As parents, we believe we *must* appear strong. We must power through. Or simply “tough up.” And we may hold ourselves out to the world as the strong one who isn’t rocked by any of this terrifying world chaos.
But conveying a permanent strong facade can keep us from acknowledging how human we are. And that all humans need help (particularly right now). I’ve invited Adrienne Prentice, Co-Founder and CEO of MotherNation to the blog today to share a beautiful and important reminder of just how much we need to check in on the strong friends in our lives…and how much we need to check in on ourselves.
“I can’t tell you how you’re feeling or coping but I see you putting yourself outward a lot. I just want to make sure you’re prioritizing yourself too. It’s been so long since we’ve really chatted. But I’m hearing you and just want to remind you I’m here.”
– text from a friend
Let’s cut to the chase with this Saturday’s Secret: Copy and paste the text above and send it to your friends – especially the ones who seem unbreakable. Because COVID-19 and systemic racism are trying to break us. But we are not broken. And we still have each other.
This is an actual text I received at 10:30pm on a Friday night from a dear friend. She is the ultimate empath, a beautiful writer, a mom, a healthcare educator, a postpartum depression survivor.
My friend openly grapples with anxiety. She pours herself into her son’s Harry Potter themed birthday parties and constantly fosters his imagination with creative play. Her husband works the night shift so she largely manages childcare duties and carries the emotional load independently. She also lives in Florida where the rates of COVID-19 are skyrocketing. And she checked in on me.
That simple text was a wake-up call. I realized that as this global pandemic has persisted, instead of finding ways within my comfort zone to continue to socialize and connect with my friends and family (let alone meet new people), I was slowly sinking more inward becoming insular. Going through the motions of the day just to get by. Rinse and repeat. And if you add in the despair I feel as I watch the news everyday – I was feeling almost misanthropic. How did we get here?
Now, as someone who is a people pleaser and feeds off of energy from others (a total “Woo” for those familiar with the StrengthsFinder assessment), this was foreign territory. Even when I thought of people I wanted to text – like the friend who is due with her first baby this week – I didn’t do it. Why? Because I didn’t feel like I had anything positive or new to say. We are all struggling, so even venting felt like an oblivious “know your audience” superfluity.
But also because, in all of my friend groups, I am the strong one. I am gritty. I give the pep talks and the tough-love reality checks. But I didn’t have the energy or space to do that this time, though. And I couldn’t let them down or break that image, so I just didn’t connect.
COMMUNITY CARE = SELF-CARE = COMMUNITY CARE
Here’s the irony. I founded a company rooted in the power of community care. A sister to investing in yourself is loving your fellow Mothers. They are both important. Both impactful. Both necessary.
MotherNation forms Circles of up to 8 Mothers based on the ages of their children, location and any shared experience (i.e., moms of multiples or LGBTQ+ families). We encourage Mothers to ask for what they need. Empower them to make decisions that are right for their families. Lift each other up and, together, make change.
But I wasn’t taking my own medicine. I was jumping to make change. To blasting systemic racism. To creating solutions for the childcare crisis. (This is the “putting myself outward” that my friend was referring to.) But I was doing it without stopping to ask for what I needed. And before I could even do that, I needed to figure out what exactly it is that I need.
So I made the space to reflect on that. The first thing I did was make a doctor’s appointment, because a few weeks ago my tongue went numb for a few days, and there has been an odd tingling in the tip of my index finger for weeks that I have been ignoring.
Then, I registered for the Mindful Return half-day retreat. And I brainstormed with my co-founder, not about our business, but about how we will provide a safe learning environment for our own children in the fall.
We decided to work with a former teacher to design an outdoor play-focused curriculum for our three year olds. And I immediately felt better. I hadn’t realized how much I was grieving the loss of my daughter’s Montessori education and feeling helpless as I felt her fiery spirit being dimmed by the monotony of our days. (The parallels between us are not lost on me.) And I am dropping off a gift for my pregnant friend this week.
WE ARE ALL THE STRONG FRIEND
The term self-care has been misappropriated by so many that the word seems shallow. And these days manicures, massages and brunch aren’t happening anyway. But my friend’s text reminded me that, while it may look different, caring for myself is not a luxury. It’s not even an option, it’s a necessity to survive today. It’s required to recognize myself. Even further, it’s required so I can be there for my family and hopefully impact real change. As Audre Lorde stated,
“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”
And here’s the tea…We are all the strong friends putting ourselves outward. At the very least, we are strong for our children putting ourselves outward to create a better future for them. Whether that means figuring out childcare or school plans or fighting systemic racism. And we deserve to know what we need. To give ourselves space to figure it out. To open ourselves up to give and receive love from our community. And maybe that takes a nudge.
So, text your friend. And if she doesn’t reply, text again. You will both feel better.
With the birth of Evelyn, Adrienne Prentice, a former hard-charging BigLaw attorney turned coach and doula, mourned her former self and was unsure how Motherhood would fit into her identity. Perplexed by the disconnect among Mothers and frustrated with the lack of systemic support for families, she co-founded MotherNation where she combines her experience with her relentless passion for maternal health and well-being to cultivate the Motherhood movement. She is real talk and bear hugs. All the time.
Want more practical tips on working parenthood? Check out my book, Back to Work After Baby: How to Plan and Navigate a Mindful Return from Maternity Leave