As a working mom, it wasn’t until I lost my job that I realized how separate my life was from my kids. It was a very unsettling feeling when I took on the role of full-time mom. When I dropped my children off at school that first day, I felt the same apprehension one might feel when starting a new job.
I found a group of strangers greeting my children with warmth and familiarity. Although it should have felt good, instead it felt very uncomfortable. Women I did not know had loving smiles on their faces as they greeted my children. It was as if my kids were their kin. It wasn’t until later that I learned the love for a friend’s kids could be as strong as love for my own.
Sense of Community
As I got to know these women, I realized a strong sense of community existed among mothers. A protective aura in the schoolyard made it clear that among women who were friends, the children were benefiting from an extended circle of love.
With my kids now in university, and one of my closest friends from the “yard” moved away, I still have a strong relationship with one of these women. We still discuss our kids’ wins and heartbreaks with the same intense sense of love. We feel the pain of each other’s children as if they were our own.
Throughout the primary school years, we worked on projects together, had sleepovers and interacted with each other’s children on a day to day basis. Although our daughters have gone their separate ways, these things created bonds between mothers that are still strong and true. The love for my friend’s kids is as strong as the love for my own.
According to a January 2019 study, the social structures formed among mom friends forms a “family network.” Findings suggested these maternal social relationships were associated with cognitive development in children. On the Bayley Scales of Infant Development (BSID) mothers with a large social support network positively impacted early cognitive development, with a mean 0.40-point increase in BSID coefficient score.
Although these social relationships exist outside the traditional mother-child-father triad they still had a significant impact on cognitive development. (1)
Larger Families, Lower Scores
The Urban Child Institute funded the Conditions Affecting Neurocognitive Development and Learning and Early Childhood study. The study also found that while the circle of friends has positive effects, a larger family meant lower cognitive performance. (1)
The lower performance was believed to be associated with the fact that mothers with more children had limited attention and resources to share with their children due to “competing demands”. As a result, the larger family size showed a mean 2.21-point decrease in BSID coefficient score.
The study followed 1082 mother-child pairs in the University of Tennessee considering (1):
- The child-mother relationship
- Child-mother-father triad
- Family setting
- Child’s dwelling network
- Mother’s social support network
- Neighborhood networks
The primary caregiver’s “social network” was self-reported by the mothers. The average number of people they reported as people they could rely on ranged from three to four people. (1)
The day I lost my job, I received a precious gift: A small group of moms I could rely on. I entered my kids’ life full-time and forged strong relationships with them, other moms and wonderful friend’s kids I love to this day. For all those moms out there who have a friend who loves your kids like their own, cherish them. Their love is providing more to you and your child then you’ll ever know.