This is day 20 of Soulful Simplicity, a 31-day series through the month of October. The series can be found here, and I hope you find it enriching and encouraging. If you have any questions or would otherwise like to connect, feel free to send me a note: lightandloveliness [at] gmail [dot] com.
P.S. If you’ve been following along in real time, you’ll notice I’m a few days behind. I will be catching up over the next few days. Thanks for your encouragement as I keep this slightly-crazy writing schedule during the 31 Days Challenge. I really would love to know if/how this series has helped you.
When you become a mother, friendship is no longer just about hanging out. Friendship becomes a lifeline for mamas to keep hold of perspective that can be easily lost in the exhaustion, self-sacrifice, and relational disconnection that can come along with the season of caring for young children.
Loneliness, discouragement, anxiety, and sleep deprivation are just a few of the things that can land on a mother’s plate in the early years, and solid friendships can make a huge difference in her resilience through those challenges. Friendship can help keep loneliness at bay, put reality in perspective, and provide a mama with the support she needs while navigating the trials of motherhood.
The catch: Forming and maintaining friendships in the motherhood season poses new, unique challenges that can be a big struggle for many women.
This has, at times, been a struggle for me—mostly because my desire to connect far outweighs my ability to make it happen the way I envision and as often as I’d like. I am very fortunate to have many incredible women in my life, and honestly, I have never been without a few solid friends to help me through, but I did notice a shift in the way I needed to approach friendship after my children arrived on the scene.
No one ever tells you, “When your baby arrives, be prepared to encounter weirdly cavernous loneliness while simultaneously wondering if you will have any privacy or your own body-space to yourself ever again.” That’s not one of the things people talk about at baby showers or when they come to visit and bring you a meal, and yet, it is an experience I have heard countless women describe.
The truth is, once you become a mother, you don’t have the same energy, time, resources, or ability to tend to friendships in the same way you once did. Even if you want to, you just can’t have the same social life you once enjoyed. It doesn’t mean that you will not have friends or fun ever again, but it does mean that it is most likely going to look different. On the flip side, meaningful friendships in this season are needed more acutely than ever before. For this reason, I think it is important to see friendship through the lens of simplicity—go back to the basics and figure out how to make it work for this new season of life.
How does one navigate nurturing friendships in motherhood?
In my opinion, friendship in the motherhood season is about one thing: Grace.
If you are able to have grace for yourself, and grace for the mamas in your life, you have the best shot at meaningful connection with them. I’m sure there are many more things that could be said, but I’ve put together a short list of things that may help you experience meaningful friendships in motherhood.
Make peace with the mess (and the noise and the interruptions).
Gone are the days of being able to have uninterrupted conversations for hours. If you’re hoping to get some real chatting in, you have to arrange care for your kids and go out without them. For me, this is not often a reasonable option, so I have perfected the art of tuning them out (while still keeping an eye on them) during phone conversations (something I still enjoy with far-away friends in spite of the newer texting culture), and employing a variety of techniques to keep the kids busy and out of trouble if someone happens to be visiting face-to-face, allowing me to carry on a sort-of-normal conversation.
Understand that whatever time or attention another mama gives you is a precious gift.
Caring for the needs of children is no small task, and if another mama makes the effort to connect with you, it means she cares about you, and cares about connecting enough to risk a toddler meltdown, or a messy house, and she is most likely putting off other important tasks that she could be doing in order to give you her attention…all things she is willing to risk for tending to a friendship.
Vulnerability is a more effective way to make friends than being the ‘perfectly-put-together’ mom.
I’ve never met a mom who doesn’t have at least a few deep insecurities about herself or her mothering, but I’ve also never seen meaningful relationships form without at least a bit of vulnerability. I would encourage moms who are longing for connection to be real about where they are at instead of feeling the need to be put together at all times. Hopefully the “me, too’s” from the other side of the table will strengthen your mom-friend connection.
Quality beats quantity regarding time together or thoughtful gestures.
It is easy for moms to begin feeling a little invisible in the early years of motherhood, but small things can go a long way to warm a friend’s heart. You might write a note of encouragement, surprise a friend with coffee or chocolate, or keep a favorite food on hand for when they visit your home. I have found that even a short visit with a friend every so often is better than no time together at all. Quality over quantity.
The early years are an important time to actively seek out mom friends.
When I had my first baby, I felt like it was nearly impossible to leave the house. It is a supreme challenge, I will say, but if you are able to connect with other moms who are learning the ropes as well, you will likely bond over the shared experience of motherhood in the trenches, celebrating your little ones’ milestones, and extremely sweet friendships can be forged in this time…sometimes lifetime friendships.
Don’t wait to be invited.
This one is a challenge for some, but I would contend that anyone is capable of extending an invitation. I promise you, there are moms in your town, in your neighborhood who are struggling with loneliness, disconnection, and the weight of many worries on her shoulders—just like you. Most are just waiting for someone to ask if they’d like to connect. Try to step into a hostess role wherever you meet other moms. I don’t mean that you need to be in full-hospitality mode, but take the risk to introduce yourself and ask a few good questions. At worst, they might not respond. At best, you may meet a friend that journeys with you and enriches your life for years. Worth the risk? I think yes.
Show up—Yoga pants, no makeup, and all.
It may take everything you’ve got to get out the door. You may look a mess, and you may have a fast-food meal in hand for sustenance upon arrival, but showing up is the single-most important thing you can do to grow your friendships in this season.
Encourage other moms.
There is never a time that an encouraging word isn’t appreciated. Moms are not often told what they are doing well. They may be appreciated by their husbands or their children, but it’s not always something that is verbally stated. Look for (and speak up about) what your mom-friends are doing well…sometimes these words are a lifeline out of unspoken discouragement.
Look for the grace-filled mamas.
Look for moms who do not judge you when you have a total mom-failure. Look for moms who will show up and invest in you as much as you will invest in them, and moms who will draw you out when needed, but also respect your boundaries. You don’t need drama, toxic behavior, or friendships that are not reciprocal in some way.
Keep your mom circle open.
If you have established in a tribe of mama-friends, try to stay open to new moms that may be looking for connection. It can be so easy to find a circle and figuratively close it to others without really meaning to. Keep an eye out for moms who may not have the same relational resources, and invite them to join you for a park date or mom meet-up.
“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.” Ecclesiastes 4:9-10
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