Hey mamas, can we talk friendship today?
When I became a newlywed… and then a mom… and then a mom of two, life kind of changed so quickly that it was like one day I woke up and realized, “Wow! I’m at a totally different place in life, but I still kind of feel like I’m 18!”
My best friend had taken off for college in another state, and I missed her so much that I wasn’t necessarily interested in making new friends. Besides, I had Rick, and he’s amazing.
Next thing I know, I’m trying to figure out this whole housekeeping/mom/wife/meals/laundry/everything-that-my-mom-did thing, and I’m not really that good at it. I did look around at the other young moms I knew and thought about having some “mom friends”, but they all seemed to already have “besties” and I felt like an outsider. Playdates…I wasn’t sure what to make of those yet. I literally had 2 babies, and it seemed like a lot of work to get them all ready and take them out (read:”I was exhausted” here.)
People wondered why I didn’t come to events and get togethers. I know this because at least a couple people asked me why I didn’t come to things. Yes, well meaning ladies who just had no idea where I was at in life right then. They genuinely wanted to see me “get out more” for my own sake, and yet their words at that time sounded like criticism to me.
So first, I just want to say that if you are in a season where you are just keeping your head above water, don’t be discouraged. Everyone is not going to understand, and that’s okay. You may have a season of life where being home caring for your kids, helping your husband with his work, or starting your own business, is more vital than your social life, and there is simply no leftover time to go out on all the playdates, coffee house get togethers, etc, that others are doing. I had a couple years where this was true. It’s okay. It doesn’t last forever. Remember that the people in your life who try to push you back into the social scene, are truly thinking of you and not trying to put you down, they simply don’t understand what you’re going through right now.
However, when time allows (and you don’t have a nursing baby that needs you constantly) it is a wonderful thing to start NEW friendships. You are now at a brand new season of life, but it can seem daunting to try to develop brand new friendships. You might think that high school is when you make friends– not when you’re already a mom and feeling out of touch with your social life. You look around to find that your high school friends have moved away, changed a lot, or have new friends themselves. Don’t get me wrong, old friendships are amazing, and some last a lifetime! But it is a good idea to be open to new friendships as well.
In the last year I’ve had the opportunity to develop some brand new friendships that have turned into close relationships over just a short amount of time. I want to share a couple of valuable things I learned along the way, and a few tips for where to find new friends (when you’re ready!)
1 Look outside your age group.
Don’t limit yourself to your own age group. Several of my close friends are 10+ years older than me. But when we’re together chatting over a YouPick2 at Panera, we don’t even think about that. We could laugh and talk for hours on end if we didn’t have kiddoes to get home to. Some of my deepest, richest friendships are with women who are older than me.
2 Pick up a new hobby.
Even if it’s temporary, or a one-time event— anything from a cake decorating class, to joining a workout group, to soap making. Face to face interaction is something that my generation does poorly. Thanks to smart phones and social media, a lot of our social interaction is through a screen. Sorry, I know there are friendships that develop over the internet, but that’s not what this post is about. This is about putting the phone down, and taking the time for face to face conversations with others.
3 Start a conversation at your children’s activities.
This could be music lessons, gymnastics, or whatever else your kids are involved in. Or, if you’re not at the stage of life where your kids are in weekly lessons, you can sign your children up for a toddler craft at the library, or some other freebie class in your area. Chat with the other moms about their kids and your kids. Friendship is sometimes a surprising thing. At a recent concert where Kenny & Addie were doing their first big performance, we met another mom and her son, and by the time the evening was over, we were planning a get together at our local McDonalds. Just start conversations, and see where they lead.
4 Ask the lady you’ve always wanted to hang out with.
You know, the mom you secretly admire and wish you could chat with, but aren’t sure how to get the friendship started. Introverts reading this are now staring at the screen in disbelief, and wondering if I’m insane. Nope! I’m an introvert myself, but I have discovered that if you want to do new things and make new friends, you have to occasionally take a step (or four) outside of that comfort zone! Let me make this easier, all you do is walk up to her and say, “Want to go grab coffee together sometime?” It’s that easy! Okay, okay, I know that’s not super easy for every personality type, but you can do it! It’s worth it. Surprise yourself and be bold. I have been amazed by how many other mamas are in need of a friend like I was, and how instantly we bonded.
Lastly, just be you!
As a final tip here, do what’s best for your personality type. If you’re in the process of looking for some great friends to spend time with, you may not be the social butterfly type that makes BFFs in the checkout line at Walmart. So don’t try to be somebody that you’re not! Keep your eyes open for possible friendships, but don’t feel like you have to gather a crowd of friends in order to fulfill this area of your life. I have been finding out that some people thrive on having many relationships, and being constantly available to nurture those– while others are content with a few more intimate friendships. If you’re looking around at other moms (ehem… on social media) that seem to have an abundance of wonderful friends, it’s easy to think you need lots of friends too. Stop. You’re not them. You’re you. Enjoy and be thankful for the people in your life instead of feeling like you need more and more.
Friends are not Easter eggs that you run around collecting into your basket. Real friendships develop with time, and time is something that can be scarce when you’re chasing little toddlers around the house, and putting meals on the table. For me the best friendships for this stage of life are the kind where you can relate to one another, and realize that we might not talk for a few weeks or even a couple months, but we can pick right back up where we left off last time we were together. In all practicality, I simply don’t have the time to devote endless hours to texting and phone calls, so I have a hard time maintaining a relationship with those who feel there has be constant contact. I like to look for a mom like myself, who might need a coffee out once a month, or an evening chat after the kids are tucked in bed, but doesn’t have expectations of spending every weekend together shopping.
There are lots of mamas who need the encouragement of another mama who is “mom-ing” hard every day like them. Not only can you look for friends, but you can BE a friend like this for someone else. Be real, be you. You don’t have to take selfies with your pals and post them on social media to prove anything. You can just have simple friendships built on understanding, authenticity, and real life.
On a very personal note, 2016 was a hard year for me with friendships…UNTIL, I started not caring what everyone else thought, or how many friends I had or didn’t have… or what things I showed up to or didn’t. When I stopped doing what I thought other people expected me to do, doors were opened for much better and deeper friendships. The new friendships that bloomed when I stopped stressing and just started living life truly surprised me. I wish I could share with you, each special lady that God has brought into my life the last few months in a big or a small way. My heart is encouraged, and I just want to encourage YOU not to jump through the hoops of trying to live up to some fake Instagram life, but live authentically. Live for the joy of real life. Your life, not someone else’s.