How to Get a Girlfriend

Carla: I’ve been reading this book that our Rev friend Kristi told me about. It’s called “The Passion of the Hausfrau” by Nicole Chaison and I love it! I am working on another post that will go into more detail about the book and the trajectory it’s sent me on, but first I wanted to pick your brains about something Nicole says.

She has this whole shtick on needing a girlfriend and that finding really great female friends is just about as difficult as finding a spouse. She writes about the little ways she scopes out other moms at the playground and how she navigates the early conversations to find points of connection. She lists her “turn-ons”–moms who can laugh when they have baby puke running down their backs, moms who are willing to be vulnerable, etc. The woman is incredibly funny–and pretty crass at times so this book is not for the easily offended–and I found myself laughing out loud all the way through the book.

This idea of “courting” other women in our efforts to develop friendships struck me as having some real potential for the revolution. So I want to know–what are your turn ons? What draws you to other women in your search for meaningful friendships? What do you find yourself doing or saying to draw other women to you?

For me, I find that, like Nicole, I am instantly attracted to moms who are open and honest about their struggles, who don’t act like they know everything or have it all together. I am also drawn to women who seem to have other things going on in their lives–interesting hobbies or jobs or ideas.

For me, talking about our children is a pretty big turn-off. I mean, I know it’s kind of a starting point for a relationship, but for me, that only goes so far. I don’t mean that I never want to talk parenting, but for the most part, I need women in my life who are interested in me as a whole person, not just as a mom. I want to know what my friends think about religion and politics and current events and celebrity gossip and new restaurants and my shoes. And I want them to care what I think about those things as well.

I feel the same way about any subject, really. If I make a friend through work or church or standing in line at Target, our friendship won’t go very deep if all we ever talk about is work or church or Target. Our commonality is a starting point, not the sum total of the relationship. This might be why so many of my female friendships in recent years have been with women who don’t have kids or whose kids are now adults.

Caryn: So, the time I was on your pastor’s radio show, he was all about my “girl crushes” and now you’re asking me about my girl turn ons? Jeez Louise. But, okay. Of course, I’m game. Lesbian rumors be damned. Or, maybe, darned, I should say. No need to swear here.

I’m with you, actually: mom talk is my biggest turn off when meeting new friends. It’s a great starting place and easy common-ground thing, but as anyone who’s taken more than two peeks around the Rev can see, when we start talking only mom-and-kid stuff is where a lot of us tend to get lost.

So my biggestfriend  turn on is a woman who can bring herself: who can share something funny, interesting, personal, challenging, quirky, painful, convicting, funny again…. [QUICK NOTE: My husband just came into my office to tell me something, started rubbing my shoulders, and asked what I was working on. Of course, he zeroes in on the first sentence here. He’s VERY interested in this post. Men…..]

I like women who understand that I have more to bring to conversation and the world than my kids. And while it seemed to me—at least for the first probably four years as a mom—that friendships like this were doomed, never to be had again until maybe Shady Pines or on the Lumberjack Tour (Carla and I will have to explain this another time…If we haven’t already), now I actually have a bunch of friendships that have nothing to do with motherhood. So mom and kid stuff actually doesn’t come up.

In fact, one of my newer good friends Tracey and I live in the same town, are the exact same age and have kids very similar ages. But we met and bonded over more worky and churchy stuff so we know very little about each other as moms and even less about our kids. In fact, last week we ran into each other at the spray park—each of us with kids in tow—and it’s sort of an awkward, nearly shocking experience because we don’t know how to relate on that mom-level.

Now, granted, to have the fullest extend of a friendship, it’s probably nice to meld all the areas of our lives, but I’m just sayin’: I like having friends who know more about me as a woman than me as a mom.

Getting to this point isn’t easy, though. For me, it tooks like years of hard prayer and then huge leaps of being the first one to be vulnerable and dive into the big stuff. Doesn’t always work. But it’s sure great when it does.

Carla: I must say, however, that the Revolution is helping me learn how to be friends with other moms. I love the women who are showing up here because you are honest and broken and funny and real and smart and interesting and challenging. So how do we keep finding each other?

I want to know what you lovely ladies (and Steve) do to find and nurture friendships. I know this is a struggle for a lot of us, but when it’s worked, what’s made it work? What are the essentials of a meaningful relationship? What keeps you from moving into a deeper friendship and what encourages you to take a step forward?

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16 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Laura S. on July 8, 2009 at 12:03 pm

    I spent most of my 20’s and 30’s as a single woman, free to converse on whatever was interesting and on my mind. Kids weren’t in the picture. Now, still somewhat of a new mom at age 40, with two kids under age three, I find myself craving parenting talk and actively seek out other mothers to help me get through this time. I need these conversations, somewhat desperately, but I also enjoy them immensely… Subjects like child development are new to me and I’m enjoying the learning. So, surprise surprise, parenting is consuming and, in my quest to do this well and to survive, the other types of “fun talk” times have greatly diminished. Heck, at a park or play-date, it’s hard to have an in-depth conversation about anything, let alone parenting.

