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

Why I Loved 2016

Despite public opinion of the year 2016, for me the year could have been much worse. About this time last year I was anxious to start a new year and put 2015 behind me. I had plans to write up a post about 2015, because it was one of my hardest years yet. I know time has a way of making things seem not as bad as they were, so I like to write stuff down to try to capture the reality of it all. But here we are, just hours away from 2017…and I never did write that post.

calendar
2016 was not without challenges for sure. More job changes, financial strain, marriage strain, being home alone with the boys all week while my husband works 3 hours away – it hasn’t been the easiest year. So, this isn’t a post about how 2016 was the best year ever. It wasn’t. But it’s about the good parts. The things I did, by God’s grace, that I am so, so thankful for. Challenges and all, 2016 has been a sweet year for me. The Lord has shown us so much kindness, as He always does, but He has made His blessings really evident this year, and has shown me that He cares for me (1 Peter 5:7).

D-GROUP
I joined a D-Group (discipleship group) in the Fall of 2015, and started leading a group in February of this year. I can’t say enough about this. This is easily one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I’m thankful I don’t even have to think about what this year would have looked like without it. The accountability that D-group has provided has helped me to create good habits in spending time in the Word, memorizing Scripture, and applying what I am learning through study each week. I have developed deep, meaningful friendships and beautiful community as I have studied, been stretched, and wrestled with Scripture alongside others. I have gained a deeper understanding of the God of the Bible, and a deeper love for Him, because of my time in D-group, and have constantly been challenged to live out the faith that I profess. D-Group helps me to remain focused on eternal things. Everyone has seasons where they are slack in their relationship with the Lord, where we don’t spend as much time with Him. Those times will inevitably come, but those periods definitely don’t last as long, or have as detrimental an impact when we are walking in community with other believers.
#ilovemydgroup so much, and think every believer should be involved in this type of study. I’m learning that it isn’t entirely normal for churches to provide this type of discipleship, so if you’re looking for something like this there are D-Groups all over. Check out the website and join a group near you, or START ONE!

WE JOINED A CHURCH
This is, hands down, my favorite thing we did this year. The last time we were members at a church was in 2012. We moved away from that church family, had 2 babies, and were very unsettled over the next several years in terms of location. We struggled to find a church, and just when we thought we had found somewhere to call home we moved again. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. This drained me. This was hard and heavy on my soul. The local church is my heart. Not being committed somewhere and serving somewhere left me restless and uneasy. When we moved to Florence, we were sure the struggle would continue. Thankfully, God was so kind to quickly lead us to our new church and we joined this past May. It is far from perfect, but it is our home and our family now. My soul is at rest. It brings me to tears when I think of it. And maybe if you’ve never felt homeless, you don’t understand why it’s such a big deal, but I cannot think of the Church at Sandhurst without thanking the Lord for bringing us here. Not only do we love it, but our kids love it, too. I have been very intentional about teaching our kids the gospel in our home since the day they were born. Interestingly enough, one of my kids seemed to harbor some sort of animosity toward God. He was not only uninterested, but seemed to not really like God. I wouldn’t have believed a kid (who was 2, 3 years old, mind you) was capable of this if I hadn’t seen it. But since we’ve been at our church, all that hostility has disappeared. I’ve been amazed how much both of my boys have grown in knowledge of God and the Bible. It’s been so sweet to see how much our kids need community, too, how it actually takes a village. Consistently having what we teach them at home reinforced by others has made all the difference. Now, I work part-time with the children’s ministry, and we are partnering with D-Group as one way to get the church body involved in discipleship. I’m sure I’ve leaving some other great things out, but anyway, finding a good church home is so important, and I’m so grateful for God’s kindness in providing us a place to settle down, for now.

