“Mom, can I go over to Aidan’s?” Mia said. On a Saturday morning. At seven.
“What?! No!” I said. The baby stirred, and opened her eyes. This couldn’t be happening. “Mia, you know you’re not supposed to wake me up! It’s Saturday!” I was near tears. I’d been working until two, and Coraline, who was wide awake now, had nursed through her pain of teething most of the five hours I’d been in bed.
“So, can I?”
This was a common scene since we’d moved in to our apartment almost a year ago. Aidan, and his mom, my good friend Becky, live across the hall from us. Our kids are usually at her house, mine, or somewhere in between. Becky and I have a symbiotic relationship of the best kind. We have similar senses of humor (though she’s definitely the funnier one, being a comedian who performs stand-up almost bi-weekly), and we think a lot of the same, quirky things are funny. She’s active and usually out doing something like sledding, bike riding, swimming, and invites Mia to come along. I’m, well, I work from home with a baby, so I’m available kind of constantly as back-up. Plus, having Aidan over makes things easier, since it takes the pressure off of me to entertain or encourage ways for her to entertain herself. Becky and I text each other daily, and we think of ourselves as the best sort of roommates. This fall, our kids found out they were in the same class at school, and they take the bus together. It’s as adorable as it sounds.
Becky’s only one of the moms I’ve welcomed into my cohort over the years. Raising kids on your own requires a certain ridiculous amount of patience and perseverance that is hard to comprehend or understand if you haven’t had to do it yourself. Every one of my friends brings a different flavor to the table. They keep me grounded, whole, supported, and laughing.
Amber caught my older daughter in the birthing tub. Through the wonders of Facebook, we have kept in touch over the years, cheering on each other’s passions and endeavors in achieving them. I met Amber through a Yahoo parenting group almost nine years ago, and she agreed to be my doula for free. She co-taught the birthing class I went to. She was my first single mom friend when I became one and needed someone who understood what I was going through desperately. She is, and possibly always will be, one of those friends who I’ll always be able to pick up right where we left off. Amber’s currently going to start grad school in the fall in a circus therapy program, and her daughter just started middle school. She’s been in Seattle for a few years now, but we met when we both lived in Port Townsend. Whenever I ache for that area, it’s for Amber’s glowing presence as well.
When I moved to Missoula nearly four years ago, friends in Alaska sent me a message, saying I had to meet a musician in town named Britt, who’d lived in Fairbanks at the same time as me, but we never managed to cross paths. She’d moved to town with her son, Canyon, who’s a few years older than Mia. Britt’s one of those speak (or in her case, sing) softly but carry a big stick type of girls, and it shows through what she’s done with her music and the independent, incredible son she’s raised. Britt recently decided to pick up the acoustic bass (who does that?) and plays with a local bluegrass group called Pinegrass, the only female in the band. Her first album used to be my daughter’s bedtime CD, and we’d lie there every night, listening to Britt’s soft voice before bed. Britt always has a hunch for knowing when I really need to get out of the house, or need some help. Last year, a month or so after my daughter Coraline was born, I ran into Britt playing at the farmer’s market. She took one look at me and suggested we go huckleberry picking. Driving back, I thanked her for getting me out. “You looked like you needed it,” she said. She was right. She’s pretty smart and savvy like that.
I tried to start a mom’s writing group last spring and failed miserably. We had one meeting, and all of us sat around a table trying to focus on words and paper in the midst of a brewery with our kids running around and TVs blaring. I sat next to Melissa, who I had just met in person after a friend suggested we become friends online. She became a sort of writing partner, or more like an inner voice that I needed to believe in myself and in my abilities. She edits fast and to the point, pulling out the lines that need more attention and putting them where they belong. She’s helped me a ton over the last few months as my writing has taken off, cheering me on and helping me understand the world of manuscripts and agents and publishers. My friend Debbie is the same, only she lives in Arizona. We met recently through an online writing group, and have since become friends through constant encouragements sent via Facebook messenger. I hold these freelancing, solo moms so close. It’s a different sort of crazy to have your kids around most of the time while trying to form a career working from home. We’re all scrambling for work in a constant hustle while picking up, dropping off, getting food, feeding, and parenting.
As a writer, the saying goes that you’re only as good as your editor. I feel the same about these solo moms who orbit my life. They hold a deeper knowing that’s unspoken. I am a badass mom because of the badass moms who surround me.
Hear Stephanie Land in The Mamalode Podcast, Episode 1, from March 2016