When I was a little girl, I was fascinated by the story of Cinderella.
Here was this girl who had a rough go of it but she worked hard and followed all the rules and her life turned out happily ever after. She made it seem so easy. As a teenager, I assumed if I worked hard and followed all the rules, my life should turn out happily ever after, too. Makes total sense, right?
(I know, I know. Quit laughing.)
These days, when the dishes and the laundry are piled up and there’s some unidentifiable stain on my clothes and I have to think really hard to remember if I brushed my teeth this morning, I want to throw something at Cinderella. Seriously. Even during her floor-scrubbing days, she looked perfectly lovely and was always ready to try on new shoes.
I think Mommy Groups can be a lot like Cinderella.
When I walked into my first MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) group, I was such a mess. I felt like I was failing at just about every aspect of my life. Just that morning, I yelled at my kids, snapped at my husband, and the dishes from last night’s fairly unhealthy convenience meal were still in the sink.
The ladies I met that Wednesday were very welcoming and sweet, but I honestly considered never going back.
They were all so put together. They had real clothes on. They smelled nice. It sounded like their families were perfect. Being there in the presence of these moms, I was forced to let go of the idea I’d been clinging to that no mom was perfect and no one had it all together. Because these women obviously did.
They were just like Cinderella.
It took a few weeks, but I eventually decided to go back. Within a few meetings, I began to get to know their stories. These women who seemed so perfect? They had the same fears I did. They felt the same sense of failure. They had overcome hardships, too. Once our walls came down, the relationships were built up and bonds were formed.
I took another look at Miss Cinderella.
Now, I like to imagine her with mashed carrots stuck in her tiara and the royal diaper genie overflowing. I wonder if her daily mom uniform would be a pair of yoga pants with “Princess” bedazzled across the seat. I’ll even admit to giggling at the idea of her gorgeous glass carriage with cheerios smashed into the upholstery.
I bet she even felt lonely while Prince Charming was off running the kingdom. She probably only had her two step-sisters around to give her the amazing parenting advice that comes so easily to people without children.
Real life is not a fairy tale. Not even close. Real life is messy. It’s hard and it can be lonely.
This is what I love about mommy groups and why I feel community is so incredibly important in the life of a mom. When we can connect with other women who are experiencing the same unique season of life and are fighting the same battles and asking the same questions, we begin to see we’re not alone in this.
We are given the opportunity to look around and see we have sisters with us in the trenches of motherhood. Despite my mess, I know we all have our messes, and together, we can support and encourage each other.
A good mommy group will provide a safe place to tear down our walls and reveal the vulnerability hidden there, allowing us a chance to say, “Me, too!” and then relationships are built from the ground up. But we have to be willing to go to an often scary place of honest reality.
Mommy groups have the potential to be absolutely life-changing. Whether for the better or for the worse, I learned, is up to us.
Mother's Day is over, but we have the power to give ourselves one more present. Let's give ourselves the best gift of all--community.