twigs vs. trees.

In my early twenties, as many young women do, I went through a series of friendship breakups. Some were serious and intense; others were casual and cavalier. Some were initiated by me; others happened to me. Some broke my heart; others were never thought of again.

(Tell me I’m not the only one?)

This is all normal, I think. People grow up and people change. When you’re young and restless, friendship is often more of a convenience than an investment, a twig that can snap in half with one forceful step. When the roots don’t run deep, it’s easy to walk away as soon as things become hard or awkward. Staying takes courage; fighting for friendship takes effort that a lot of people are simply not willing to give.

As I’ve gotten older and hopefully a tiny bit wiser, I have stopped trying to be friends with everyone. Along with faint wrinkles around our eyes, this is a gift that comes with age: the knowledge and acceptance that not everyone is going to like us.

When I became a mom, one thing became clear: I needed friends for the long haul. I needed friendships that wouldn't fall apart over night. I needed quality over quantity, investments over convenience, deeply-rooted trees over easily broken twigs. These friends can be hard to find. They’re like needles in haystacks, pearls in oysters, green jellybeans in un-mowed grass. But we need them, and the older I get, the more I realize they are worth searching for. Life-giving friendships are essential to motherhood, whether we have one or seven or twenty in our tribe. 

I used to think that in order to have a best friend, you must have grown up with that person, as if the title of “best friend" was only reserved for people who have known you since the ripe age of two. But I’m 29 now, and I’m starting to think that’s a sham. I’ve made some of the best friendships of my life in only the past five years---friendships that started before any of us were mommas and have stretched all the way to our second and third babies.

These friendships are new, but solid, and I can't help but wonder: does motherhood have the power to accelerate friendship? 

Sometimes I think having kids puts a friendship on the fast track because we're forced to be more vulnerable right off the bat. Our motherhood lives are messy, and I'm not just talking about the kitchen crumbs and applesauce-covered yoga pants. We're going to see each other at our bests and our worsts, and we're going to see it quickly. We're going to see each other's messy houses and faces without makeup and immediate reactions after toddler tantrums. 

Sometimes I wonder if three years in mom friendship is like seven years in non-mom friendship. I wonder if we're all moving in the same direction, but if the moms are moving a tiny bit faster. I wonder if we're skipping the small talk, going a little deeper, desperately exploring the new common thread between us, the thing that turned our worlds upside down. Because despite where we land on movie preferences and home decor and career aspirations, we now share a bond that is bigger than anything we could possibly disagree on: we each understand the level of love that motherhood requires. 

That love---the one we all know but can hardly describe in words, the one that is fierce and wild and causes us to do crazy things---I believe it has the power to bind a friendship between two mothers like hot glue.

Most of the mommas in my village have two kids now, which means we are usually outnumbered. There is always a nose to wipe, a sock to find, a snack to open, a sippy cup to refill, a baby to keep from toppling off the couch. There is always a momma watching over my kids, and it isn’t always me. This watching, this caring, this wiping of other kids’ noses without hesitation—I believe it is an entirely new love language. 

And sometimes when I witness this in action, when I see all of us watching over each other’s children like a bunch of straight up sister wives, I can’t help but take notice of how far I’ve come in friendship over the last decade.

Where there once were just twigs, there are now trees. These friendships aren’t going to snap in half from one ounce of pressure. We’re too good for that, too strong for that, too unbreakable for that. While we may not share a history of twenty years of friendship, we share something just as good: roots tangled in the ground, winding all around each other in the shared interest of loving our kids. We share the same fierce love, the same wild protection, the same desire to survive and to be understood as we walk this journey. Even though our friendships are young, our like-hearted momma roots run deep, like 200-foot redwoods anchored in the dirt. 

Life is happening all around us---good and bad---and we're here to keep each other sane, to listen, to cry, to laugh, to pray, to say "me too", to hug it out. We're here to drop off crackers and popsicles when the stomach flu is floating through your house. We're here to watch your baby girl while your husband goes to chemo. We're here to cry into our waffles when you announce your parents are getting divorced. We're here to pray on our knees when your baby's in the NICU, to water your plants, to cook you dinner. We're here to text you back in the middle of the night and to bring over chocolate when you're in the trenches of potty training. Life is happening all around us---good and bad---and it's better when we're committed to living it together.

There is something refreshing in knowing that you’re part of a friendship that isn’t going to fall apart over one misunderstood text, one wrong comment, one unreturned e-mail, one moment of jealousy.

The thing is: we need each other too much for that. We've come too far, we've confessed too much, we've cried too often, we've poured too much love into each others lives to just walk away and never look back. 

These are the friendships worth fighting for. 

If you're not a momma yet, I say this not to discredit your friendships, but rather to encourage you in what's to come. Motherhood has made my friendships stronger, fuller, more whole, more profound. If you're a momma without a solid tribe, don’t lose hope. It's never too late to make new best friends, it's never too late to put down roots. It took me 29 years to get here---to get to this place where I’m not walking around on twigs, friendships breaking left and right with every slight misstep. It took me 29 years to find this thicket, these redwood trees, these "best" friendships that aren’t going anywhere.

And the best part about this forest? There’s always room for more. 

Written by Ashlee Gadd. Photo by Kate De La Rosa.

p.s. For more on finding mom friends, check out Women Are Scary: The Totally Awkward Adventure Of Finding Mom Friends