Mamaraderie

Posted by on May 24, 2012 in Bug & Bear, Marriage & Family | 4 comments

Mamaraderie

“How old is your baby?” a friendly voice behind me chimed.

I turned to answer and was greeted by a bright smiling face as she exclaimed, “Mine too!” Then a 10 minute conversation ensued right there in the sandwich line as my new friend and I exchanged tales of motherhood like we’d known each other for years.

I love the camaraderie that moms share… Mamaraderie, I thought as I carried my sandwich and my baby to my car. I didn’t know such a thing existed until I had kids and presto! an instant connection with every other woman in the world who has a child*.

Camaraderie is defined as goodwill and lighthearted rapport among friends… synonyms are cheer, companionship, conviviality, fellowship, intimacy, sociability, togetherness. Mamaraderie is all of these things… goodwill and rapport among friends who share an intensely uniting common bond… fun, fellowship, closeness, and community shared between women who mother. I first became acquainted with Mamaraderie when I had my first child and women converged upon my home with meals and help and love, later when other mothers intuitively knew I needed help and jumped in (think Costco parking lot, wearing a crying newborn on my chest in a Bjorn while holding a tantruming toddler and juggling bulk groceries, thank you to the angel who loaded my car and returned my cart while wrangling her own children), daily as I effortlessly make mama friends who are warm and kind and encouraging and supportive virtually everywhere I go with my children.

Unfortunately, Mamaraderie also has a dark underbelly. It can surface in the form of competition, or comparison, or judgement, or division. It might show up looking like a dispute between working moms vs stay at home moms, or baby training parents vs attachment parents, or spanking parents vs positive guidance parents. Being on the receiving end of it hurts, breeds anger, insecurity, isolation. Being on the giving end feels powerful and self righteous… therein lies the appeal, I think. It’s just that being a mother is really hard. You do the best you can but it always feels like not enough. In motherhood, there is virtually no positive feedback, no performance based compensation system to gauge your success, no annual reviews and bonuses to reward all your hard work. The only barometer a mama knows to look at sometimes to measure how well she is or is not doing is her children’s behavior… and that whole process can feel like being knocked to the ground and kicked repeatedly while her attacker tantrums. So in the face of this kind of constant giving with nary a pat on the back or “atta girl!” in return, who wouldn’t start to grasp for some way to make herself feel better?

Then there’s the passion. Mothers are passionate. It is wired into us to be intensely protective of our little brood, the family in our care. We read, research, pray, experiment, fail, correct, all in the interest of doing the very best we can for the little people who depend on us. Eventually, we find our answers… from the big things to the little things, we get a sense of what our family is about, who our children are designed to be, what the right choices and decisions for this family are. And then, because we’re moms and it’s what we do, we want to share the wealth of our wisdom… this can be helpful, but it can also be so hurtful, because what’s right for this family isn’t necessarily right for that family.

Maybe we could take each others decisions and methods in parenting a little more in stride, with a little more grace and humility**. I think we’re all doing the best we can. I think we all do it differently because we’re raising different people with different destinies that require different methods. Part of our job as mothers is to get to know our children at the heart of who they are, to discern their gifts, strengths, and shortcomings as individuals so that we can respond in a way that best encourages their growth. How could there ever be only one right way to do that?

While Mamaraderie requires us to extend grace to mamas with whom we may disagree on certain points, it offers some benefits that I think we mothers can’t afford to do without. Being a mother is hard work… it is physically, emotionally, spiritually, and psychologically demanding over the long term. It is a daily battle to protect our children from the dangers lurking in the world, to safeguard their hearts and identities as they stumble through difficulties, to extend grace and forgiveness to ourselves as we are confronted with our own mistakes and shortcomings, and to preserve some sense of who we are as individuals in the process of giving ourselves so completely to the service of others. Any difficult fight is better fought and more easily won in the presence of other soldiers.

“I have always found comforting in battle the companionship of a friend, one in whom you had confidence, one you felt assured would stand by you until the last.”

Frank Hollinger, Civil War Captain

Studies show that the camaraderie and social bonds found within a supportive group mitigate the harmful effects of stress hormones. Camaraderie in difficult situations has been found to have a long term protective effect against physical and mental illness. We need each other, mamas! The help we can offer each other through cheer, companionship, conviviality, fellowship, intimacy, sociability, togetherness is so much more significant than what we can accomplish by proving the rightness of our positions and philosophies.

~

*I didn’t have a child until I was 32 years old, and prior to that time I often felt on the outside of the mom club, and it didn’t feel good. Having children has humbled and changed me, but I also know that I had mothering, nurturing, and caretaking instincts and sensibilities long before I had children. I think that if you are a woman, you have the capacity to mother, even if you never have children of your own… so while this blog is addressed to mothers, in my mind that includes all women.

**I have not always done this well. In fact, at times I have been downright judgmental and rude. If I have ever made you feel judged, then I’m so sorry. If you were gracious to me as I made you feel judged, then I’m so thankful!

4 Comments

  1. So true,so very gracios and undeniably beautiful. For me there is a part of being a mother that I call THE BIG PAYOFF and it is simply having the child you have loved through every stage mature in to the beautiful woman you have become. Love you:)

    • Thanks, Mom 🙂

  2. Lovely! Thanks for sharing.

    • Thanks so much for reading, Leah!

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