When my mother was dying, she made me promise that I'd make friends who had kids.
I joined a mommy-and-me music class and ended up making seven new friends.
Over the years, we helped each other through divorces, parenting woes, my breast cancer, and more.
A few months after I had my first child, Max, my mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer. At the time, I was living in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and flying to Boston with my newborn son as often as I could to be with her. Max and I flew across the country more than 10 times that year.
Two days after my son's first birthday, my mother was moved to at-home hospice care. Max and I left my husband in New Mexico and temporarily moved into my parents' apartment in Boston. I spent those days at my mother's bedside with our family and her friends. My mother had a very close-knit group of friends, and they showed up in force during hospice to care for her — and for me.
My mom gave me advice that ended up changing my life
After a difficult afternoon parenting Max, who was out of his routine and refusing to take a nap, I cried to my mom. "I feel like I'm failing as a mother. I have no idea what I'm doing," I said. "You're not failing," my mom said with a laugh. "Every mother feels that way. You just need to get some mom friends. When you get home to Santa Fe, promise me that you will try."
It was just like my mother to make light of a serious moment. But she had a point; I didn't have any friends with children who were Max's age. As I sat with her, I could hear her friends — many of whom she'd met when I was very young — talking in the living room. They'd been there with us all day, quietly providing support. I looked at my mom and promised her that I would try.
After my mother died, I returned home to my husband. I was grieving and feeling isolated in the monotony of parenting a baby. In a fit of great pique, I Googled the term "mommy-and-me." A local music class called Fam Jam popped up on my screen. It sounded horrible, but I signed up anyway.
On the first day of music class I looked around the room at the other caregivers. Some of them seemed to already know each other. Others smiled and briefly made eye contact. I sat down on the carpet next to a mom named Lauren. We started chatting as her son and Max crawled around on the floor together. Then the music teacher walked in and told us all to be quiet. "This is an immersive music experience," she said. "There will be absolutely no talking during class." Lauren and I looked at each other and rolled our eyes. I felt seen.
The friends I made in that music class will be friends for life
In Fam Jam, I made seven new friends. All of us had kids around the same age and we started meeting for coffee before class to commiserate about the difficulties of parenting young children. We helped each other through the nightmares of sleep training and potty training, and we called one another in a panic when our kids got sick. We celebrated our children's birthdays and important milestones together. When I had my second child, Freddie, this same group organized a meal train for my family. They took turns stopping by to hold the "new kid on the block" so I could shower or take a quick nap.
When Freddie was 1, I found a small lump on my right breast. I assumed it was a clogged milk duct from breastfeeding but followed up with my doctor. One week later, a biopsy confirmed I had breast cancer.
In the days following my cancer diagnosis, my friends descended upon my house like a crisis-relief team. They dropped off home-cooked meals and coconut water in bulk. They brought toys for Max and Freddie and took them out for ice cream. They drove me to my oncology appointments and helped me untangle everything the doctors were saying so I could determine the best course of treatment. A few months later, as I recovered from my mastectomy, they showed up with care packages and cards with words of encouragement. It reminded me of the way my mom's friends had rallied around us three years earlier when she'd been sick.
A year passed and I recovered from breast cancer. I noticed my friends from Fam Jam were beginning to be pulled in different directions. Our children attended different schools and had different extracurricular activities. And as their personalities developed, so did their friendship preferences. Playdates became more challenging to organize. Some of them moved away; others got divorced. We tried our best to stay close, but life is chaotic.
Max is now in third grade. Over the years, I've made new mom friends. I've met parents from Max and Freddie's school, whom I see regularly at community events and playdates. While my relationships with my first mom friends have changed — and we don't get together with our families as often as we once did — we've remained close. They will always be the women who helped me heal and showed up for me when I needed them most.
I like to believe my mother had a hand in bringing these women into my life. Or perhaps we met by chance, during a moment in our lives when we happened to need each other most. Either way, I never expected the friendships gained from a mommy-and-me music class would be my most enduring — but they are. Over the years, those mom friends became my best friends.
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