*UPDATED* The Momma Code

A few months ago, out on a walk with my kids, I met a woman in our neighborhood who, it turned out, lives almost directly behind us.  Kerry has two little boys; the youngest is only a couple of weeks older than my daughter Corrie.  She and her husband had only moved to the area recently, and we were both glad to meet another mom in the neighborhood.  We talked about schools and pediatricians and all the other stuff moms are required to discuss on their first meeting–then we traded phone numbers and went back to our respective houses. 

I called Kerry a couple of weeks later to meet up for lunch at a Burger King with a play place.  We had a nice–albeit loud–visit while our two year olds played.  Actually, her two year old played;, my two year old (who has three big brothers, and therefore thinks that all human interaction involves fists) attempted to drop-kick, body-slam and otherwise tackle my friend’s little boy the entire time.  I was mortified and apologetic and mumbled every few minutes about how she wasn’t sleeping well lately, or some other lame excuse.  Kerry was completely gracious, of course.  We parted, and I hoped my new friend would want to get together again with That Strange Family That Is Raising a Mean Girl.

The flurry of the holidays kept us from getting together, though our kids squealed at each other a few times from their respective backyard forts.  Early this week, I was so pleased when Kerry called to invite us to her house for a play date.  I dressed Corrie in her frilly best (if she was going to act like a bully again, at least she wouldn’t look like one), and we headed around the block for our second meeting with our new friends. 

We arrived to find Kerry at the door, face white, on the phone with the doctor.  Her older son had a bad fall in the garage moments before and immediately wanted to sleep–she was scared he had a concussion.  She hung up and told me that the nurse said her son was fine as long as he didn’t vomit, at which point he (of course) promptly vomited.  I immediately offered to take her little one home with me so that she could take her son to the doctor, and I brought him back to my house with Corrie.  As we pulled out of the driveway, Kerry looked at me, folded her hands and mouthed the words thank you with a look of desperation.  No problem, I mouthed back. 

As I write this, Corrie and her little friend are playing happily in the next room (so far only one body-slam, I might add), and I’ve been praying for my new friend and her older son at the doctor’s office.  Our friendship consists of about 15 minutes-worth of conversation at this point, and yet we’ve both already had the chance to see each other at a particularly low moment.  It’s the reason, I believe, why "momma friendships" seem to be such deep ones, and why we bond so quickly.  We’re all on the same roller-coaster, after all.  It’s as if there’s an unspoken Momma Code that hangs in the air between us at all times:  This-is-hard-please-help-me.

In a society where asking for help is sometimes seen as a sign of weakness, motherhood forces us to reach out for others–it’s simply too much for one person, sometimes.  It’s the reason you watch a friend’s child so she can take another one to the doctor, because you know how hard that is.  It’s the reason you intercept a wandering toddler in the produce section, because the wild-eyed look of terror on the face of the mom two aisles away looks all too familar.  And it’s the reason you take a meal to a friend who has morning sickness, because you’ve tried to fix a casserole between dashes to the bathroom.  You do it with the assurance that you will likely be needing such kindness yourself soon. 

So if things are smooth at your house today–if no one is sick or bleeding or fighting or grounded or has soccer/karate/dance/piano lessons–you can be quite sure that somewhere near you things are not smooth for another mom.  Find her, and do something

And if you’re the one up to your eyeballs, reach out and ask for help.  Any mom worth her salt would sympathize and come to your rescue.  She has to.  It’s part of The Code.

*UPDATED TO ADD*  Thanks for your thoughts of concern for my friend.  She called this morning to say her son is doing MUCH better today. 

87 thoughts on “*UPDATED* The Momma Code

  1. Liz says:

    Well I know you didn’t do it for a pat on the back but *patting you on the back* way to go Shannon! That was very thoughtful of you.

  2. An Ordinary Mom says:

    Shannon, you are a genius! I loved how you summed everything up in the “Momma Code.”
    I was starting to have one of those days today, and then I took a moment to think (and post) of all the kind people who have recently helped me out. The Momma Code worked for me.
    Glad to hear her son is OK.