MOPS
I’ve been in MOPS (mothers of pre-schoolers) for several years now. There have been times I’ve loved it, and times I haven’t, but the past year has been really sweet. Having two young kids is really hard. Having a group of people that know what I’m going through and are in the trenches with me has been like a life-line. The struggles of motherhood are unique and universal all at once, and the support and encouragement that these ladies have offered me and each other is a breath of fresh air. To be surrounded by women that are truly for each other (instead of busy judging each other) is something special.

I CUT OUT SOCIAL MEDIA FOR A WEEK
A week isn’t a long time, but that week was easily one of my most productive weeks of 2016. I used to feel bad for people who couldn’t keep their social media lives in check…then I became one of those people. Picking up my phone and checking feeds has become so impulsive, and I waste so much time on social media. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love social media. I have learned so much from others, and consistently enjoy seeing other peoples’ lives and hearing others’ perspectives. My world-view has been stretched and challenged thanks to social media. I don’t see myself ever cutting it out completely. At this point, it isn’t necessarily a struggle with jealousy or comparison, or that it makes me cynical, but it is a major distraction from what is going on in front of me. I am going to cut out social media again, this time for one month at the beginning of 2017, with hopes of entering back in with clearer boundaries, and more clarity about the effect it has on me.

Obviously, this list isn’t comprehensive. We did some fun stuff with the boys, they grew some more, we saw some victories in our marriage, there’s more I’m sure. But these are some of the things that have had the largest impact on the year.

I used to not be one for resolutions, but this year I’m actually excited about some of the goals I’ve made. Among them my temporary leave of social media, working out (somewhat) regularly, trying out Whole30. I’ve been able to tell this year more than ever how unhealthy I am getting, how much my lack of healthy eating and exercise has been affecting me. I’ve felt more tired and sluggish than ever, so hopefully this time next year I won’t be saying the same thing. I’m also planning to read through the Bible again, and fast once a month, a goal I set for myself this year – but failed miserably, so it’s going back on the list.

I used to be rather thoughtless about the new year, but I’ve learned that I literally have no idea what the next year may hold. My plans are always changing. But my highest hope for 2017, is that I would love the Lord more, love His people more, and serve them both well.

A Letter to College Students: This Is The Real World

college

After graduation, there’s a lot of talk about “living in the real world”. I think this is really referring to the world of 9-5 jobs and professional attire. The world of going to bed at a reasonable hour. I understand these things may be different from the life one typically leads as a college student, but the references to post-college life equaling the real world leave us to infer that college, indeed, does not qualify as the real world. Now, there are some major differences in schedule and responsibility as a college student, as opposed to someone working a full-time job. Most college courses are set up so that only you will suffer if you decide not to show for class. In some cases, there is no accountability at all. Many college students don’t have anyone depending on them for anything, and you have more free-time and flexibility than pretty much everyone else. There are certainly some big differences between the two.

• • • •

I went to college alone. My mom helped me move in to my dorm room, but after that it was just me. Most of my friends from high school had gone off to Clemson. You would think when you go to school only an hour from your hometown, that surely there would be some built-in friends on campus. Of course, several people from my high school had also come to the wonderful University of South Carolina, but none of them were people I would spend time with.

On top of not knowing anyone, I’d spent my whole life being shy, and didn’t know how to introduce myself to anyone without the help of a more outgoing mediator. I’d spent all of high school with an “I can’t wait to get out of this town” attitude, only to flip the switch half-way through senior year, when it started to sink in that my time at West Florence was coming to an end. I was nervous all summer about leaving behind all I’d known, but it hit me like a ton of bricks when my mom drove off. I was scared, overwhelmed, and alone.

I did not feel like I was hidden away on some college campus, oblivious to the stresses of “real life”, real responsibility, real burdens. I didn’t feel like I had just landed myself in one four-year-long party. No. Sitting on the 4th floor of Patterson Hall in the heart of a city much bigger than the one I came from, away from the comforts of home and familiar faces, roads, places to shop and eat, I felt like I was in the real world for the first time in my life. Unprotected, exposed, on my own.

