Archive for January 19th, 2009

How to Be Friends

Caryn: With the terrific conversations going on below about motherhood as calling and the Manifesto, this is going to seem kind of out there, but I wanted to throw something on to the Mommy Revolution radar that’s been twirling around my personal radar for a little bit now. Ever since I reconnected—via Facebook, of course–with a friend from college (that’d be Calvin College, if you must know) in fact.

After usual “hey–good to see you here/beautiful family!” Facebook stuff, she caught me up on her life this way: Since giving birth to her another child last year, she left full-time employment but has been keeping busy with the fam, doing the part-time-work-from-home thing, volunteering, selling stuff on eBay for sitter money, and “trying to figure out how to be friends with women without falling into the gossip trap.”

Aaaah, yes. That.

I’m just going to go out on a limb and guess that me and my friend aren’t the only ones who’ve had trouble figuring out how to be friends with women without falling into various “traps.” For my friend, it’s gossip. For me, it’s been jealousy and fakeness (and, okay, a touch of gossip too).

Your “trap” can be any of the snarly things that keep us from true friendships, from revealing our real selves (you’ll be able to read a whole big pink book about this in less tha two months, people!!!), or, in kitchy Evangelial church-speak,  achieve “authentic community.” Because: Gossip—no matter how fun—makes people unsafe to share with. Jealousy keeps us from being truly happy for another person. And fakeness, well, gets in the way of being accepted and loved for yourself. Obviously.

I’ve found that mom friendships are riddled with traps. I hate saying this because I love my friends, and I’m so grateful for the relationships I’ve formed since becoming a mom. But this is not to say, they haven’t left some scars.

Let’s just say it was being around other moms, trying to develop friendships with women after I had kids, that sent me spiraling into my identity crisis (along with a couple other things). It was often after attending MOPS or a play group or park district class that I felt my most lonely (and motherhood left me lonely “como loco”–as we Rivadeneiras say).  It was in these instances where I realized how high and specific the expectations were on me in my role as a mom. And what a misfit I was.

That is, until, I realized I was falling into my traps. They were the problem. Not the women. Not the groups. But the traps. Once I became aware of them and sort of learned (or am learning) to circumnavigate them, it’s been a whole new world.

I’ve done pretty good at keeping away from gossip, I readily admit and confess my jealousy, and I’ve decided to open up more, be more revealing (hence the talk about nursing my two-year-old on Moody radio!) in a “here’s the real me/love it or leave it sort of way.”

So what’s this got to do with the Mommy Revolution? I think two of our tenents (we really need to number these babies):

  • Women need emotional support from other women.
  • Women support each other instead of critique each other.
  • If our relationships or our approaches to other women are trap-filled, we can’t get or offer this support. But how do we de-trap?

    Carla: I think that’s an excellent question–how do we de-trap? I mean, it’s challenging enough to avoid the traps I set for myself–poor self-image or my perfectionism.

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    Okay, it’s now the next day. I’m sorry it’s taking me forever to post. But it has given me some extra time to think about what you’ve said. And here’s what I’ve got. For me, all of the traps spring out of the same factory: fear. We gossip to distance ourselves from a friend’s actions because we are afraid they reflect poorly on us. We get jealous because we’re afraid someone else knows something we don’t or is capable of something we’re not. We get defensive about our parenting choices because we’re afraid we’ve made the wrong one.

    So it seems to me that the way to dig ourselves out of these traps is to figures out what we’re afraid of. Is it looking bad in the eyes of others? Is it disappointing someone? Is it facing criticism? Maybe it’s realizing we aren’t the kind of moms we thought we’d be or having to face our imperfections yet again. Each of us has to answer that question for ourselves, but I really believe that most of us let fear motivate our choices and attitudes far more than we want to admit.

    For me, identifying my fears has been 90 percent of the battle. Once I know them and name them, I can see how ridiculous they are. Of course I have legitimate fears for my children, but those don’t lead me into these traps. It’s the fears I have about myself and my place in the world that send me into times of loneliness or comparisson or jealousy.

    Imagine what parenting would be like if we become mothers who are so unafraid that when another person tells us about the choices they make as a parent, we can say, “That’s so different from what we do and it sounds like it really works for you,” without a hint of defensiveness or the need to convince someone of how wrong they are. Imagine what parenting would be like if we could admit our fears to each other knowing that we would face nothing but compassion and prayer and comfort from our friends. What a revolutionary idea!

    Caryn: A total revolutionary idea—and yet a completely gracious one. Totally agree: If we moms (and all people, actually) offer that grace of which you speak—offering compassion and prayer and comfort when someone shares a fear (or an off-beat idea or anything, for that matter)—not only do we offer (and receive) friendship, but we get to show a little Jesus in that action too.