  3. daring young mom says:

    I love this post Shannon. I seriously don’t know how I’d do it without other moms. At the very least we can just look at each other with understanding. There is a certain kind of empathy that I don’t think you can develop any other way and I need to be surrounded by it.

  4. Amy says:

    Yes, that’s just it. And why the times when we get stuck “on our own” for one reason or another, we quickly find ourselves floundering and gasping as we try to make it back into the water.
    Thank you for sharing.

  5. theotherbear says:

    Do you really think it’s only the mums that have this ethic to help others though? That’s kind of sad. I wouldn’t hesitate to look after a neighbour’s kid if their other child had a fall, to help someone on the street, in the supermarket, anywhere. I think it’s more a case of you just do what you can for people. Maybe being a mum emphasises for some people how much we need others’ help, but there are other non-mums who wouldn’t hesitate to do the same too.
    That being said – what a nice thing you did today, I would love to have you as my neighbour!

  6. misslionheart says:

    I have a neighbour who helps out as long as it doesn’t interrupt her daily routine! Although I have helped her many times, even cut the family’s hair every few weeks for two years (shouldn’t have told her I was a qualified hairdresser!) whether it’s convenient for me or not. Then again, I have a neighbour who would do *anything* for me, whatever she was doing at the time.
    A good neighbour drops everything to help out.

  7. Becky says:

    Oh, I just love this. It is so true. I have been blessed with two wonderful neighbors who have children the same age as my daughter. We are constantly helping each other out! And, it truly is a blessing!

  8. Tara says:

    Good on you!
    I have just had my second child a month ago, and dh is going back to work next week… I think I am going to do myself up a long list of phone numbers for just in case I have a Bad Day.

  9. Sarah says:

    I love the way you put this. My MOPS group follows the “Momma Code” very well. You are one phone call from several mommas coming to bring a meal, babysit your child, and pray for you. I am so blessed to be a part of group that supports each other so much.

  10. Antique Mommy says:

    If I have one deficit in my life, it is this. I don’t have any momma friends (other than inside my computer). I have a neighborhood full of other mommies and I pass them every week at pre-school but I seem unable to make a connection.

  11. Lisa says:

    Great, great post! I have a “Momma code friend” and give thanks for her daily. Last night at the library a little one followed my 10 year old to the movie section and I dashed after–the Mom, distracted by the new baby, nearly fainted when she looked up to find toddler gone. I know the feeling. I understood the silent rush of relief. “Momma Code.” It’s also known as “life support.”

  12. peach says:

    I’m with Antique Mommy right now, and my “Momma code friends” are few and far away. I have no one here I can call on, and my neighborhood is fairly “momma-free” — at least no one else stays at home during the day.
    So, I miss the link I’ve had in the past, and pray for connections like the one you’ve made, Shannon.
    Kudos to you for being such a sweet friend!
    I wish you lived in my neighborhood. My JD Green could keep your Corrie busy any day of the week.

  13. Katrina says:

    Great post, Shannon. I’m one of those people who has a hard time asking for help, but I’m getting better at it, and am so thankful for the friends who are always willing to step in and help me. I hope I am that kind of friend to them, too.

  14. Toblerone says:

    So well said! I completely agree. I’d also say that might be why so many mamas are prone to blogging – that desperate need to hear “you’re normal” through someone else’s words.
    In my life, I find it odd sometimes that other moms of littles seem to be the only ones reaching out to encourage each other. Our Sunday School class is for young parents, so we are all constantly having babies, needing babysitting, etc. etc. Our church has tried to engage other members to walk alongside us and help in practical ways (meals, etc.), but it doesn’t really seem to work. So sometimes it feels like we’re bombarded with constantly doing meals for each other. I’m glad to do it, but sometimes I wish moms of older kids remembered the challenges of having babies and toddlers. I know they’re out there… I just need to find them… 😉

  15. Alli says:

    Gosh, I have such a hard time making mommy friends. I do have a couple of friends that could be like that, but we just don’t stay in touch very well. And the other mommy friends I’ve made have seemed to be so shallow and judgemental that the friendships don’t last very long.
    Really, sweet post, though. I wish it could be my reality.

