What Does A Normal Friendship Look Like?

When I was in college, I loved to be alone. I had a very full schedule between school, work, church, ministry, dating, and friends. I would get home, and immediately retreat to my room for some alone time. I had deep, meaningful friendships, and was around people all the time. I felt no lack or longing in my relationships.

friends fire

Since graduating, getting married, and having kids, my schedule looks a whole lot different these days. I stay home with my kids, so time with other people is much more limited than it once was. I find myself each week mentally running through my list of friends and thinking okay, who am I going to hang out with this week? I grab my phone and start sending texts, trying to make some plans for each day. And after a year and a half of living in this town, there is something I’ve noticed.

If I don’t do this, it doesn’t happen.

Rarely, there are occasions where I have plans that I didn’t initiate. There is the occasional birthday party or group play-date. But typically, if I don’t take that first step to ask someone to hang out, I end up sitting at home by myself all week. Of course, there are the regularly scheduled church activities and mom-things where I am able to see friends on a pretty regular basis. I don’t go months without seeing a friend. But I could easily go months without spending intentional time with a friend if I do not make it happen. And I have.

There was a time when I would have taken this personally and been hurt by it, and most likely would have stopped asking a person to hang out if I felt like I was the only one pursuing a relationship. But then I had 2 kids 13 months apart. And during those first 2 years of being a mom, I was a really terrible friend. I pursued people very little, because I was constantly needed by my little boys, had very little spare time, I was really tired, and all my mental space to think about other things was depleted. As my boys have gotten older and more independent, more flexible, our schedule has opened up a lot. Looking back, I did very little to initiate relationships, but it wasn’t because I just didn’t like someone or didn’t care about my friendships. I neglected relationships and didn’t return calls to people that I genuinely loved, and it had nothing to do with them.

So, I realize it may not be a personal thing. It may be that my friends are just tired. Also busy, because everyone is (except me, I guess). Thankfully, my friends don’t dodge me when I try to make plans, so I don’t think it’s entirely that they are uninterested. I could be wrong, of course.

I used to inwardly whine about my lack of community and real friendships. You know what I’m talking about. There is a difference in those you see every so often and catch up with, and those you share your life with. But in this area at least, I’ve learned not to whine so much and blame others, but take responsibility for making these things happen. If I want friends, I need to initiate. I’m not saying I’m great at this now. I still could be a much better friend, and much more intentional. But I’ve become more active in this whole process, and less offended when others aren’t.

So I’m at this place where I am kind of trying to figure out what is normal in this town/in mom-of-little-children world/in my circles. My husband and I feel we often want to be with other people more than others want to be with other people. I would feel great about hanging out with the same person several times in a week, but I feel like I would scare some people off if I actually asked them to hang out a few days in a row.

I spent time with a new friend the other day, and afterwards she texted me and said she had fun and we should do it again soon. My initial response is great, me too! Want to get together again tomorrow?!? But then something kicks in that tells me my new friend will think that is too much and will be all like whoa, slow down, maybe next week.

So, am I wrong? Would other people be happy to get together more often, but maybe like me are hesitant to ask? Or is there actually some unspoken rule that you can’t see people too frequently? OR am I way off and everyone else actually is hanging out with people on a pretty regular basis and I’m missing something??? Friends, I need answers.

There are definitely days I retreat in my little home in the woods and don’t engage with the outside world. I know I can’t do this for too many days in a row, or I will, in fact, go crazy. But for the most part, I know my days are much better spent when I am walking through life alongside other people.

One of the things our family is passionate about is community. We desire depth in our friendships. We want to share our lives, and be on the receiving end of others sharing their lives. I know some people are pretty protective over their “family time” and I understand that when we have this built-in community in our own houses, our need for other relationships may not be felt the same way. But I feel like there must be other barriers that prevent people from pursuing relationships outside their homes. I also feel like there must be people like us that want to be with other people. So, how do I find those people? The ones that won’t think I’m weird because I keep asking to hang out? OR AM I WEIRD, I DON’T KNOW GUYS?!?

I read a great book recently about sharing our lives with others. If you find yourself, like us, desiring community with other people, you may enjoy The Simplest Way to Change the World. It is a super helpful, practical, challenging book that will help you think through your approach to building relationships, and leave you wanting to put yourself out there, and invite others in. I have a feeling I’ll come back to this book more than once.