    My need/desire to talk with other women about all of the wonderful non-parenting subjects is definitely still there; I am really an interesting person! From your post I am reminded that I need to work harder at initiating more diverse conversations; I need to do this for myself, even if it’s as hard as scheduling a regular date night with my husband….. (Regular? who am I kidding; ONE date night). I’m trying to live a whole life and need to remain a whole person. I could use a few more close girlfriends, I could use more time to talk with them, and, I could use a lot more conversation, period.

    To try and answer Carla’s actual questions…. For me the answer is time… I need more focused time, free from kids, to have these conversations. Gatherings, coffee-dates, and weekends away are needed to make the close friendships I’ve struggled to find. I have a few and I treasure them… and, actually I have a couple of new ladies in my life and things are going well :O) But it’s the initiative to show up, call, stop by, share life, and a great deal of non-focused time together if kids are involved.

    Time. Can’t someone figure out sell it?

    Reply

  2. Posted by Carla on July 8, 2009 at 12:11 pm

    Laura, your response is a good reminder to me, too, that I need to be willing to connect on the “mom-level” to build friendships as well. For me, that’s moving out of my comfort zone and I have to be willing to do it if I want friendships with wonderful women like you–and I do.

    Reply

  3. I emailed Carla this earlier: Just after we put up this post, I went to our local coffee shop to meet that same friend Tracey to talk some business. The coffee shop was swarming with kids and moms–actually NEW kids and NEW moms. Babies galore. Our whole side of the shop was swapping labor and delivery stories. Totally one-upping each other with baby weights, recovery time, epidural stuff… Anyway, as excited as I was to dive into non-mom talk with Tracey, I SO TOTALLY wanted to chime into the conversation and tell about my enormous first baby and his crazy delivery and share my mystical “focus on the cross” story during epidural FAIL and all that .

    Point is: I wanted to bond with these women on a mom-level. It’s funny, though, how this tends to happen when I don’t have my kids with me…..

    Reply

  4. OK, now i really have to get this book after recommending it to you and not even reading it yet… our library is really small, so i have to put it on hold/request it from the big “downtown” library. 😉 i’m glad you weren’t offended. it looks awesomely hilarious to me!

    i think my initial thoughts about my friend turn-ons would be honesty. if someone looks me in the eye and starts telling me something that’s REAL about herself, then i know we are going to be friends. if there’s any hedging, any sort of “keeping up with the joneses” (whoever they are, anyway), then i can sense that and i feel like it is going to be too much work to get to the deep part of this other person.

    and i have to admit, i’m a bit lazy when it comes to trying to crack someone, get them to open up. i feel like, hey, i’m in my 30s (the backside, unfortunately), i don’t have time for those one-upping mom stories, or hiding things about how crappy our lives are going right now, or whatever. but you know what? the women i’m struggling with getting to be honest with me at this moment are all in their 20s still. i have no idea if that has anything to do with it. but i definitely feel way more confident in my 30s than i ever did in my 20s, so maybe i’m just being impatient with them…

    which brings me to another point: i need friends who are my age. i have several friends who are about 10 years younger but have kids. and i am constantly comparing myself to them in terms of how skinny they are, how fast they lost THEIR baby weight, how many less wrinkles THEY have. ok, it has mostly to do with looks. so i struggle with being jealous of these friends and have to constantly remind myself that i am older. so being around friends my age is so important.

    i have a group of women i am friends with who are my age, and we get together from time to time over wine and chocolate and twilight (you know, the teen movie…), and it’s awesome. but there is something slightly missing there too, because one friend doesn’t want kids, and another friend is in a bitter internal (and sometimes external) struggle with infertility/IVF/whether to adopt (for you readers who would call me insensitive for even saying this, i have to share that twice she has used the term “breeder” in front of me, which is painful for me to hear, even though i do understand her pain).

    so even though i am VERY MUCH not into talking about my kids, i feel in this group of women my own age that if i do mention anything about them, stupid things they do/say, you know the usual, i feel like i create a sort of awkward silence. so that has gotten sort of difficult to navigate.

    it makes me very lonely. which is why i didn’t post on the previous blog. it’s just too depressing actually discussing loneliness. and even stopping to think “what would i wish for in a woman-friend,” it sort of makes me feel overwhelmed, because i have such low expectations that i will ever find her here…

    sorry if i have totally rambled. “pete’s dragon” is playing, which can be seriously distracting. 😉

    Reply

  5. Posted by Heather on July 8, 2009 at 2:10 pm

    When Laura S. and I get together, we have a four year old, a two year old, a one year old and a newborn between us. Needless to say, it’s all about regulating the kids and trying to squeeze in a question or two about good deals on groceries or toys or how much we’d like to go on a date with our hubbies. We chase the kids, get spit up on by each each others kids and have actually picked up the poop of one of the other’s children. But you know what? I do it because I love Laura and I want to be with her. Right now, this is the only time we can find to hang out and by god, I’ll take it!

