Several weeks after my second baby was born, a close mom friend came over to visit me. She brought a delicious lunch. We chatted. Our older kids played. I felt refreshed by the exceptional Thai food and revived by the general company.
But then, before I could stop it, she saw it: the incriminating bright yellow four-pack of microwaveable Velveeta mac ‘n cheese cups. Torn into, of course, half of them gone, right there in my cluttered pantry.
I forgot to hide my dirty secrets and clean up my messes before she arrived. I admit that I sometimes do this because my mom game feels shaky at best, and I am a bit ashamed that I, say, call Velveeta a viable kid's meal. I also buy frozen broccoli, Dino Nuggets, and non-organic whole milk—and I’m pretty sure Elmo taught my two-year-old her numbers and ABCs. Health and learning are dear to me always, but desperate times call for squeezable cheese and some help from the time-tested educators.
My healthy beautiful former-teacher, mom friend—who, might I add, is literally working toward a certification from the National Association of Professional Organizers—spotted the lazily shelved macaroni and pointed, as I braced myself out of my own insecurity.
"UGH! Aren't those a lifesaver?!?! What would moms do without precious Velveeta?!?! I love that you have those, too!"
Motherhood has taught me a lot about friendship. I've learned that friendships evolve over seasons and years, but the best ones are broken by nothing. I've learned that isolation can be both painful and numbing in the most dangerous way, and that humans were made for connection. I've learned that timidly asking a fellow grown woman for her phone number can make for the most awkward moment on earth—but can lead to a soul friend for life. I've learned that hard conversations are good conversations. That hot meals and caring texts go a long way when things hit the dumps. That the most random gems will surprise the yoga pants off you when you are down and out. That age in a friend doesn't matter so much. That meaningful talks can totally happen at the park or tot gymnastics or barre class.
But one of the most important things I've learned is the value of a friend who looks you in the eye and says, "Me, too."
And that's why I could have cried when my mom friend affirmed my Velveeta.
She's the kind of friend that I want. Partly because she can organize my pantry someday, but mostly because she gets me and loves me just the way that I am. I was silly and wrong to assume for even one second that she would judge me or make me feel lesser than her.
Kraft for your kiddos is apparently a powerful glue, and so are a million other things. For instance, I have another mom friend who is the ultimate goddess of discovering healthy recipes and coming up with creative toddler activities. In those areas, we’re a bit different. But she has two young kids as well, and that transition was brutal for her. I know she’s always just one text away when I need to yell, “THIS IS THE PITS!!! Love them. I swear.” Also, guess what? She loans me the best of her cookbooks and points me to the very best food blogs on the Internet. She even gave me a super-easy recipe for homemade Flubber! (Google that. You won’t regret it.) Differences turn into mere extra, interesting facts, when similarities bind you so deeply.
Really, I think any common ground can be a pathway to vulnerability—to deeper truths, built trust, and tears. None of us are alone, but to know it, we have to open our cupboards.
So air out your guilty little processed mac 'n cheese.
It might just set you free.
Guest post written by Stephanie Mack. Stephanie is a wife, mom and freelance writer living in Orange County, California. She worked full-time as a writer in various capacities before taking the plunge into stay-at-home mom land. Stephanie blogs about the beautiful mayhem of motherhood and more at MOMentary Insanity. Find her on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn!
Photo by Sandra Kordazakis.
P.S. If you enjoyed this essay, don’t miss our podcast episode on Motherhood + Loneliness