Hi, my name is Taylor. I have two cats, and that’s about the closest I’ve ever been to having a living, breathing creature dependent on me for its continued survival.
I have never had the pressure of wondering how my actions might impact the “adults” my cats will grow to be, nor do I have to worry about being judged based on whether or not they are in the correct sleeping position or eating organic, whole foods. Yet here I am, writing a blog post for this incredible non-profit geared towards tough mamas with real little lives dependent on them for food, shelter, love, personal development, life skills, etc. I know I seem unqualified to even contribute to this blog, but the truth is I have found my place in the AMI tribe as a “non-mom” who is willing to do whatever it takes, whether that be time, heart, or talents to care for my hard-working mama friends and their offspring.
Before I started writing this, I sat down and emptied a box full of keepsakes onto my living room floor. As I fanned them out, I caught glimpses of photos from countless trips that included tying tiny boots while munching on happy meals. I sorted through stacks of construction paper that had been carefully crafted into handmade birthday cards with “I love you, Taylor”, scribbled in crayon, and, my personal favorite: drawings of myself and a tiny, little, blonde-headed girl adventuring into what appears to be a candy cane forest, at least I think that’s what it is! As I sat with happy tears streaming down my cheeks, these precious mementos reminded me of one thing that I am sure of: that the little girl in each of the photos, and her mother, are two of my very best friends.
I met Sykarri in the fall of 2015. Growing up in small-town Alabama, Sykarri and I had known of one another throughout high school, but didn’t truly connect until well after the days of Hollister and homecoming. After graduating from college, while I was living in south Florida, I found myself perusing Sykarri’s Rambler’s Relics Etsy shop, and purchasing one of her gorgeous, handmade necklaces. The necklace sparked a conversation, an instant connection, and an undeniable friendship that has left us inseparable.
Somehow, this incredibly persuasive, strong-willed woman managed to convince me to pack up by life in south Florida and move 2,000 miles across the country in the name of “self-care”. I now live approximately 0.9 miles down the street from Sykarri, her incredible husband, Casey, and of course, my little blonde-headed playmate from the pictures, Piper, affectionately known to most a “Pi”. As if making me move wasn’t enough, she now has convinced me to follow her in climbing mountains, throwing myself from rock ledges, and to believing in myself in ways I never thought possible!
To say Sykarri is an inspiration, is an understatement. She lives her life to the fullest while raising an incredibly compassionate and adventurous daughter who climbs, camps, skates and repels right alongside us. My connection with Pi was as instantaneous as the one I had with her mom. We first bonded while playing “house” a few years ago and since then, she has owned me heart and soul. I’m quite sure I would have loved Piper regardless of who’s child she is (we’re so alike it’s eerie), but I feel pretty sure our bond was primarily forged because she is an extension of my best friend, and because of that I adore her in ways that words cannot fully convey.
Like I said previously, my move to Utah was in the name of “self-care.” I was missing something in my life and as they say, “the mountains are calling, I must go!” I was tired of flying four plus hours to ski, and I was incredibly bored with the highest peak in Alabama being a measly 2,413 ft. No offense, Mount Cheaha! I thought I knew what “adventure” meant. I had grown up camping and have always loved nature, but Sykarri was the one who introduced me to true, eye-opening, life-changing adventure. She taught me how to tie a figure eight knot with Piper tugging on her shirt asking for a snack. Somehow, she continued to explain the knot while opening a bag of goldfish and never missed a beat. I’ve watched her carefully adjust my harness before literally pushing me off a ledge for a rope swing, and then did it herself, with Piper’s tiny harness skillfully attached to her own. I’ve watched in amazement as the two of them launched from the safe landing of a cliff, with their shapes silhouetted by the sunset, and their giggles blending together and echoing off the red rock. Their bond amazes me, and I feel lucky to be even a small part of their story.
But Sykarri is one of many. She is among the ranks of so many women who fight every day to find the balance between “mom” and “me”.
I remember the first time I sheepishly commented, “Do I have to be a mom to join?”, on an AMI event that I saw Sykarri was attending, and I think it took about 0.2 seconds for Justine to respond with, “HELL NO! Come, I’ll share my coffee with you!” Every single person I have met through AMI has astounded me with this same show of grace and determination. AMI has impacted me, a “non-mom”, in ways I struggle to put into words. Being surrounded by these strong, resilient, uncompromising, life-giving women sets my soul on fire. Knowing these are the women shaping future generations makes me excited for the future.