  16. Jenn says:

    So, so true. You have a great way of saying it like it is. And the name “The Momma Code” is perfect.
    I got all misty eyed towards the end!

  17. Jennifer says:

    The Momma Code. I totally can relate. You do what you have to do, but it is so nice when another mom steps in to help. I have 4 children and I don’t know what I would have done without my mom friends. Even after moving away from my home state of Alabama and coming to Missouri its amazing how fast you can find a mom who will step in and help.

  18. Robin says:

    Shannon- I’ve been reading a while, first time to comment. A year and a half ago we moved from a place with no mommies to a wonderful street with many neighbor mommies. I SO appreciate it. It means alot, knowing that you can count on someone at a moments notice and that you would do the same for her. Love your posts too- 🙂

  19. Jane says:

    Moms are leaders! Now if we could just extend that code to the neighbor code, and the co-worker code and…. our society lacks a lot of safety nets. I am encouraged by the fact that there are more moms than ever in Congress. I pray that they spread the Mamma Code until it is the American Code.

  20. J. Fergie says:

    Aw Shannon! This one totally touched my heart. I just had this discussion with a friend of mine who recently admitted she was almost embarrassed to ask for help. We can’t do it alone! Great post.

  21. chilihead says:

    Excellent post my friend. Just excellent. This is why having you as a friend has been so important to me. You are there to call on when I need you for the low points and there to call on when I just want to laugh–mommas need both!

  22. Just Jana says:

    This is SO true. Just before Christmas, my mom and I were in Costco. The lines were RIDICULOUS and there was a young mom – mid-20s I’m guessing – with a preschooler and a toddler. The toddler was SCREAMING and flailing about. He wasn’t throwing a tantrum, though. It was obvious that he was sick and tired. Literally. Both children were pale and had runny noses and cloudy eyes. The mom looked like she wasn’t well herself, but HAD to come to the store to get apple juice and Kleenex. She was on the verge of tears, trying to console her little one while going through the checkout. My mom and I quickly packed up our cart after paying, and went back to this poor woman’s checkout. We started loading her purchases in her cart and getting her preschooler ready to go outside. She started crying. She was completely overwhelmed. She was also ashamed to be needing help. We walked her to her car, strapped her boys in their carseats, and put her groceries in the back. It was no trouble at all for us. By the end of those few short minutes, we were all crying. My mom and I both COMPLETELY understood how this woman felt, and we were more than happy to help. But we felt so bad for her. My mom gave her some grandmotherly advice about getting rest and nursing her boys, and then she left, still in tears, but ever-so-grateful.
    Well, I saw this SAME woman last week at the same Costco. She was vibrant, healthy, and happy. I know now what I knew back then in December. She is a NORMAL mom who tries her best and has really, horrible, bad days sometimes. She is not Superwoman. Neither am I. Needing help and giving help is like an endless cycle of comfort, and yes, even a bond between mothers. There is an understanding between us that no one else can meet.

  23. Homeschool Mama says:

    Good stuff, Shannon. I moved into a new neighborhood in August and had no one in this new town. The 5-6 houses on either side of me closed within the month also. All of us moms are on the same page- new with no one. It’s so nice to have Mommy friends.

  24. Blessed Happy Throng Mommy says:

    Just beautiful Shannon! You put into words the way so many of us feel, but you do it so freely. God has given you a true gift and you use it to touch and enrich our lives. So, thank you for sharing. What a good neighbor, momma, and friend. I pray that her son is doing better, please keep us updated.
    And to those moms with no “mommas” in your fold, I will pray that God leads you to other “mommas.” We all need other moms in our lives and I am praying right now, that God sends you someone or leads you to another mom.