I’d love to hear what your expectations for friendships are? Do you feel like you are constantly initiating? If not, what keeps you from pursuing other people? Let me know your thoughts!

 

Photo credit: Foter.com

To The One Who Bails

I’m not sure when it started, or if it’s always been this way, but we have a problem.

Flakiness.

Flaky Christians. Christians who don’t keep their commitments.

waiting

We’ve all been there. Waiting for that person to show.  Or been the one cancelling last minute.

This weekend, my kind sister was hosting a meal in her home for some friends. Several people, a couple weeks in advance, committed to coming by saying “Yes, I will be there.” In the days leading up to the event someone dropped out, someone else cancelled, another person bailed. You see where this is going. What was supposed to be a big meal for several friends turned into a bunch of leftovers. My sister went to the grocery store, bought groceries with money, spent her whole day cooking and cleaning, and then had almost every person flake out. She’d invested her time and money into this thing. She spent the day preparing when she could’ve been spending valuable time with her son, or catching up on her own to-do list.

I understand things come up; legitimate things come up all the time. But we all know, typically, our excuses for not keeping our commitments are not legitimate. Often times, we break our commitments because we didn’t plan well. We didn’t spend time earlier in the week doing all the things we needed to do…the laundry, alone time with our spouse, studying for that test, preparing for that deadline…in order to make sure we had time to show up to that thing we committed to a few weeks ago. Other times, we cancel because another option opened up that we liked better, whether it was a different gathering, or sitting at home on the couch.

I felt so sad and mad for my sister. Because I knew exactly how she felt. I’ve had friends cancel on me. I’ve had people that I was relying on for one thing or another, not show up. I’ve had people commit to volunteering for events, or say they would help me with something, and then “not be able to make it”.

The thing is, we all have the same amount of hours in a week. Most people don’t show up because they have extra time, or because they just happened to finish everything else they needed to do. They show up because that was the plan, regardless of what other plans didn’t work out just right.

I work at a school, and I can tell you, this idea starts early. This idea that we can just change our mind if it suits us. I guess there’s this idea that you can’t be held accountable for things when you’re in high school, because maybe you can’t drive, or you can blame your parents whose plans don’t exactly line up with yours (I’m merely stating the way it is, not that it should be this way). But somewhere around going to college/turning 18, you become an adult whether you want to or not. And as adults, we should know our decisions affect other people. I’m so thankful that early on in my adult life someone explained to me that it’s not ok to break your word.

James 5:12 says “But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your ‘yes’ be yes and your ‘no’ be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation.”

Christians, we are called to be reliable. We are called to keep our word. We should be people of good character, people that honor the Lord, and others with the way we live. We should be considerate, humbly counting others more significant than ourselves (Philippians 2:3).  When we say “yes”, it should mean yes! Not that we will change our mind in a few days.

I want people to believe me when I tell them I will see them Tuesday, or whenever. I hope that I am that trustworthy. That when I tell you I will be there, you don’t doubt it at all, because here’s the problem. When we aren’t reliable, we aren’t representing Jesus very well. Jesus, the reliable, unfailing, trustworthy Savior of the world. The One whose life, death, and resurrection we can count on. The One whose steadfast love endures forever, whose grace abounds always, whose mercies never cease.  If we want others to think well of Jesus, they need to think well of us. The world is watching us, y’all, and flakiness is not godly.

Does Community Have Limits?

I’ll admit it, I haven’t read the entire book “Boundaries” by Henry Cloud, but I know a lot of people who have. I started it…but I’m the worst about not finishing a book. I was talking with a friend several months back about this boundaries phenomenon that Christians everywhere are taking and running with. I’ve seen it a lot over the past few years, and what it looks like to me…is boundary abuse.

