Mar 9, 2016
Friendship Is Not Optional (Why Moms Need Friends)
Of course, after I offered to write about friendship, I began seeing the topic pop up in my daily reading- blogs, daily devotions, even the Lenten workshop I'm participating in. Women with great wisdom and a gift for words offered me much to ponder and also left me thinking there wasn't much more I could say. I can only offer my own experience and why I think that friendship is not just a good thing for moms, but an essential thing we cannot neglect.
God gave me an incredible gift, back before marriage and kids and this full, busy life. He placed a lovely woman in my path. A woman who sought out friendship with me, when I would have been to shy to step out in faith. Maybe it was growing up without sisters that made initiating friendships, and then navigating them, hard for me. But this dear one saw that we had a connection and she offered herself in friendship. That friendship grew and has endured through the happiest of times: weddings and babies; and the saddest of times: the death of a parent, of a child, of a sibling; the trials of parenthood and marriage.
As a young mom, I had this friend by my side. She drew me into friendship with other moms, who also became my support system, some as mentors, others as companions walking the same path. Back in the day before the Internet, we spent time together weekly, in conversation and support of each other. When there was a prayer need, we had a phone prayer chain, no Facebook or email to type out a message. We had real voice contact. We told the story of the prayer need and promised to pray. When times were hard, I had someone to call. And I was there when one of them needed me.
Life changed when I moved away to another town, far enough away that those weekly meetings were tough. By then email had taken the place of phone prayer chains. More children meant less time on the phone anyway. Having left behind my friend who always drew me in, when I tended to hang back, I had to try to form new friendships without her. The different dynamics of the new group of homeschoolers made it harder, a slow process.
It happened, but it took more work. And that is when I bought into those mistakes so many of us make. I decided it wasn't my season for friendship besides occasional chats before and after activities, or sitting with casual acquaintances at baseball games. I didn't have "time" and I didn't really "need" time with friends. I spent more time online, with moms who were very much like me- large families, same homeschooling style, etc. But what was missing was the voice to go with the avatar, the eye contact to really understand and share with the other person.
Don't get me wrong, I have some strong friendships born from those online groups. Women who have been through years of ups and downs. Some I've never met, others are friends that I may see once a year but it always feels like a bond is there. One of my dearest friends was on a forum with me and then moved to my town. Thank God for that online connection! The point is that, for most of us, in most circumstances, a real face to face, or even just voice to voice connection is needed.
But back to the friendship mistakes. When we don't seek out close friends, we set ourselves up for burnout, even depression. Our husbands can be a great support and confidant, but sometimes we need a woman to walk along beside us. During the busy years, many of us moms, especially the large family, homeschooling moms, tend to hunker down and push through, settling for little tastes of friendship here and there. Moms, you deserve and you need more.
There are two sides of the next mistake. One is lack of discernment, when we are so eager to find a close friend that we don't take the time to pray about it, to gradually allow someone in. Instead, we jump in, pour out our hearts and our energy, only to be hurt, sometimes an outright hurt but sometimes just from a lack of reciprocation. It is dangerous to wear your heart on your sleeve too soon. Prayer and prudence are a must.
The other side of the mistake could be called over discernment. There is that tendency to wait for a friend who is just like us: same family size, parenting style, same school choices, etc. And in the meantime, we miss an opportunity to get to know that neighbor next door, whose kids are grown, but could be a fabulous friend, or the younger mom who seems so busy and in a different time of life, but who could remind you of a younger you and inspire you while you, in turn, could be a voice of experience in an immature world. My dear friend, the one I mentioned before, has her kids in school, she's not quite as "crunchy" as I tend to be, she's way outgoing and makes friends easily while I am an introvert. Little differences, but we share a love for God, our families, and each other. Sometimes, those differences add another perspective when we wrestle with big issues. Don't limit yourself!
Friendship takes courage. But even more it takes faith. Start with prayer. I know I pray for God to put the right people in my children's paths. Pray for a friend. Pour your heart out to Jesus first. Trust that He knows your needs.
Be a friend. This is where your courage may falter. I know I have a hard time initiating things. When I am new to a group, I tend to assume everyone already has their friendships in place and there is no room for me. Or I fear showing myself, worrying that I won't measure up. Maybe I won't be organized enough, or structured enough, or holy enough, whatever. But step out and take a chance. Tell a young mom you'd be glad to chat about homeschooling (or whatever) some time, offer to help with her littles or meet her at a park for grownup conversation. Give her your number and tell her to text whenever. Ask that woman that you admire, who seems like a fun, joyful person, to meet you for coffee one afternoon (and then actually suggest a time). Introduce yourself to the new family at church. Smile, and just be yourself!
Be a friend, part two. Many of us have had close friendships, that we have let life get in the way of. Make it a priority. Put a phone call on your calendar, even if you have to hide in the laundry room or wander around the yard outside to get a little privacy! Pick a monthly time for a lunch or a cup of coffee and DO IT. Send a text saying you are praying. An idea I had a while back but have done a poor job of following through is "friendship Friday". The idea was to send a card, make a call, or just a personal, well thought out email to a friend with whom I've lost touch. If God has blessed you along the way with good friends, don't let that gift slip away. If you need to repair the friendship, do it.
The best things in life take work, and they take courage, and often sacrifice. Don't make excuses and don't rob yourself because you think you don't need it, or you are too afraid to pursue it. If you are in a good place, reach out and be a friend. If you are in a hard place, let someone in because it will bless her, too.
Moms, we were made for community. Whether you are the only mom on the block where everyone else is at work, or you're a mom working long hours who barely fits in her non-negotiable to-do items, or the mom on a homestead with no neighbor's in sight, you need to share this journey. And you have something unique to offer, there is someone who needs you, too. So, take a chance. Send a text. Make a call. Bless someone today and you will be blessed!