I don’t think we would have ever become friends if it wasn’t for the newbie mothers’ group. I recently had my first child and for women having their first child, there is a group at the local health clinic that you can join to talk about baby stuff and get some advice and helpful tips. All supervised by a nurse with special education in everything related to baby care and how to best care for that little alien, wrinkly creature that suddenly entered into your life.
There are all kinds of people in this group. Really all kinds. In all other settings, there’s usually a somewhat homogenous group. At university, we tend to hang out with people that attend the same classes. At our workplace, we tend to associate with like-minded people. When we all of a sudden get some middle-age crisis and start to take evening classes in pottery, we’re likely to share an interest in pottery, or at least we’re all going through an age-related crisis.
But in the newbie mothers’ group, the only common denominator is that all are first time mothers. Since virtually everyone gets a baby at some point, the diversity of the group is much greater than you can experience anywhere. This can make you feel completely alien since you might end up with other mothers that you cannot relate to at all. And not to their alien, wrinkly babies either. It can also mean that you meet someone that you would never have met that will enrich your life for a long time to come, possibly through your whole lifetime.
When I had my first baby, I didn’t have many friends that already had children. I was a graduate student in life sciences and even though I was 29 years old, that was considered young to have a child if you were into science. Within the science field you’re expected to pursue a scientific career first and then maybe you can squeeze out a baby before fertility drops to bottom levels. I didn’t know what to expect when I went to that first newbie mothers’ group meeting. I guess I didn’t have any expectations at all.
The nurse in charge was pretty lame and didn’t really add a lot of value. Most of the mothers talked a lot, I didn’t say much. I’m usually quiet in a new setting, and ten years ago I was even quieter than I am now. I didn’t really connect to any of the other mothers, but somehow I found myself having agreed to go on a walk later that week. How did that happen? Well, there’s no harm in going for a walk and then I really didn’t need to commit to any other activities.
The walk turned out to be pretty nice and I agreed to meet again. Ten years later, one of the other mothers is still my friend. We would never have met if it wasn’t for that group. We were moving in completely different circles and it was highly unlikely that our paths would ever have crossed.
During these years that we’ve known each other, we have both changed in many ways. Through watching her, I have learned a great deal about myself. I am forever grateful for having her in my life. She has helped me become a better person as it should be with true friends. Now that we celebrate our ten years of friendship, I’ve tried to summarize ten areas where she has influenced me to improve.
1) Stand up for myself
My friend is someone who doesn’t let anybody tell her what to do. She has helped me build a greater confidence to say what I really think and feel. I’m still working on it and it’s not easy, but I’m getting better every day. If I don’t stand up for me, no one else will.
2) Stand up for others
As much as we need to stand up for ourselves, we also need to stand up for others. To speak up when we believe that something isn’t right. This can be super hard, but we have to do it. That’s what being human means. My friend always stands up for others, even when she’s going through difficult times herself.
3) Be generous
Be generous towards other people. Don’t always assume that everyone wants to take advantage of you, most people don’t. When you’re generous you get your generosity returned in multitude. It can take some time and come in unexpected ways, but you will be rewarded. And besides, it feels really good, which is a reward in itself.
4) Look out for your family
Remember to give your family the time that they deserve. They should be the first priority in your life. If everything would crumble, you still have your family. They are the ones that you can always count on. Make them feel special. Every day. Show them how much they mean to you.
5) Look out for your friends
Friends are very important. And they are also in need of your time. How do you expect them to remain your friends if you never talk to or meet with them? You have to make time for your friends. And more importantly, when you meet they have to be the focus of your attention.
6) Remain curious and inquisitive
Children are naturally very curious and can ask a ton of questions. Some days it can really get quite exhausting. But they have to ask, cause they don’t know. They ask questions all the time about the most trivial of things because they have yet to learn how things work. And if they don’t ask, they will never learn, will they?
For some reason, we adults have a tendency to loose this inquisitive trait. Maybe it’s just that we fear to look like fools when asking something that someone else might find self-explanatory. But usually, it’s actually the other way around. Others have been wondering the same thing, but no one dares to ask. So why don’t you do the daring thing and just ask whatever is on your mind! How else will you learn?
7) Challenge yourself
We need to keep challenging ourselves. Find new areas to explore. Learn new things. Being a beginner at something is always frustrating, but acquiring new skills is essential for our personal growth. Being stuck at the same spot for ages can be detrimental. We need to constantly try new things to evolve. What that is, doesn’t really matter as long as it’s new. Exercise your brain by trying something new today. You’ll suck at it the first time, but don’t worry, you’ll get the hang of it.
8) Obstacles can be overcome
There is no obstacle that cannot be overcome. Everyone around us has their own problems, their own obstacles to overcome. No one is immune. So really just get yourself together and deal with it!
Whether it’s some chronic disease, personal trauma or whatever, you must understand that everyone has those problems. But it doesn’t show on the outside. When you meet someone briefly and ask them how they’re doing, they will usually not blurt out a string of all their problems. Some people might, but that’s not accepted social behaviour. The more appropriate response is to say that everything is fine, even though you’re screaming inside. Therefore it might feel as if everyone else’s life is a walk in the park while you were dealt all the bad cards. But, believe me, that’s not the case.
9) Live in the moment
All this mindfulness talk that’s in fashion at the moment really do have a point to it. We need to experience the moment. If we’re stuck in the past or worrying about the future, we cannot experience life to the fullest. Try to be present here and now.
10) Step out of your comfort zone every day
Try to step out of your comfort zone a little each day. You don’t need to stand on the town square and chat with everyone that passes by. It can be little things. This goes along with learning something new every day. Expand your horizon. When we’re in uncharted territory, when we’re not fully in control, then we can expand our comfort zone and learn new things.
We would never have met if it wasn’t for that newbie mothers’ group. And it’s in these unusual settings that you can meet a friend for life. You just need to be on the look out and not dismiss people simply because they have another background than yourself. If anything, that can enrich your life even more. And who knows, you might end up finding a friend for life.
It’s ten years since we got to know each other and I’m hoping for many more years to come. Challenging one another to grow and never coming to a stand still.