    I need girlfriends who will change my kids diaper while I feed their kid and we talk about the latest celebrity gossip all at the same time! But, if we can only chase kids and pick up poop together, then I’m willing…at least for a couple more years…because I know that the kids will grow and the other parts of us will re-emerge and new parts will develop because of and through our friendships.

    Reply

  6. Oh my! I could have written all of these posts. I struggle so much with this issue, and it is incredibly lonely.

    I love mom-talk, I do. I hate the one-upping, but love to talk about the quirks and quacks of raising a toddler. Toddlers are hilarious, challenging and puzzling all at the same time. Life with them is like life with a neurotic anti-social addictive person who loves unconditionally and has raging hormones.

    However, it is an incredibly surface-level source of conversation. Among my group of friends, it is so difficult to talk about anything BUT mothering. For some reason, whenever I try, the subject gets changed. It is like people don’t like to look too deeply into things, they like the answers to be easy, funny and not too revealing.

    It is almost like not talking at all.

    As a SAHM, I am with my children all day long. Two small children- 2 1/2 years and 2 months old. I spend my entire day on child-centric activities. Then, when DH gets home, I spend my day on family-centric activities. While I love being a mother and a wife, that is not all I am!

    I don’t understand why people resist getting into a relationship on a deeper level. I would love to have a thought-provoking and ongoing dialogue about something. Anything. I yearn desperately for the days back in college when I was intellectually challenged and constantly discussing new things. Politics, culture, style, sociology, psychology, religion, ecology, everything.

    The sad point is, though, that we spend so much time doing laundry, potty training and having marathon breast feeding sessions that we really don’t have the same access to diverse information like we did in college. Maybe a headline here or there will catch our attention, but otherwise it is back to the one topic that we know a ton about- parenting.

    Till then, I fill the void with Master’s classes online (not the same type of stimulation as one would get in a classroom) and blogging, hoping someone will comment and challenge my statements, views and suppositions. Challenge is not conflict- it creates thoughts, discussions, dialogues. It is just not the same, though, as an open conversation between good friends.

    Hmmm… small children equal a life of fractured thoughts and difficult discussions. Maybe when they are older, the art of conversation will return in my life. Maybe then I will have more time to pursue personal non-parenting interests and meet people that way? I can only hope…

    Reply

  7. Posted by Emily on July 8, 2009 at 5:36 pm

    This is something I’ve been thinking a lot about in the past year since we’ve moved to a new city on the other side of the country from everyone we know. I’ve made several friends that I really enjoy spending time with, but all of our activities and most of our discussion does center around the kids. (playgroup, playdates, etc…) Much of the time that’s fine for me, it’s fun and something to do, but when I do need other kinds of discussion, especially when I’m having a hard time (going through some PPD), it leaves me feeling really empty. It’s hard to take that first step of opening-up and going further, even though I know it will probably take that with some people. I agree with the previous poster that it’s so hard to expose myself to other things to keep my mind and conversations more interesting since I have a toddler and a baby and stay at home. So in some ways, I do need that parenting talk since that’s what I’m doing all day and that’s much of what I think about, I need someone to relate to. But in other ways, I feel like I’m losing myself and most of my mom friends have no idea who I really am since that’s all we ever talk about. So, yeah. I definitely get excited when I meet another mom who I can tell thinks about parenting in a deep way and not just how to get her kid to eat vegetables, but I also really connect to someone who is able to draw me out by asking questions about non-mom parts of my life since sometimes it’s hard to throw that out there when no one seems interested. (I was hanging-out with some girls I’ve known for almost a year the other day and we started talking about what we did before kids… I had NO idea of their previous professions, and they had NO idea that I went to seminary. We were all pretty surprised at each other! How sad.)

    Reply

  8. Posted by Eva on July 8, 2009 at 6:23 pm

    I am intrigued by how many of us want to find someone who can be “real” and yet we all seem to have trouble finding that. I want that too, and I can’t help but be real (most of the time). But I find myself getting intimidated by moms out there who seem to have it all together–they always look great, their kids don’t scream in public, they seem to be having great conversations with other people about kids AND about the rest of life. I feel so middle-schoolish around them; I feel like not only do they have me beat in the parenting department, but now they have me beat in the “let’s not talk about parenting” department as well! Does that make sense?

