A couple of weeks ago, a group of us Michigander moms went to visit our fellow mama friend in Cleveland who just had her third baby. When we got to my friend's house, my other friends showered her with gifts and packages of diapers. Her tired face beamed. She seemed genuinely happy that we came to visit her, and also because of the thoughtfulness of my friends.
But my hands were empty—I brought her no cute baby clothes, no prepared casseroles, no new baby books.
And I used to pride myself on being good about that kind of stuff, too. I learned from my own mother that food brings comfort to people. So, I'd cook when a baby was born or if a friend was going through a difficult time. I'd stand in my kitchen and make enchiladas, Grecian chicken, or a spaghetti casserole for the family in need. Anything to make their lives easier.
But when my friend had her third baby, with likely no time to even go to the bathroom alone, there was no home cooked meal in my arms to give to her.
"I'm sorry!" I said. "I didn't cook for you guys this time. I thought I was going to be able to sneak it in this week , but I wasn't able to."
But my friend didn't mind. She just wanted me there with her and her newborn. My arms may have been empty, but that just meant I had room in them to snuggle her son and give her tired arms a break.
"Stop it," she said. "I'm just so glad you're here." She meant it. So I quickly got over it and picked up her beautiful boy.
Later on, my brother (who lives in the area, too) stopped by. He bounded through the door carrying fresh donuts from a local bakery. He played with all of the children; held the crying infant, gave fruit snacks to the fussy preschooler, scooped up the toddler for airplane rides. Later, when all of the adults went out for some fun sans kids, my brother did the same thing for us, too.
He ordered and bought our drinks at the bar. He set up reservations at the restaurant and went early to save our table. He asked about every single person's life. By posing simple questions, he made everyone feel unique and valued.
Since my kids are school-aged now and our world has been turned upside down by homework and activities and shuttling them to and 'fro—my generosity is lacking. My selfless nature is no longer as prominent as it once was. I don't send inspirational letters to friends anymore. I don't cook meals for families just because. Heck, sometimes I don't even call my best friends back.
But my brother reminded me that I do have that selfless, thoughtful gene still inside me. He helped me realize that I want to try harder. No, my friends don't care—they love me all the same. Most of them are in the thick of raising kids, too—they get it. But I don't want to lean on that as an excuse.
I want to make the time to not only do things for myself (self-care and all), but I want to make others feel special, too. Why? It's simple. Because they deserve it. When a friend calls me—or texts even—to congratulate me on a published writing piece or sends well-wishes about my father's declining health—it feels good. And I remember it. And I feel taken care of.
These friendships are even more vital to me now, after becoming a mother. So, I want to—I need to—nurture them by reciprocating the love they always show me.
From now on, I'll write the letters—and I'll even remember to send them in the mail. Instead of a Netflix show after the kids go to bed, I'll pick up the phone to call that friend I've been meaning to. I'll follow through with the lunch and dinner dates.
Yes, the next time a friend has a baby, I'll do my best to whip up a casserole. But if I find that I just don't have the time, I'll be sure to at least stop at the local bakery on my way to her house. And my arms will be ready to cuddle that newborn, but only after I set down the doughnuts first.