I don’t remember every detail of when I first met the father of my children, but I certainly recall first casting my eyes on my best friend, Nadine.
Our babies were both one month old when we met at a government-funded Playgroup in country NSW. Both 28, we were new to town, and like fish out of water, we flapped and gasped on the sidelines of conversations about attachment parenting and pawpaw nappy rash cream.
Our shared silence during birth story sharing circles revealed similar traumas. And while our mum-trackies and milk-stained maternity bras belied a bold and brassy past, we couldn’t hide our shared discomfort adjusting to idealised motherhood.
“This is the highlight of my f@#king week and I’m talking about baby shit. Kill me now,” mumbled Nadine as I passed her a plate of orange quarters one Wednesday.
Her penetrating eyes were framed by a short, blunt fringe and she spoke in an unforgiving German accent. From that moment, it was love.
That moment is now eleven years ago. Since then, we have been there for each other’s subsequent births, for the painful yo-yo separations from our children’s fathers, through tragedies and triumphs, through careers that have climbed, consumed, and crippled us. We have shared spiritual awakenings, epic camping trips, health kicks, and a constant comedic stream of text messages that have prevented us from sleepwalking through the lonely lunchbox-packing grind. In periods of crisis, we have even shared our homes.
Right now, everyone seems to be talking about the psychological benefits of ‘holding space’ (being present without judgement). Nadine and I were doing this way before it was cool. We have cried in front of each other countless times and loved each other’s shadow-selves as they drank too much, ruminated for too long and parented inconsistently.
But it’s been this solid non-judgemental love that has allowed us to grow and to become pretty great mums with pretty great kids.
This unconditional love has led to positive outcomes for ourselves and our children. Together, we have realised where we were going wrong; whether it be dating men that weren’t making us happy, repeating addictions, or negative parenting patterns.
Without a love so solid, we would have slipped through the cracks. Without each other we would be an economic burden – cost the taxpayer thousands in crisis accommodation, in childcare subsidies, and healthcare. Nadine and I offer the perfect business case for the continued government funding of Playgroups.
On Saturday, I will see her and my eldest daughter off at the airport, where together they will catch a plane to Tasmania to see another of the mums we met at that Playgroup eleven years ago.
In many ways, it will be a coming-of-age journey for my daughter. Nadine, mother to boys, will offer her what I cannot give her right now. At this juncture, when my daughter is pushing my boundaries and buttons, I’ve found myself having to play Bad Cop more than Good Cop, which kind of breaks my heart.
But I have Nadine, who can be the friend to my daughter that I just can’t be right now. She can offer my daughter menstruation-positive chats without being told ‘Mum, you are gross’. She can be more permissive about poor clothing choices, take endless selfies, and generally offer her the safe liminal space that she craves right now.
When my best friend and I met over a decade ago, it was apparent as new mums we needed the support of the village. But as our children grow into little adults, the village, and its diversity of role models has become even more important.
When I first became a mum, I never thought it would be a mum-friend who would be my biggest support, my biggest love. But there you go.
So, whether you’ve just met at Playgroup or are watching your kids grow into adults together, here’s to you.
Mum-friends can be the biggest and most positive loves of your life.