A few months ago, out on a walk with my kids, I met a woman in our neighborhood who, it turned out, lives almost directly behind us. Kerry has two little boys; the youngest is only a couple of weeks older than my daughter Corrie. She and her husband had only moved to the area recently, and we were both glad to meet another mom in the neighborhood. We talked about schools and pediatricians and all the other stuff moms are required to discuss on their first meeting--then we traded phone numbers and went back to our respective houses.
I called Kerry a couple of weeks later to meet up for lunch at a Burger King with a play place. We had a nice--albeit loud--visit while our two year olds played. Actually, her two year old played;, my two year old (who has three big brothers, and therefore thinks that all human interaction involves fists) attempted to drop-kick, body-slam and otherwise tackle my friend's little boy the entire time. I was mortified and apologetic and mumbled every few minutes about how she wasn't sleeping well lately, or some other lame excuse. Kerry was completely gracious, of course. We parted, and I hoped my new friend would want to get together again with That Strange Family That Is Raising a Mean Girl.
The flurry of the holidays kept us from getting together, though our kids squealed at each other a few times from their respective backyard forts. Early this week, I was so pleased when Kerry called to invite us to her house for a play date. I dressed Corrie in her frilly best (if she was going to act like a bully again, at least she wouldn't look like one), and we headed around the block for our second meeting with our new friends.
We arrived to find Kerry at the door, face white, on the phone with the doctor. Her older son had a bad fall in the garage moments before and immediately wanted to sleep--she was scared he had a concussion. She hung up and told me that the nurse said her son was fine as long as he didn't vomit, at which point he (of course) promptly vomited. I immediately offered to take her little one home with me so that she could take her son to the doctor, and I brought him back to my house with Corrie. As we pulled out of the driveway, Kerry looked at me, folded her hands and mouthed the words thank you with a look of desperation. No problem, I mouthed back.
As I write this, Corrie and her little friend are playing happily in the next room, and I've been praying for my new friend and her older son at the doctor's office. Our friendship consists of about 15 minutes-worth of conversation at this point, and yet we've both already had the chance to see each other at a particularly low moment. It's the reason, I believe, why "momma friendships" seem to be such deep ones, and why we bond so quickly. We're all on the same roller-coaster, after all. It's as if there's an unspoken Momma Code that hangs in the air between us at all times: This-is-hard-please-help-me.
In a society where asking for help is sometimes seen as a sign of weakness, motherhood forces us to reach out for others--it's simply too much for one person, sometimes. It's the reason you watch a friend's child so she can take another one to the doctor, because you know how hard that is. It's the reason you intercept a wandering toddler in the produce section, because the wild-eyed look of terror on the face of the mom two aisles away looks all too familar. And it's the reason you take a meal to a friend who has morning sickness, because you've tried to fix a casserole between dashes to the bathroom. You do it with the assurance that you will likely be needing such kindness yourself soon.
So if things are smooth at your house today--if no one is sick or bleeding or fighting or grounded or has soccer/karate/dance/piano lessons--you can be quite sure that somewhere near you things are not smooth for another mom. Find her, and do something.
And if you're the one up to your eyeballs, reach out and ask for help. Any mom worth her salt would sympathize and come to your rescue. She has to. It's part of The Code.
This post was originally published on January 12, 2007