Friendship is hard. It’s hard any time in life, but it seems like in this season of parenting, it’s even harder. It’s harder to maintain old friendships (especially if they do no have children and live far away). It’s hard to maintain current friendships, and it is especially hard to make new friends. We are all too busy chasing toddlers or nursing babies or battling girl drama and bullying, too busy trying to figure out how to help our kids with their homework, cheering them on in sports, refereeing between sibling fights, cleaning laundry, and wiping tear stained eyes and kissing boos boos or passing out bandaids and hugs.
But this is the season we need friendships the most. We need someone in our corner, someone with whom we do not have to argue whether paper really comes from trees, and that we need to back out of the driveway not go forward into the house. We need someone to tell us we are doing okay, that we are not the worst parent ever, and that we will make it through this season and laugh. We need someone to tell us that maybe we are being too harsh and that it’s okay for your children to have the occasional birthday cake and to occasionally go a day without eating fruits or vegetables.
Play dates are not for the kids, who are we kidding? They are for the moms. Three year olds don’t have friends (not in the way we know it anyway). Much of the time they don’t even play together. I just recently met a friend at the park. Both of our girls are the same age as are our babies, and while they did play together a little, much of the play time was separate as one wanted to play in the sand and the other swing. Even if we couldn’t stand right next to each other, it was a good excuse to get out of the house, to get some fresh air and just breathe. It was a way to regain our sanity.
We need friendships now more than ever. I don’t know about you, but I find it extremely difficult to make friends in this season of life. It feels a little like awkward dating to me, and that’s all dating was to me, awkward. Maybe it’s just my introverted nature or maybe it’s because I am not originally from Chattanooga, but when I’m talking to another mom in the park or at an event, I get butterflies in my stomach and a little queasy. Is this person going to like me? Would our kids even get along? They probably don’t need any more friends.
I believe we need new friends along our different pathways in life. Some friends may only be there but for a minute, but that is enough, and other friends may only be there for a season (college, highschool, summer camp days). Now some friends, they are there for life. You never know when that lifetime friendship could happen or with whom. Some of my lifelong friends are people who I never would have thought I would have been friends with, but circumstances of life have made them just that, lifetime friends.
So what have I learned from these friendships? I am still learning, but here’s a little of what I have learned along this journey called life:
- Don’t discount anybody. Keep an open mind. For some reason, in my past life, I have thought friends at work stayed friends at work and no other time. How many friendships I would have lost had I kept that frame of mind. Or what sweet friendships I would have lost had I chose to only befriend those my age. I have younger and older friends (I’m talking my parents’ age) and they are dear friends whom I love and I would not trade their friendship for anything. I even have one friend who was my boss in high school. We kept in touch for some divine reason, and we are friends to this day, truth telling, always there for each other friends.
- Get involved. Whatever that looks like for you, find a Mops group, reach out in your church, or join a hiking club. Just get out there. It is like dating; if you don’t put yourself out there, you will not find a friend. Put yourself in an environment where you are around people who you want to be friends with.
- Stay consistent. Especially if you are an introvert and it takes you a while to warm up to people (that’s me). If you keep at it, you will eventually start to feel comfortable. It is much like getting past that awkward stage of dating.
- Don’t be afraid to be yourself. Share your heart. Be vulnerable. Be genuine. Be honest. Be yourself. If they don’t like you for who you truly are (just like in dating), then they don’t deserve your friendship. Remember, you are not the only person who needs a friend.
- Don’t be afraid to extend the first invitation. I know I keep referring to dating, but isn’t it ironic that it is so similar. Just when you think you are past that stage of life, it presents itself in a new manner. Maybe that person will say no, maybe it won’t work out. Sometimes “He’s just not that into you.” That’s just the way it is. It’s okay. Move on. But keep the door open a crack. You never know.
- Lastly, but most importantly, be a friend. It takes a friend to find a friend. Isn’t that how that saying goes? Serve somebody. Do unto others as you would have them to do unto you. Bring a meal to the new mama or the mama with lots of little sick ones or whose husband is deployed. Stop and listen if somebody wants to talk. Yes, I know you are busy, but think about what will matter in a few years, not a few minutes. I once had a girl in college whom I had never met run into me. It was pouring rain, I was in despair, was not sure why I ever thought I wanted to be a nurse or could be a nurse. She cared enough to say, “How are you doing?” and meant it. Maybe she saw my to the brink about to spill over tears, maybe it was the way I responded. I don’t know, but whatever it was, whomever she was, she was my angel and best friend that night. I never saw her again, or if I did, I didn’t recognize her (it was dark and I was blinded by my tears). For more on that story click here.
I preach to myself on many of these points as I am constantly battling an internal struggle of friendliness versus judging, busyness versus taking time for others. It is a constant battle, but perhaps that is why I am entitled to write this, for I know the struggles of making friends.
I desire deep personal friendships, not the superficial “I can only talk about my kid awkwardly friendship” or the particular event we are attending or the weather. I set my expectations high for myself and others. I desire to be a deep meaningful friend. The one you can tell anything, the one whom you can call at midnight.