We’d meet once a week for playdates when our children were little. We were an eclectic group of local moms wanting our young ones to socialize (and to have a bit of adult interaction ourselves). That week, we met at a local café. We gathered around a table—some with babies in car seats, others with their little ones in highchairs. We ordered coffee and tea and were sitting around talking about nothing when another mom walked in and sat down.
She had no children with her that day. She didn’t speak when she got to our table, and she almost collapsed into her chair. We all said hello, and I was immediately taken aback by her response.
“I’m just here!”
No children. No greeting. No nothing.
Wait, what? I thought. What do you mean you’re just here? You mean you can just show up and not fully participate?
After I got over my initial surprise, I began to think about how I unconsciously pretended in some social situations: covering up how frazzled and clueless I felt, attempting to hide the uncertainty—and at times exhaustion—that can come along with a new roll or life transition, especially in motherhood.
I watched her. She sat in her chair, hands folded in her lap, eyes occasionally closed, and it seemed as though she was both releasing and recharging. Her silent presence offered me a sense of relief. Her actions, although initially unusual to me, weren’t a form of disrespect or an intentional act of rebellion against mommy-group norms. This woman was displaying a deep sense of awareness.
She didn’t have the energy or the capacity to do anything other than show up as she was that day—no pretending. And this group, this space, felt safe enough for her to do just that. What a gift, to herself and to me, in that moment.
This experience gave me the opportunity to reflect on and challenge my own behavior. How many times had I pushed past my limits, ignored the signs of exhaustion, put on a happy face or said, “I’m fine,” when I was really screaming on the inside? This façade didn’t have to continue. It wasn’t healthy or helpful, and it often blocked my ability to release what I was feeling and receive the help I truly needed.
I began examining my other friendships and friend groups. In which ones was I simply going through the motions? Who was I comfortable with telling I was tired or frazzled because I knew they would listen without judging? Was I comparing my parenting style to others and feeling shame because of it? How was I showing up as a friend to others now that I was a mom?
We all need safe spaces and communities that allow us to show up exactly as we are without obligation or expectation. Places where we feel seen and understood, that give us room to fall apart and help to gather us, putting back the pieces or removing the ones that no longer fit. We also need to take a long, gentle look at ourselves, exploring how we can release old ways of being while adjusting our lenses to the new possibilities in front of us.
Thanks to that mom, I now allow myself to be more vulnerable and transparent. I’ve begun to hold space for myself while inviting others to support and encourage me along the way. I’ve also become more honest with myself—about what I was experiencing as a new mother, and what I’m able to contribute to the rest of the world as I journey further into my new role. Learning to lean into each new season with grace, self-compassion, and an open mind, leaves less room for pretending. It allows you to show up just as you are—with whatever you have and know—and simply be.
I hope my lesson in self-awareness opens space for you to examine how you’re showing up in your life for yourself and others, eases burdensome expectations, and creates a bit of breathing room. May we all continue to heal and share space in supportive communities that cultivate our evolution and authenticity.
What about you? Are there areas in your life where you’ve been consciously, or unconsciously, pretending?Leave a Comment