“Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up the other; but woe to one who is alone and falls and does not have another to help.” Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 (NRSV)
Last year, my best friend’s mother died. She was my mother’s best friend of forty years. They met in child birthing classes, raised their children together, and gave their children two different models of motherhood. Their values were almost always aligned, but their personhood, the way they reacted to stress, what they shared, what they held in—it was unique.
As a child, I saw them as a united front. What one dictated, the other would uphold. When one struggled, the other would step in. They shared a reciprocity that I didn’t appreciate until I had children and began searching, with an aching I’d never experienced before, for a similar relationship.
I’ve found a few women who tentatively live into this role. Our ties are still fragile, our children still petri dishes that often keep us from seeing each other for weeks at a time. We hang together by dint of a text thread, a forum we can come to at any hour with our fears and celebrations.
It doesn’t look the same to me as it did when I was young, but then, I didn’t hear about the feelings of disconnection when life imposed itself over quality time. I didn’t know I would feel jealous of another parent’s ability to go away for a weekend, or potty train in a few days, or convince a child to eat everything that was offered. I didn’t realize I would compare and often come up lacking. I didn’t appreciate I would sometimes be the one with the answers. I didn’t think it was possible I would be another’s rock when I felt so adrift.
All I knew then was that we were drawn together by the sanctity of that first friendship. Now, I realize it was sacred, an incarnation of the Holy Spirit offering strength to those filled with doubt.
God, we give thanks for those friends who recognize our faults as caregivers and Christ-seekers and who embrace and feed us (and our cranky, needy, amazing children) anyway.
Maria Mankin contributed this devotional to Hard and Holy: Devotions for Parenting, a collection of devotionals for the spiritual practice of raising, teaching, learning from, delighting in, and cleaning up after children. Order Hard and Holy today.