  25. Beth/Mom2TwoVikings says:

    Good for you, Shannon! Well put!
    A MOMS Group club I belong to strive to do the same for each other.
    Also, grandmas are part of “the Code” as well! Not once has my MIL hesitated to come immediately over when I’ve asked for an emergency…when #1 locked herself in her room, when I locked the kids and I out of the house, and when I needed medicine but didn’t want to drag the kids out puking and coughing all over everyone at Walgreens! LOL

  26. Big Mama says:

    The Momma Code has saved me a few times along this bumpy journey. There is definitely a comfort in knowing you’re not alone. Great writing, Shannon.

  27. Dini says:

    I just found your blog recently and loving it. I have a neighborhood mom who has triplet five year old girls. We take turns with playdates. She takes my 4 & 5 year old and in return I’ll take her 3. It works out very well. I love the Momma code.

  28. Vida says:

    You know, I was starting to feel kind of low, realizing I’m one of those with no momma friends. Then I read Beth’s comment and it hit me! My MIL is both a surrogate mother and a friend to me. I am so blessed to have her. Thanks for the lovely words, Shannon and Beth.

  29. Anonymous says:

    I’m a witness of the mama code. I’m a newly single mother of 3 kids (ages 3 and under). I feel like I’m constantly using the mama code and my church family has been a tremendous resource for me. However, I would like to be used by others too. Don’t be afraid to ask for help even if you think someone has enough on their plate. It’s always nicer to give than to receive.

  30. Pass the Torch says:

    Oh I hope all turns out well. I think it’s so important that we do reach out for help. I’m not good at that at all — until it’s really important. It’s so nice to know that other moms know the code.

  31. Kristi says:

    What a lovely post. You managed to sum up everyday life for millions of moms. Thanks for being honest and let us know how the other child is.

  32. Heth says:

    Shannon, that was wonderful. I think we all feel that way (knowing we need help) and sometimes our pride just wont let us ask. I know I have done that before. But sharing those moments of need with another mom creates such a bond and you captured that so well in this post. Beautiful.

  33. Beth F. says:

    What a post. I am praying for your neighbor’s son. Thank you for your wonderful words and reminders.
    You inspired me to post about your post. Thank you.

  34. Elle says:

    Shannon,this was like reliving what happened to us almost 2 years ago. My oldest son was playing in the neighbor’s yard, running through the sprinklers. He ran into the garage and slipped on the floor. We spent the night in the hospital with a hairline skull fracture and severe concussion. If not for my neighbor who stepped in and took my other two sons in hand, I would have lost my mind. The Momma Code works. Thanks.

  35. Sheryl says:

    Wonderful post … anybody who has been a mother for any time at all (and especially those with more than one child) knows EXACTLY what you’re talking about. Thanks for a great reminder that if we are not the ones in need right now we need to be keeping our eyes open for the Momma we know who could use a helping hand. Kerry is very blessed to have you for a neighbor. Prayers for her son.

  36. Mommy, the Human Napkin says:

    I love living out in the country, but sometimes I wish I had close mama friends that I could count on. Like today. I’m sick, as are all three of my kids, and in order to take them to the doctor this afternoon, we had to get up super early and take Daddy to work so we could have the car. What I wouldn’t give to have a friend I could call on in times like this…

  37. elizabeth says:

    Say a prayer for my good friend- she and I and another mom were neighbors, and all expecting 12 years ago in February. She is with her son in St. Louis right now. Doctors have implanted an electrode grid inside of his brain to further learn exactly where his brain tumor is to be sure of whether or not they will be able to sugically remove it. My friend is a two-time survivor of stage 4 ovarian cancer. Stress is not good for her body, and she is surely exhausted.

  38. Susan G. says:

    A few years ago, I was told by a much wiser mom than I am (or ever will be) that she considered it an act of generosity to reach out and ask for help. She explained to me that if I did not ask for the help I needed, I wasn’t giving others the opportunity to share their time and talents in a meaningful way. I do find it hard to ask for help,(I am supposed to have it all together – right?) but I know how good it feels when I do have the opportunity to help someone else.