Boundaries are a good thing. They are healthy to an extent. We need to be able to say no and yes and take care of ourselves. But the churches whose mantra is “community” have people in it exclaiming, “whoa, boundaries, right?!?” I’ve had people turn down invitations to hang out for no reason other than “I can’t.” Maybe it’s a personal thing, but I don’t really think so judging by conversations I’ve had with other people experiencing the same thing. I’ve seen it a lot in new married couples, and in people with kids. People who need to hang out with their spouse six nights a week, and can’t hang out with their friends because they already had to work one night this week. People whose kids literally NEVER miss a nap, because the inconvenience isn’t worth it. I get that we can’t make a habit out of choosing everyone else over our family all the time. Duh.

But where do community and boundaries meet? When do we forgo doing the dishes in order to get lunch with a friend we haven’t seen in weeks? I think part of the problem is this idea that our community is limited to those we see on a regular basis or those in our small group. You see, for pretty much the entire last 4-5 years, we have been in a constant state of transition. I know some people have their “friend group” or whatever already, and they don’t really want to waste their time with someone they don’t plan on becoming friends with. Which is kind of considerate…but it’s also kind of rude. Unfortunately, not everyone goes through the same life changes at the same time. I didn’t happen upon a group of women who were going through big transitions and looking for friends at the same time I was. It just seems to me that a lot of people want their “community” to be on their own agenda. Maybe I’m guilty, too. If you think so, you can tell me. 😉

So, should we only consider ourselves when we think about how we want our community to look? Or, should we recognize that other people are in need of community, too? Should we invite other people in, just because?

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus” Philippians 2:3-5

I’m afraid that this whole obsession with boundaries has us leaving a lot of people out of our lives for no reason at all. It’s creating a me-centered life with me-centered relationships that work well for my schedule. There is a time and place for everything under the sun, taking time to yourself is one of them. But when we consistently choose ourselves over other people, I think we’re ignoring the call to value others above ourselves.

I know there are people that legitimately have a hard time saying no to others, and have that people-pleasing nature. Most often, I’m not really one of them, so I guess I come from that side of it. I just think it’s possible that our self-centered culture is infiltrating the church, and Christians are suffering because of it. We weren’t meant to do life alone, or even just with our own little families. We need other Believers in our lives, and other Believers need us in their lives. Sometimes that means laying down our boundaries. Maybe it means leaving room for new friendships to form, and old ones to grow.

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Hebrews 10:24-25

How To Be Friends With A New Mama

pregnant
Photo credit: Kit4na / Foter / CC BY

I think it’s probable that most people aren’t really good at being a friend (considering our self-absorbed nature and culture). But out of everyone, new moms have to be the worst. And behind them, moms of little children. You wanted to come over and chat? Sorry I sat in my bedroom nursing my baby for 2 hours straight. You wanted to go on a walk? Sorry I fell asleep thinking about it…before I texted you back.

When I had Jones, my first child, none of my other friends had babies at the time. Two of my best friends joined the club shortly thereafter, but I ventured into this whole Mom thing mostly alone. Since me and my new mom friends each had newborns, guess what, we weren’t talking to each other. Not to mention that bringing Jones into this world was a whirlwind of crazy and hell on earth, and I made my entrance into motherhood in a pretty beat up state. I was physically, emotionally, mentally fragile. In no shape to return phone calls. And I stayed that way for at least, oh….the next two and half years.

After Jones was born we were going through pretty stressful circumstances, I was kind of depressed, my husband was working 2 jobs while I was watching 3 other children in my home at given points in the week while trying to figure out what do with my own child who, for the love, did not know what sleep was. I also got pregnant 4 months later, and had another baby approximately 13.5 months after I had the first. All that to say, I know I have been the worst of friends. And for that I am sorry. But what would have been great, what I really could have used, was a friend, or five, that continued to be a good friend to me while I was sucking it up in this arena.

The thing about being a new mom, is that it is consuming. All I could think about was this new little life I was responsible for and all the things that go with it. It was easy for me to get all wrapped up in figuring out how to be a mom, and easy to forget that life was still going on outside of my little family.

So I am here to tell those of you who have new mom friends, whether you haven’t yet or don’t plan to enter into motherhood, or if you’re further removed from that new mom stage, this is not a time to expect much from them. If I had given all the energy I could muster up to being a good friend in those early months, it still wouldn’t have been enough to sustain relationships, because there just wasn’t that much of me left in those few and far between moments of the baby not needing me.