That first week was rough. I later realized I understood college to be the place where you meet the people who will be your best friends for the rest of your life. I somehow believed this would happen right away, that they would just happen to come introduce themselves to me the moment I arrived. I spent a good chunk of the first semester of my freshman year contemplating whether I should transfer back home, or to Clemson. Not that I was bored, I wasn’t. I managed to make some friends and spent most of my time with other people. I was still lonely, though. I was craving real, meaningful friendships. I didn’t know that it would take time, that it would get much, much better.

I spent the next 4 years meeting and getting to know a very diverse group of people. Rich, poor, homeless, gay, religious, depressed. I knew people who had been raped, abused, dealt with eating disorders, lost loved ones. The people I came to know during my time at South Carolina didn’t get to press pause on life. We didn’t get to ignore reality. Life still happens, no matter where you go to school, no matter whether your campus is on a hillside or in the city.

Despite what our culture would tell you, this is not the time to “get it out of your system” and do whatever the heck you want (unless whatever the heck you want is honoring to the Lord). These aren’t years that should be wasted, and these years aren’t just about your education. These years can be so full if you handle them well. College is a gift, a unique experience and time in your life. No other period in life will look the same.

For Christians, it may be tempting to jump into whatever community you find first (which can be good or bad). So many of my friends spent their first semester (or longer) making decisions they would go on to regret. And thankfully, grace was there to meet them then. But what if we recognized the importance of these years? What if we treated them as though they matter? Wouldn’t it be incredible if we used our college years for glorifying God and furthering His kingdom? These years will be a part of your life forever. You can fill them with whatever you want. But if there is one thing I learned in college and in the years since, it’s that living for the Lord is the best, most satisfying use of our time. How you spend your days matters, so let’s not let the world convince us that it’s okay if our lives look a little meaningless for a few years. This is special. Different? Yes. But, this is the real world, with real people, real souls. You can use this time in a million different ways, but there is true, full life in Christ, and using these years to seek Him, love Him, and live for Him will be one of the best decisions you ever make.

“Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” Matthew 10:39

Photo credit: Tulane Public Relations via Foter.com / CC BY-NC

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.

Don’t Judge Me

Photo credit: miss pupik / Foter / CC BY
Photo credit: miss pupik / Foter / CC BY

I read this Ann Voskamp blog the other day on “how women can stop judging each other: a movement of key women“. It was exactly as it sounds, encouraging us to be women that allow others the freedom not to be perfect. It was good. You should check out the link and read the whole thing, because everything sounds better coming from Ann Voskamp…but here’s an excerpt that sums it up, I think:

“There could be Key Women who turn to their sisters and unlock everything with their own anthem coming like a freedom song:

I won’t judge you for dishes in your sink and shoes over your floor and laundry on your couch.

I won’t judge you for choosing not to spend your one life weeding the garden or washing the windows or working on organizing the pantry.

I won’t judge you for the size of your waist, the flatness, bigness, cut or color of your hair, the hipness or the matronliness of your clothes, and I won’t judge whether you work at a stove, a screen, a store, a steering wheel, a sink or a stage.

I won’t judge you for where you are on your road, won’t belittle your offering, your creativity, your battle, your work.

The key to the future of our communities, our culture, the church is whether there are Key People — people who will not imprison with labels and boxes but will unlock with key words, with key acts of freeing.

There could be Key Women who link arms with their sisters and say we will be the few Key Women: Key Women release you by not judging your mothering, your cooking, your cleaning, your clothing, your kids.

It’s a beautiful picture, this ceasing of judgement. I think a lot of us need to hear her words and resolve to be the kind of person she is talking about. Although, I think the solution is twofold. I’m not taking anything away from what she is saying. I’m just continuing the conversation.

It seems to me like we women feel judged by just about everyone concerning everything, and often times, we want to place the blame on them. The judges. Maybe my perception is off, but I’m going to say that I think (we) the offended are equally at fault.