  39. singinole says:

    wonderfully written and very well said. i do not have any children myself yet, but have witnessed this “code” between moms and it touches me everytime people step in to help those they may hardly know…just because it’s the right thing to do.

  40. Sally says:

    I understand the code, Shannon. But I have discovered that it is easier to make connections with other Moms when your kids are younger. Mine are teenagers now, and I have lived in a new neighborhood for 2 years and most of the Moms around here have preschoolers or young elementary school aged aged kids. They don’t have much to say to me as they feel they have nothing in common with me, I guess. I feel like I don’t fit in around here. They go back and forth together and arrange play dates for their kids and I feel like there is no one around here for me to connect with. I have given up trying. I didn’t have this problem when my kids were younger. I am STILL a Mom, it is just that my kids are older now. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have things to talk about and share with other Moms.

  41. annette says:

    Delurking to say fantastic post! I was new in my town less than a year ago and didn’t have any mommy friends. I finally started volunteering at my local Y just to get my 3 yr old son out around other kids. I found out most of the other volunteers are mothers too and I have made more new friends than I thought possible. It sounds a little dorky but I highly recommend volunteering to other lonely SAHMs (at places you can bring the kids with you of course) as a way to make great new friends.

  42. Heather from One Woman's World says:

    I love it. I am so with you. It is amazing how quickly having a child can make you realize that you are powerless and unable to control all things. I think God must really like how humble it can make us. And in that humility there is a really powerful connection to others that can come.

  43. Denise says:

    I have been a lurker for quite some time now…although I didn’t know I had a title until your new Blogging Basics. 🙂 This was an excellent post. It reminded me to be there for others and was an encouragement that someone else has the same feeling “This-is-hard-please-help-me.”

  44. tammy says:

    I LOVED this. This is how I actually met one of my best friends – in the elementary shcool parking lot. The Momma Code is very important!

  45. Tara says:

    I don’t know if anyone has commented on this vein or not, but MOPS.org is a great place to find real live moms in your area who will comisserate with you on this journey we call Motherhood!

  46. Shalee says:

    My friend’s father just passed away last night and I called them first thing this morning. Without hesitation, I asked to keep their 4 kids for the weekend so that the mom can do all the stuff that needs to be done for a funeral. And she agreed.
    Why tell? Not because I’m good, but because it is the right thing to do. That is what showing love is all about. That and I hope that someone else will do it for me when catastrophe comes our way.
    God bless you for stepping up and doing what needed to be done and, more importantly, telling us about it.

  47. Polly says:

    Your post has me in tears. You see, I live in the land of people fleeing California for lower priced real estate. So, there are so many people in my area that have BEAUTIFUL HOMES! PERFECT CHILDREN! PERFECT HUSBANDS! Grocery carts are full of PERFECT ORGANIC food! GREAT SUVs! EVERYTHING! IS! PERFECT!
    These women will never show you that they are having a bad day or their children are having a bad day because it would ruin their perfect image. They would rather stay home than let anyone see a chink in their armor. It drives me crazy.
    Heaven forbid your child is a terror at a play date. You’re asked to leave the group because THEIR children wouldn’t act like that.
    So as a result the few normal mothers I have met are so gun shy about meeting other mothers that we all stay in our perspective corners.
    Even when my baby died 3 years ago, only 2 friends/close acquaintances came to be with me. And really, they just brought flowers and a gift.
    So sad. I think the normal nature of motherhood is to cling together, as you said, because we have a common bond, a common interest in our children.
    Is it that I don’t live in the South anymore? I don’t know. Is it that magazines and the dreaded Dr. Sears tell you to be perfect and you MUST go along with these ideas? I don’t know.
    Your post just makes me miss NICE moms. Well, nice people for that matter.
    OK, I’m off of my soap box.
    Thanks for your post. I love it!

