Our first walk with my snap-n-go stroller was on a warm spring day in Florida on a wide paved trail with a group of fellow new moms. Some of us knew each other from church and others from seminary, but all of us were new moms and new to the mom social scene. I held so much eagerness and also so much uncertainty about this new world. I was still deciding how I felt about having my social life determined by the birth date of my son, Xander. People with, say, 8-month-olds were in a whole different world than me with a 4-month-old. I was also apprehensive about joining a moms group. I was afraid a moms group would lack depth, and I was conflicted about having so much of my world revolve around being a mom. I was a bundle of contradictions as I pushed that stroller. I hoped for kindred spirits whose children’s birth dates fell within 2-3 months of my child’s. At the same time, I was so lonely, anyone who could talk about sleep schedules and spit up was a lifeline. That walk was a new beginning.
By the time the weather started cooling down, our moms’ group had a Facebook page and a standing weekly playdate at a playground or mall play area. I’d pop the stroller out of the trunk, snap the car seat in, and push eagerly, anticipating conversation and connection. I’d spot familiar strollers and be happy a friend came, too. We’d hover around the strollers, iced coffees in the cupholders, watching the “action.” Our conversations, though fragmented, grew in depth and became more meaningful. These women I barely knew four months ago were now special because we were initiated into motherhood together. We planned our babies’ first Halloween and Christmas parties together. We shared the ordinary moments in between. These dear women brought joy, hope, and friendship to the new and sometimes scary world of motherhood.
When baby #2 came, I wanted my trusty snap-n-go stroller instead of a double stroller. I knew the smooth feel of the handle and familiarity, however small, was important in the midst of upheaval. When Zack was six weeks old, we moved across the country. I was determined to connect quickly in a new town, and the stroller was my companion to many new moms groups. But regardless of my dedication and openness, connecting with a new group took time.
I keenly remember one play date when I pushed the stroller to a new playground with weariness. However, friendly these women might be, they were new to me, I was new to them, and so were my kids. No one yet knew Xander would climb anything, anywhere and I was ok with it (or at least tried to be!). I didn’t know their usual snacks, and I didn’t know if I could offer to share or if there were allergies. I longed for my children and me to have a safe place to land in a season of hard transitions: a cross-country move and going from 1 to 2 children practically simultaneously. I held that handle so tightly so often as I held onto hope that I would find kindred spirits for the journey in a new place.
After five years of use, the stroller was not yet done with its service to us. Baby #3 arrived almost three years after Zack. The wheels had some rust spots, and some coffee spills still hadn’t been cleaned off the cupholders from its time in service with Zack. Penny rode in the faithful stroller just as her brothers had. Most of her rides were to regular meet-ups with my friends. By now, I had a group of mom friends who counted on our weekly library storytimes. We were almost always able to grab the large, low wooden table right outside the play area, optimally placed for sightlines. Penny sat (or slept) happily watching the action, while I enjoyed my McDonald’s iced coffee and caught up with friends.
This time, my small group was made up of slightly seasoned moms of several children within a year or two of each other instead of months. Our parenting struggles still involved sleep issues, but we also shared concerns over things like ongoing behavior problems that stumped us. I found a group of compassionate, curious, and creative moms who also were honest about the struggles of motherhood. By now, I knew what kind of mom I was (or wanted to be) and how much I needed other moms.
My mom friends have shaped me as a mother more than anyone as I’ve watched their tenderness, received their kindness, and borrowed their words. I was wary of entering the mom social scene on that first stroller walk more than five years ago, and now so much has changed.
Just recently, I gave my old snap-n-go stroller to a friend. As I cleaned the cupholders, I found myself holding back tears. My swelling emotions took me by surprise. I feel a softness towards that lonely mother who needed mothering and someone to help carry the load when things seemed impossible. In a small but practical way, the stroller lightened my load. The stroller was there like it was in the beginning, a faithful companion and witness to a mom’s walk through motherhood and friendship.
Featured image by Holly Shafer Photography
Kim Trouten comes alive in nature and likes to travel, read, and quilt in bold colors. She lives with her husband of 20 years and three young children in a town with the unfortunate name of Normal where she spends her days trying to form complete thoughts and finish her coffee. It’s her great privilege to work part-time as a life coach as she witnesses the power of God’s love and redemption at work in women’s lives.