And guys there is SUCH value in friendships. Especially in this busy, crazy, kid-filled phase of life. We need our tribe. If you have been putting off forming friendships then I encourage you to make it a goal for this year. Even make a list! See a girl at church who looks friendly that you'd like to get to know better? Write her down. Got a friend on Facebook who likes all of your posts and always says nice things? Write her down. See a mom at the school who has kids the same age as yours? Write her down. And then make it a goal to reach out. Yes. It's scary to make that first move. The fear of friendship rejection is no joke. But most likely that same mom you're reaching out to? She's probably also wishing she had more close friends too!
1. Your husband? He can't meet all your friendship needs: Yes. I'll say my husband is my "best friend." But as women, we need more in the friendship department than most of our husbands can give us. Most men don't love to hear every detail of everything we're experiencing. Most men put on a Mr. Fix-It hat and try to solve all our problems, when sometimes we just need a good vent session. Most men don't want to see selfies of outfits you're trying on and have to tell you which one to wear.
I had a minister explain to me once that a marriage is a like a vin-diagram. One circle is YOU. One circle is your husband. And then there is a little sliver of each circle that overlaps and that area is your marriage. We often enter marriage thinking we're supposed to meet each other's every single need. But that's not reality! You are still YOU and he is still HIM and it's healthy to recognize areas where you don't overlap. I need friends. Zach needs golf ;)
2. Your Family? They can't meet all your friendship needs: I have found that people who have VERY close family tend to have less friends. My husband, for example, has a very close family so he is content with that and doesn't feel the need to invest a lot into friendships outside that circle. I don't have close family ties with my family so my friends ARE my family. And I have seen many times happen where I wished for my husband that he did have more friends that weren't relatives.
Family drama happens. Family is so intertwined and so bias on things that it's hard to always get that outsider perspective. Family has loyalty to ALL the family. Friends only have loyalty to you and sometimes that's a good thing! Plus when you do need to vent about family...who can you really vent to when all of your family are also the only members of your tribe? Having friends who aren't blood relatives allows you to gain perspective and understanding with people who have had different experiences than just those of your own family.
3. Your kids? They shouldn't be your friends (yet!): I constantly see "my daughter is my BFF" on social media and every time I do, I cringe. As parents we are the parent. We can't also be the BFF! Someday we will be able to be the friend, but that day is long in the future when our children are adults and, most likely, even have their own children. And even at that point, we'll still be the parent. I'm close to my children. I love them with all my heart and we have awesome relationships together!
But they aren't my friends. It's not appropriate to share my every thought with them, or ask them to comfort me when I'm upset, or expect them to handle any adult-type issues I may face. There needs to be a clear boundary there and as they get older that line moves and shifts until they are old enough to be more of a friend than a child.
4. Empathy is Crucial: Having friends who are in a similar phase of life is such a blessing because they can truly empathize with what you're experiencing. Your mom has to think back 30 years to remember how frustrating it was to have a baby who doesn't nap, and even then she's seeing that with rose colored lenses. Your husband doesn't understand how much that crying baby makes you ache inside. Your tribe is in the trenches WITH you. They are walking the walk and living the life. They can laugh with you when you clean up poop all over the walls. They can understand how sometimes you just need to hide in the closet and eat candy. They know exactly what postpartum foods you'll enjoy most during those middle of the night nursing sessions. They get it because they are there too. You can lean on each other, learn from each other, and be reminded that you're not alone!
And when you face trials that they may not have experienced? They can also more easily put themselves in your shoes. My husband recently got diagnosed with MS. None of my friends have experienced that! But they are all in similar phases of life that I'm in so they can think about how it would feel if it were them walking this path. They can understand my fears of the future, my concerns about my children, my worries about finances...because they would be worried about the exact same things if they were the ones facing a life-long disease.
5. Staying Connected with YOU is so Valuable: We so easily lose ourselves in our role as "mom." We give and give and then we give some more. When we sit down and figure out who WE are, we can't really remember. What do I like to do for fun?!?! What are my hobbies?!?! How can I unwind?!?! Friends are where it is at yall. Friends remind us that we are still FUN. Making time for friendship is a way to also make time for yourself. Go to dinner. See a chick flick. Go shopping. Together time with your tribe is valuable time. You come home feeling SO refreshed and reconnected with the YOU that you still are, even as a mom!
And that goes for rougher times too! When you hurt, it's hard to let out that pain. You don't want to burden your husband or your children with that personal struggle. Friends are there. They are there to remind us who we are just when we need a break from every day life, but also when we need to be reminded of our inner strength and that everything will be OK.
I know it's hard to reach out and make new friends. I have been rejected a TON of times by potential friends. It stings, but I just keep on trying. And I'm so thankful I do! Many of the close friends I have now wouldn't be in my life if it weren't for getting out of my comfort zone and making that effort to get to know them better. And I love making new friends and getting to create new bonds that can strengthen over time. It's not only tough to make friends but it's tough to always carve out the time to spend with those friends. Sometimes I make plans and don't even feel like going. But every single time I do, I'm glad I did.
Friends are a blessing and having a tribe is worth every effort it takes!
Emily blogs at The Journey of Parenthood.