  48. Shelley says:

    I really don’t want to come across negatively but as a woman with no children (and none planned in the near, if ever, future) I just felt like I should say that it’s not just momma’s that would do those things. I do or would do all of those things just because that’s the right thing to do. Even though I’m not a mom, I do understand on some level how terrifying it would be to lose a child at the grocery store or take a sick little one to the doctor. I would gladly help out another woman in need because that’s what women should do whether they have a child or not.
    Also, glad to hear the little fella is doing alright!

  49. Telah says:

    I am really enjoying your blog. Today’s post was so good. I love being a Momma, but there are times when I need help and another Momma steps in. I am always grateful. And just this week I felt like I was able to repay two other Mommas by watching after their little ones. I love that you call it The Momma Code…so true!

  50. rachel says:

    I’m so glad I didn’t read this until the update was posted! so glad he’s OK.
    I love the message in this post, Shannon, I really needed to hear it. I have always been the person to give help. I loooove helping others. Now I need help (developed chronic pain/major health crap), and I *hate* asking for help or accepting it – I don’t want to turn into a “taker”. Thank you for reminding me of the Mama code. It might make accepting help easier.

  51. mimi2six says:

    I guess that’s why when you’re at my stage of life(grandmother), you still deeply treasure those friends with whom you raised your children. Those shared bonds of motherhood and helping each other out through the years go incredibly deep……creating a sisterhood that lasts a lifetime.

  52. Catez says:

    Brilliant post Shannon – it’s taking hold of the connection isn’t it? You don’t have to have known some-one forever to be there.

  53. Linds says:

    This is what it is all about, isn’t it. Wonderful post, Shannon. Really keeping you eyes open so you can anticipate a need. I am so glad your new friend’s son is doing okay.

  54. Pendullum says:

    So true…
    Whenever I see a mom, a stranger but a mom no less, having a ‘mommymoment’ on the street with a kid having a meltdown inevitably I will go and purchase a coffee for the mom and bring it to her… I have been there… Know it… and think there for the Grace of God go I today… But there is always tomorrow or the next day or the day after that….

  55. Lisa says:

    To the Mom of teens who feels alone. I know your pain! On the outside we are a normal 2 kid family. But my son has PTSD, depression and other problems. People drop us the first time they see the “other” him…..Moms with teens don’t seem to flinch when he’s having a bad day. I’m so grateful for them. Also to the teen boy who’s been there/done that left it behind who mentors my boy by choice. Hang in there. I’ll be praying for you and your family. Remember, growing up in school kids are so age segregated its no wonder the Moms around you don’t know what to say!!

  56. Tamara Cosby says:

    Thanks for the blog…it reminds me of my two closest friends and how my life would not be the same without them…nice reminder, keep ’em coming! Glad the child is all right, those are SCARY times!

  57. Deanna Gibbons says:

    You mean one mom can’t do it all??? What has my husband been telling me?
    Seriously, reading this brought a serious AH-HA moment for me. I do it all, and my closest friends are my children. I need to get out there and meet some moms. Thanks for posting about the Momma Code.

  58. Lucy says:

    I love this post. I’m forwarding it to my girlfriends, who have The Momma Code engraved on their hearts. My friends have been lifesavers for me, not only watching my children, cleaning my home or bringing meals through crises, but LOVING my children and praying for them. And I, too, have had those connections with perfect strangers in stores. It is amazing how quickly moms bond over babies. 🙂

  59. proverbs31 says:

    This rings so true. We all need the other moms in our life. Not that other women aren’t capable of being a blessing, too, because they are. It’s just that other mothers really get it like nobody else can.
    I’m glad to hear that he is doing well. What a scare! Praise God for keeping him safe.

  60. Rebecca says:

    This post is so true! There is nothing like the friendships that mamas share. Thank you for posting this, and I am so glad to hear that her little guy is ok!

  61. sally says:

    I Love this post, but no offence….this is exactly my nightmare, leave my child with the neighbor and have her be blogging instead of watching my child!!!!! eeekkkkk!!

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