AMI is so much more than just mothers. AMI is a community of people, a tribe. AMI is anyone who has a mother, who knows a mother, who loves a mother.
Sometimes I see Skyarri, and so many of my other mama friends, scramble to do it all. To be mom, wife, adventurer, skier, hiker, climber, employee, boss, sister, friend, business owner, nonprofit founder, and often with baby on hip, kid wrapped around a leg, or a swollen belly ready to pop with new life. Just watching it, being a bystander to the beautiful chaos, makes my head spin. I found myself wondering, how can I contribute? What can I do for you, mama girl?
After meeting so many women determined to continue caring for their mental well-being through adventure while also juggling all their other roles, I thought, what could I possibly do for these superwomen? Figuring that out has become my personal mission of sorts.
I can’t take away your sleepless nights. I can’t make your back not ache, or cradle your infant in the perfect way to ease his cries like only you know how to do, but I can do more than just idly stand by.
They say, “it takes a village to raise a child”.
I have found my place in the tribe of women who make up my village. My role is to tell you that you need a date night. My role is to sit in the “clubhouse” and play while you eat in peace for even a few moments. I am the first line of defense when it comes to you finally getting some “alone time” with the hubs. I am the guardian of your bubble bath. I am whatever you need me to be.
My job is to love your child because I love you. My job is to love you in the ways that this season of life demands. Loving you might not look like it did when we were 20. But loving you is what I signed on for and I’m happy to do it.
I am not a mom. But I am a friend to moms. I am your greatest ally.
I’m also no expert (like I said, two cats) but the most important women in my life are all mamas and so I feel confident in offering a little advice at this point.
Mamas: Do not be afraid to call on your non-mama friends. Most of us want to help, we just don’t always know where to start. You ladies are superheroes and it can be intimidating to even think we could have something to offer. Do NOT turn down someone’s offer to babysit. Let me hang out with your kid! I need an excuse to watch more Barbie Dreamhouse, ok?
You cannot be the mama you need to be if you are not taking care of yourself. You deserve a full night’s sleep. You need to spend time with your significant other (without hearing “mom, mom, mama, mommy” every 0.3 seconds). You need to get outside and blaze down the trail without having to slow your pace because someone dropped a toy. You need to get off the bunny slopes because that black diamond is calling your name and I know you want to answer. You need to take care of yourself, so you can take care of them. Your sanity is crucial for you to be the best mom you can possibly be. So call that friend who offered to babysit. Take them up on it. Grab your pack and GO. Be just “you”, not “mom”, if only for a few hours. Your friends want you to do it.
Your child is not a burden. The fact that you trust me with the little life you held in your body for nine months is the greatest compliment. Let us share in that part of your life.
Non-Mamas: Reach out! Tell your friends with little ones that you want to help! Remind her where her shower & that slinky black dress are and then kick her out of the house on a Friday night. Tell her to go get dinner or go take a nap, whatever she needs! Hold her baby at the crag, let her climb, let her stretch her tired arms and feel the breeze on her face. Let her have a moment of silence in the warm sun.
Babies used to terrify me because I knew nothing about how to handle or care for them and now I’m the first one to beg to hold a tiny baby (did you know their heads smell like heaven? It’s a scientifically proven fact). If you feel that same fear when someone asks “want to hold him/her?”, I encourage you to take a chance and learn! No matter what you think, you’re not going to break the baby! Learn how to change a diaper. Learn how to hold them. Learn how to help her. Be her ally. I promise you, I have found no greater joy than holding the tiny humans made by my friends and searching her face for the features I know and love in her mom. My heart feels like it will burst every time I watch Sykarri cruise up a route while I hug Pi and tell her, “Look at how cool your mom is”.
Mamas and non-mamas alike can contribute to the incredible reach of AMI. Together we can make this a beautiful world. TOGETHER we can ensure that the future is full of some really REALLY well loved kiddos and some very sane mamas.
Call on your tribe.
Own your role.
Contribute to the village.
You are not alone, mama.