So if you’re wondering what you can do for your friends who are swimming in spit up and actually dying a slow death from lack of sleep, here are some ideas:

-Bring them a meal. Obvs. I think this is about the only thing people actually already know to do, though. New moms can definitely use meals in those first few weeks, but you know what? They could also use meals a month or 2 or 3 later, when people apparently think you must have gotten everything figured out about how to keep a tiny human alive AND clean your house AND have food prepared for meal times and whatever else there is going on. I was still sleeping, um, none at 3 months, and cooking anything was virtually impossible with Jones in the house, because of course he needed to be held 200% of the time and didn’t do all that great with the baby carrier. Oh, and coffee. Bring them coffee morning, afternoon, and night. Unless they don’t like coffee. Which they will probably soon change their mind about.

-Wash their dishes and their laundry. Because remember, some of them are dying and those things just might not get done unless someone else does it.

-Stay away during the first week or 2 (unless you are doing one of the above), when that newborn is actually sleeping (unless their name is Jones and they came out the womb and basically never went back to sleep), because this could be the last time for a while that they see 4 straight hours of shuteye. And while they will soon realize that 4 straight hours is a Godsend, they won’t feel that way in the first couple weeks. BUT, there usually is still some opportunity to take naps and they NEED to seize them.

-Go to the grocery store for them. Some don’t want to go out in public with that screaming baby, but also I never knew what I was supposed to do with the groceries in the event that my baby wasn’t screaming, and remember my baby doesn’t do so great with the carrier, and I am definitely taking that car seat in which takes up the whole buggy. And sure, lots of moms have husbands that could do this sort of thing, but guess what. They don’t want their husband going to the store after they get off work. They want their husband home, taking that wonderful, sweet, dependent baby right out of their hands for a gooood chunk of time. And guess where I don’t want to go when someone else is taking care of my child. Yep, the grocery store.

-Offer to babysit for an hour and try with all your might to convince them that their baby will be fine without them for an hour. I was so stressed out when anyone else was watching Jones because I just knew he was screaming the whole time and they were losing their minds. But you know what I should have thought? I should have thought “they offered and most people handle babies crying better than the baby’s mom.” For some of us it takes a few months or another child to realize they will survive the crying fits and won’t think that I’ve abandoned them. For some of us it takes a while to get over feeling like we need or are even able to fix every little discomfort. So remind them, and send them away. Or offer to watch the baby while they do whatever the heck they want in their own home. Like take that shower they have been thinking about.

-Don’t forget about them or assume they are busy doing their mom thing and are uninterested in interacting with people who don’t have children. Keep calling even if they never call you back, and don’t give them grief about not answering/returning your calls. Chances are you called in the middle of a diaper/outfit change, or while they were holding their sleeping babe (and no they will not move when that little one is asleep on their chest), or maybe even they themselves were stealing a quick nap. Also note that text messages are probably your best bet for getting a response, and instead of playing phone tag you can schedule a (potential) time to talk/Skype/whatever.

-and the most important thing you can do, if you’re asking me, is talk to them. And let them talk. Ask them how they are doing. Help them process the huge transition they are going through. You may not be able to relate, but let them talk about sleep and poop because that’s their life and you’re their friend.

The truth is being a new mom can be really lonely. Of course, some people have “easy” babies and are able to do more, and some settle into their lives being turned upside down with a little more grace. But I think for a lot of moms the days are long, but they fly by and then they come up for air and realize it’s been 6 months since they talked to their best friend. I realize life happens and things change, but if there is a time to fight for your relationships, it’s when you/your friend has their first baby. Like I said, motherhood is consuming and sometimes it’s hard to see how alone you are in the middle of it. Remind them that they need to make friendships a priority. Remind them what an enormous blessing motherhood is and at the same time that there is more to life than motherhood.

New moms, I deeply know how hard it is, but make an effort to be a good friend. Try not to get lost in the figuring it out. For the most part I think new moms don’t know what they need, but in those moments that you do, communicate to the people close to you. I wish I had admitted to someone “I need friends. I’m in a daze and I’m exhausted, but I need you to keep being my friend.” Family is a wonderful, beautiful thing, but it isn’t everything.

Friends of new moms, be patient and gracious, and be dedicated. New moms need you.