Dear (insert your name here if you are a female friend of mine with a child born before August 2015),
I owe you a big apology. Actually, I owe you many.
I have always thought myself to be a good friend to my, er, friends. Since adding ‘mother’ to my list of personal descriptors, however, I have come to realize that I was actually a very crap friend to you, at a time when you really needed me.
You became a mother before I did – possibly long before I even realized I wanted to be a mother myself. I was so happy for you when you announced your pregnancy, and I burst with joy for you when your wee one arrived safe and sound in the world and your adventures in parenting began. I probably sent you a card and a gift of some sort. Maybe I visited once or twice to coo over your sweet baby. Then again, maybe I didn’t. (Hey! International flights are expensive!)
Since my son was born, it has hit me time and again how completely clueless I was as to what you needed – really needed- from me then. And while you clearly made it through those early days and months despite no help from me, I would like to offer my apologies now…
I’m sorry that I gave you that stupidly expensive rattle when your baby was first born. What a dumbass gift. Heavy enough to give your baby a black eye, if your wee one could even lift it, that is. Such a practical baby gift, sterling silver. If I had it to do over again, I would give you things to make your life easier, like wine and chocolate. And diapers and wipes and sleepers that have zippers instead of those finicky snaps that are next to impossible to do up in the middle of the night.
I’m sorry that I didn’t compliment you on your appearance more. At a time when you probably felt your absolute least attractive, I should have made sure you knew how beautiful you looked to me. It didn’t matter if your hair wasn’t washed, or if it was falling out in clumps (why didn’t you tell me that would happen???), or if you gave up on make-up altogether because in the grand scheme of how you spent your free time (hahahaha! free time!), mascara just didn’t make the cut. You were beautiful, even if you didn’t feel it, and I should have told you.
I’m sorry that I expected you to use any of your precious ‘you time’ on the phone with me. Those glorious minutes – and I realize now that they are minutes, not hours – were your time to refuel…take a nap, a bath, feed yourself, unplug with the Netflix show du jour, just be. For me to expect you to spend any of those minutes talking about my daily dramas was selfish, and I’m sorry for the time you lost taking care of you, because you were taking care of me.
I’m sorry I didn’t call you more to talk about you. I didn’t show enough interest in the day-to-day stuff that made up your new normal after having your baby. I should have asked “How are you?” and then just listened – really listened, not the polite listening while I wait for my turn to speak. I should have read about the baby blues and postpartum depression so I could be on the lookout for signs of them in you, and then called you or texted you regularly to make sure you knew you were absolutely not alone.
I’m sorry I didn’t help more when I visited. The little tasks – my mom calls them ‘straws’…as in the proverbial camel – can build up to the point they overwhelm and incapacitate you. Watering your plants, refilling your sugar bowl, bringing your recycling bins in. Easy things for me to take off your plate, but it didn’t even occur to me to offer. My head was firmly up my own ass, eh?? On those visits, few and far between as they were, I should have cuddled your baby as much as possible, and given you the time to have a long bath, or eat a meal slowly, or close your eyes for awhile.
And finally, I’m sorry I didn’t continue to celebrate your wee one with all the excitement and enthusiasm of when s/he was born. That little person is your best and favourite achievement. I love your little person, but I haven’t been good at showing it consistently with birthday cards and Christmas gifts. I haven’t asked enough about how your wee one is sleeping or eating or doing with daycare/school/piano lessons/his aversion to wearing pants. Sometimes I forget (because I am a flighty and scatterbrained person at the best of times), and sometimes we are pressed for time when we talk, but often my head is just too far up my own butt. Rest assured, though, I am always interested to know what’s happening in your wee one’s world.
Because of you, friend-who-had-children-before-me, I have so much support and encouragement and practical stuff. You know just what to say to make me feel like I can actually do this motherhood gig. Through your many kindnesses, you have taught me how to best support a new mama, and I promise to pay it forward.
Thank you for not holding it against me that I was a crap friend to you when you had your babe(s). I fully understand if you sold that stupid rattle on kijiji.
Your Friend Who Just Didn’t Know