My best friend Emily and I have been friends for 30 years. That's a long time to be in a relationship with someone—marriages are lucky to last that long. Emily and I have gone through a lot together—many ups and downs. But despite our imperfections and arguments, we've managed to always support each other. And after becoming mothers, somehow our friendship began to mean even more.
My best friend and I met on the first day of kindergarten. She stood as a poised, well-behaved introvert with perfect blonde hair. I, on the other hand, bounced around the room—loud and boisterous—with my messy brown bob. "Opposites attract," they say.
Through our turbulent teenage years, we were always honest with each other. Emily stood by me after a couple of run-ins with the cops and encouraged me to settle down—maybe just a tad. In the meantime, I coached her into breaking up with all of the bad boys who didn't deserve her. Because we were so different, we allowed ourselves to see what life was like from another point of view.
Because of her, I learned that true friends accept one another for their differences while also nudging the other if they need a little direction.
When Emily was just 16, her mother was diagnosed with advanced breast cancer. Her mother managed to battle the disease for a handful of years before it became too much. During our sophomore year of college, at the age of 20, Emily lost her mother.
I will never forget the day of the funeral. I stood outside of the funeral home and the hearse drove around the circle driveway. Emily put her hand up to the window in the back seat, looked me in the eyes, and started crying. I wanted to leap into that hearse and cradle her tightly—never letting go. As true friends do, I did my best to be there for her the months following. But a few years later, the unthinkable happened—she lost her father, too.
Despite losing her parents at such a young age, Emily stood resilient. She married a couple of years before me and began having babies immediately. Me? Well, I was still in party-mode—meandering into bars and staying out late on the weekends. I was also getting comfortable in my teaching career and put my all into that—not even thinking about starting a family of my own. Emily and I still chatted weekly, but we grew distant.
Looking back, I should have done more to support my best friend in the most important role of her life—a new mother. But I didn't. Motherhood came naturally to Emily. She breastfed with ease and when her babies fussed, she tended to them with patience.
I almost felt as though she didn't need my support in that way—I felt like nothing had changed. But she became a mother—of course things changed. I didn't visit as often as I should have and I felt neglected when she couldn't hang out as much on the weekends. I was selfish. I didn't even try to walk in her shoes, because at that time, I didn't even want to think about motherhood for myself.
The forest rooted between us grew taller. But finally, we trudged through it, met halfway, and did what we both knew we needed to—we had it out. After an argument over the phone and some tears shed, we became stronger. Friendships are like all relationships, and sometimes you just have to have that heated discussion.
When I finally started my own family, Emily was there for me. She supported me by holding my newborn when he just wouldn't stop crying. She brought over meals for our family and scooped my son up for 20 minutes just so I could take a shower. No, I was not a natural mother like Emily. But that only made her support me more.
When the guilt of not being able to breastfeed suffocated me, instead of judging me, she let me know it was okay. This made me realize what motherhood was all about—imperfect mothers applauding one another—No. Matter. What. After Emily encouraged me to shed the breastfeeding guilt, I was finally able to enjoy motherhood—and be good at it, too.
Today, Emily's kids are like big cousins to mine. Her kids teach my kids how to fish and her kids give my kids their old dress-up clothes.
She opened my eyes to the fact that all mothers are imperfect—just like our friendship. Now that we are both mothers, we can share in our joys, triumphs, and blunders of motherhood together.
I'm sure that life will bring us more trials and tribulations within the next 30 years, and I'm certain we'll be able to withstand it all. I can just picture us gray-haired and wrinkly, the kids grown up, sipping wine on the porch chatting about the days of when our kids were little and even when we were little, too—joining hands on that very first day of kindergarten when our friendship began to bloom.