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.

    –I am having a terrible time trying to finish this. There’s a preschooler on my lap and she wants to press buttons. Here she goes. erty\tgfbyul;fjjorj..p;pg;;;m;,’dbbhuyuu6t6devtjytfjkjuut7uu6jiuutiiooholliyuiyiihhhgggfhrikylljljlkhklkmmfmn      cb     c           k997iioojhkjkmjklok

    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.

    10 responses to this post.

    1. Hi girls! I heard you on Midday Connection and I’m really intriqued by your blog. I have really enjoyed reading. I totally relate to what you’re saying about getting defensive regarding my discipline.

      The other day my daughter (4) had trouble in sunday school. She threw a fit and they actually had to bring her out to me. I was embarrassed and did immediately feel defensive about my parenting ability. Really it’s all pride because my focus was on me! Oh how I wish I didn’t deal with that. 🙂

      God is faithful and thankfully He continues to teach me and work in me. Thank you for being a blessing to me today!!


    2. Oops, just realized the link to my blog didn’t work…. 🙂


    3. Great addition, Jami! That pride thing is huge.

      Here’s something another shy friend of mine left on my Facebook page:

      “LOVE the new revolutionary post (and idea)!! One of these days ‘my fear’ of being able to intelligently articulate my feelings might allow me to comment on your blog. For now, you go girls…love it, love it, love it!”

      The best thing about this shy friend is that she’s one of the funniest, most articulate people I know. So get over it, you-know-who! : )


    4. Posted by Cindy Schwerdtfeger on January 19, 2009 at 8:35 pm

      Nice thots. I had heard something the other day about being jealous and how that affects a person. Jealousy can come out in anger and bitterness. I had an ‘aha, moment’ and realized that is where that is coming from. Like you were talking about Carla, comparison. Comparing what I have to what someone else has. I become jealous that I don’t have that ‘thing’ and then angry and bitter (the poor me’s!) that I don’t have it! What a vicious cycle! The whole idea behind the thot I had heard the other day was to be supportive and excited when others have something new. Be thankful what you do have and rejoice when others have something nice as well. I have been trying to rejoice with others lately (i.e. the friend on Facebook who said he was booking a warm vacation on the coldest day of January!) and have starting to see how it affects my attitude. “Rejoice with those who Rejoice!”


    5. Posted by Stacy B. on January 20, 2009 at 8:48 pm

      I love this post. This is a foundational thought about friendships but goes to all of our relationships, really. What if we used the “that is so different from what we do, but I’m glad it works for you” approach to our jobs, our schooling, and our relationships (not just with other women) in the church? For example, how we approach music may differ by generations or preference.

      Obviously, incorrect theology is not what I’m talking about here, but there are some things that are not theologically foundational (drums or no drums? organ or no organ?) and just simply different approaches.


    6. Posted by Steve B. on January 20, 2009 at 9:00 pm

      I really have nothing to add, but I’m still an avid reader. Good luck girls.


    7. Posted by Amy Earwood on January 21, 2009 at 10:10 am

      Wow. Friendship is the most difficult for me. And I can relate to all of it. I am one of those that does not have a “best”friend. I have several “friends” that each contribute to my life, and hopefully I contribute to theirs. But I do not have a group of ladies I go out with on a regular basis-ever, there is not one I call regularly, and really, I wish I did.

      My biggest issue is when people try to tell me how to raise my children. And when I am spoken to like I do not know what I am doing. THAT drives me away from friends more than anything else. I am always open to advice, when given as advice. But women and men alike need to respect others parenting as we do not know their children or lives and have no right to make judgments. I know I do things much different than others in many ways, and that works for me and my family. I have a 17 yr. old who is a much better person than I was at that age, so I must be doing something right!!

      And Cindy, I get the “poor me’s” all the time and I am trying to change that as well. I have a home, great kids, a wonderful husband and steady income-what do I need to be jealous of? Right!!


    8. Posted by Heather on January 21, 2009 at 1:54 pm

      “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.”

      Carla – I have admitted my fears to you through many tears over the last four years, and you have been nothing but compassionate, respectful, encouraging and comforting to me. Thank you for living out your ideas in our friendship.


    9. Posted by Amy on January 23, 2009 at 12:48 pm

      I recently quit working full time and have been trying to figure out how to be friends with women. It was easy to talk to co-workers because we talked about work and they were mostly men. I find it difficult to be close friends with women because it seems any lull in the conversation is filled with talk about kids and other people; not sports, world events, the great new lip gloss, etc. I totally envy my husband’s ability to talk for hours with all his friends (and total strangers) about sports. How do they do that? No awkward pauses, no discussing jr’s super-intelligence, no discussions about how much weight someone has gained since they last saw them…just sports!


    10. Posted by Cindy Schwerdtfeger on January 26, 2009 at 7:32 pm

      Hmm….I am not envious about guys talking about sports..kinda like talking about the weather and how was your weekend. I would rather talk about how you ‘really are’. When I have say, Oh, i am okay…I say..”just okay?” Are you really ‘okay’ or is there more to that? I like to dig deeper and see what my friend is really struggling with. I am hoping that I can help encourage her in someway.


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