood are inspiring, reassuring, and life-giving. Mom friends will show up for you on your good days and on the days when you find it hard to look in the mirror. They know what you are going through and love you simply because you are on this journey together. That is the beauty of mom friends.

Originally published on the author’s blog

Ashley Case

Ashley lives in Michigan with her husband, two young boys, and a bulldog. She is a pediatric occupational therapist by profession and is currently at home full-time raising her boys. She writes about life and motherhood at https://www.inbetweenyesterdayandtomorrow.com/.