I recently had the pleasure of being a bridesmaid to closest friend of over twenty years. We met in early in high school, when we both had just turned 13. We had been through a lot together over these long years of friendship, and I drew so much joy from being able to recount some of our history together in the speech I gave at the wedding. With such a long beautiful friendship to recount, it wasn’t difficult to give a heartfelt speech, and a number of our mutual friends told me how much they appreciated the speech for the way it captured our dear friend so well.
But there was one particular comment, from a wedding guest that I had not met before, that really stuck with me. This comment is the reason that I am writing this story for the Lead Mama Lead community now. This woman, much the same age as me, came up to me and said “I really appreciated your speech. It was really beautiful.” I asked how she knew the bride, assuming that she was a good friend that I’d never met, and could relate to the speech as a whole picture of our mutual friend. But she told me “Oh, I haven’t really met the bride before, and I don’t know the groom that well. My husband and the groom went to school together.” and she went on to say “What I really liked about your speech was what you said about motherhood. I have a baby myself and I really appreciated what you shared.”
During my speech I spoke about the big and small milestones in my own life that the bride had always been there for. One of the small things I spoke about was how she could always be relied upon to drop in unannounced for a cup of tea. In the speech I said “What would have seemed like a small thing, was really much more important that you would guess. Because, let me tell you, when you are a new mother and even leaving the house seems like too much to cope with, having a friend that will drop by randomly for a cup of tea is more valuable that you could imagine.”
That was it. A small memory, but an important one for me. When telling this story, however, I didn’t realise that it would also be important to someone I had never met before. A moment of shared vulnerability that enabled another mother to feel less alone.
This moment encapsulated exactly what I am trying to create with Lead Mama Lead. A supportive community in which mothers can share their hopes, dreams and challenges, and to support each other through them. A safe space to be vulnerable, and to know that you are not alone. To know that although you might struggle- there are others there to struggle with you.
Here at Lead Mama Lead we talk a lot about society, and the structural problems that exist. We’ve lost the village, and mothers are not to blame if we are struggling. But where society has failed us, it is up to us to find the courage to step in, to have these important discussions, to share our vulnerability, and find support. If we don’t have a village anymore, it’s time we rebuilt it. We can rebuild it around us, and make it what we want it to be.
But the first step is find courage to be vulnerable, and to share your vulnerability with others. We need to be able to have open, non-judgemental conversations about the very real struggles we are under. As a society we need to stop pathologising mothers who are not coping because of the absence of a village. Mental illness is very real, and there should be absolutely no judgement about seeking professional support to help you cope. But I think the vast majority of we mothers could meet the diagnosis for post-natal depression and anxiety at some point in our journey. If all of us are struggling, the problem is much deeper than the individual. How many of avoid seeking support because we blame ourselves for not coping. And when the only support available is medical, how does that affect our help-seeking behaviour?
The problems are systemic and cultural, and we need to look to our community for a wider solution. If so many mothers are struggling, how can we as a society better support each other?
If you are not coping, know that you are not alone. I have been there. And I regularly fall apart. But what I have learned over these years of motherhood is the courage to be vulnerable and to connect with other mothers for support.
Vulnerability is a leadership strategy, even if you don’t realise it yet. Step into your leadership by finding the courage to be vulnerable and connect with your fellow mamas to share your vulnerability. It will be healing for you. And it may just matter even more to the person you’ve reached out to.
Take this topic further:
- Brene Brown’s research shows that vulnerability is central to living a wholehearted life. Her books Daring Greatly and Rising Strong have been so important on my own leadership path
- Connect with your fellow mamas by starting a regular meet-up, and create a safe space to be vulnerable. The Mama Leadership Book Group gives you a format to do this
- I highly recommend you read this article – The Normalisation of Awful– by mama leader Yolande Norris
- I also enjoyed Clementine Ford’s article – How I got through my first year of being a mother