In certain areas I fit the “judgy mom” bill. I had 2 natural births, we don’t vaccinate, we don’t give our kids sweets, we are very particular about the products we use in our home and on our bodies. I have heard moms that don’t do any of those things I just mentioned say a million and one times that they felt judged by someone who does do those things. I know that those people exist, the people that think others are beneath them when they make a different choice, the people who are all self-righteous and think everything they do is what makes them a good mom. But I am here to tell you, I am not one of them. Of course, we use natural sunscreen because we don’t think the chemical filled stuff is good for you. Obviously. But just because we use natural sunscreen doesn’t mean I think those who don’t are crappy people. I’m not assuming that the mom on Instagram doesn’t care about what’s best for her child because she let them eat ice cream for dinner. I’m not.

But all my not being judgmental doesn’t do any good when others assume I’m judging them anyway.

The fact that I am picky about what kind of shampoo we use on our kids does not mean I have a problem with someone else’s anything-goes attitude. The mere mentioning of “my midwife” doesn’t mean I think those who have a doctor are weird (I had one, too). Will any of us ever be able to talk about the choices we make without coming off as judgmental? Can I say that I breastfed my children without someone assuming that means I am elevating myself above those that use formula? Since when did simply talking about things become looking down on everyone, everywhere, for everything?

I’m guilty, too. I know the feeling. Because let me tell you where I don’t fit the judgy mom bill…is in the clean house arena. If you have ever been in my house, you know it looks like crap 99% of the time. I know that some people do actually keep clean houses. For some people it’s easy, or they like cleaning, or messiness drives them crazy or whatever. Apparently, I can live with the mess. I don’t like it…but it’s not the highest thing on my priority list, every day. Some days it is. But my point is that most of the time my house looks like a tornado went through it, and I know plenty of people that can vouch for me here. I have done my share of explaining and apologizing for the dishes in the sink, the crusty pots left on the stove, the crumbs on the floor…I could go on. But I know, when I let someone in my messy house, it is not the look on their horrified face that makes me feel judged. Because there is no look of horror. It is simply me. Me feeling like I should have a clean house, that makes me assume they think less of me because I don’t. I’m sure somewhere along the way there’s been a few people that actually did care. But I’m going to bet that most of them don’t. Because there are probably dishes in their sink, too. They get it. I get it.

In some ways I’m a bit impervious to judgment. Sometimes I honestly don’t care if someone else doesn’t like what I’m doing. But there are those times when a friend shows up and I haven’t showered in days, or my kid is screaming bloody murder in the middle of Target, or the zoo, or the restaurant, or anywhere and everywhere we go, that get me feeling all sheepish and wishing I could disappear.

But I think it’s time that we start accepting some of the responsibility for the judgment we feel. Because it really isn’t about the decisions we make. It’s not about how much TV our kids watch, or whether we work inside or outside the home. At the heart of it, it’s about how others view us in light of those things. It’s the idea that someone else thinks little of us, looks down on us, that we find offensive.

When faced with our shortcomings, the problem is not always the judgement from others. It is the judgement of ourselves. We are the ones holding ourselves captive. We are the ones making ourselves feel like we don’t measure up. It’s not the mom across the playground, it’s us.

What if we found our identity in Christ and who He says we are? What if we allowed the grace of God to change us into women that are satisfied with our own quirks and idiosyncrasies, our own personalities and preferences (when they aren’t sinful, of course)? What if we started to identify the shame we feel over our dirty dishes for what it often is, an internal war with ourselves and who we hope to be? NOT who others hope us to be.

Yes, let’s be key women, but let’s realize we have to start with ourselves. Let’s stop blaming others for the pressure we feel to be perfect, when we haven’t dealt with the pressure we put on ourselves. We have to give ourselves freedom and space to be who we are, unapologetically, if we want to allow others that same freedom.

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” 1 Peter 2:9

“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Colossians 3:17

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.