    My closest friends are the ones I made in college or the roommates I had after college. I agree with what one earlier post said about needing TIME to develop a relationship, and that is what I think most of us are missing. It takes a huge time investment to form any sort of relationship–and that is just not going to happen over coffee once every two weeks or play dates or a few nights out. I work outside the home (half time) and it doesn’t even happen there. Sure there are conversations, but those tend to be all about work and none about home life. Without taking and MAKING time, a relationship really can’t be cemented. And how often is it possible for two or more moms to make and take the same time? It’s really hard!

    So, yes. I crave the “other conversations” but I find the talk about our kids happening most often right now. And I do enjoy that too. At least I am talking with someone who isn’t saying “NO!” after everything I say. I keep being reminded that I will have more of that elusive stuff called time when my children are a little older and able to at least wipe their own noses. 🙂 Till then, I’ll talk to anyone about anything! Really!

    Reply

  9. Posted by Brandi on July 8, 2009 at 6:55 pm

    I find this post very interesting. As a new SAHM, I struggled for the first many months to find other moms to connect with. I think when you’re a new mom and you stay at home, you find yourself desperately needing someone to relate to who is in the same situation. Although I didn’t want to discuss motherhood all of the time, I DID want/need friends who could relate to that as well. I didn’t want friends who wanted to give mommy advice, but I did want friends who could relate to the ups and downs of being a SAHM.

    I had a difficult time finding friends and found myself a few nights crying to my husband about the need for mommy friendships. I was envious of the “mommy friends” that I would see having lunch together or playing at the park with their children. I found that the women in my church were very nice and friendly, but didn’t seem to have the time to be a friend.

    In the end, I found a terrific friend on the Internet through a SAHM meetup group. Now, we have developed a group of several more moms who get together several times a week in addition to regular meetup activities. Even though we’re moms, we relate on a much deeper level. It’s so fun to discuss politics, materialism, religion, our former careers and many other topics that go way beyond motherhood. Yet, when it’s really needed, when someone is having a difficult time being a SAHM or we feel a bit down, we have a group who can relate and talk through it.

    I suppose it might be a bit of a risk to find friends on the Internet, but I also found my husband on the Internet and that has worked out beautifully!

    Reply

  10. Posted by Carla on July 8, 2009 at 9:12 pm

    I think Caryn and I have touched on this before, but in our case, we became much better friends online that we were when we shared an office for 40 hours a week. We loved working together, but it was nearly impossible to find time to connect outside of work. Now, with me in Minnesota and Caryn in Illinois, we chat through Facebook or email when we have time. So instead of having to arrange our schedules to see each other, we just shoot off messages–of fear and frustration and irritation and pain and silliness and doubt and joy–when we have time.

    What I’m getting at is that I think the Internet gets a bad rap when it comes to relationships. There is nothing second-rate about the bonds we are building. Look at what’s happening here! Most of us would never get the chance to say these things to other women if we could only say them face-to-face. These are real connections–just like the one’s Brandi talks about–and they can be as vital to our survival as moms as friends we can sit down with.

    Reply

  11. The mom talk thing…that is something I do a lot more of than I like. As a relatively new mom and with not having my career right now I think I probably feel desperate and uncomfortable with what to talk about so I default to mom talk. But, I do not want to and have been trying to consciously change the conversation. I noticed with new friends time is what benefits the relationship. I usually am looking for the “quick click, ” the person that I relate to immediately, can be vulnerable with etc, but I find that my friendships are slowly evolving into deeper, more diverse, honest relationships. They many have started with just parenting talk but are now getting to be broader. I tend to want to jump quite quickly to the “be real, be vulnerable ” place and am learning that it takes time for some relationships to get to that point. It is making me be more aware of not writing off women with whom I initially do not feel compatibility. with whom? with who? whom with? Having a crisis of how to properly construct a sentence right now. Oy. Need more sleep….sleep deprivation, the great thief of deep conversation skills.

    Reply

  12. Biggest turn-off? Okay, just gotta say this–jealousy. If someone seems to be jealous of me or others, I’m really just not interested in pursuing a friendship. Believe you have something to offer, and let me know that you see my strengths and weaknesses, and are okay with both, because you have both too.

    I found that one way to connnect with others is to volunteer. My closest friends are women that I’ve served with at church, or on the PTA at school, or whatever. And that gives you a topic beyond diapers to talk about. And there is a bond that forms around a common task that is deeper than conversation alone. For example, I taught a women’s class at my church, and gathered a team of other women to help me teach it and run it. We also got together outside of class just to be together.
    A lot also depends on your stage of life. When your kids are school age there are more opportunities to connect, especially if you get involved at your kids’ school. And by that time, you’re not as sleep deprived.
    One final thought–friendships have seasons, which is hard. I’ve had friends who were very close who are no longer in my life. It’s unfortunate, and no one’s fault. But being willing to let go when friends move away or stop calling has allowed me to embrace new friendships.

    Reply

  13. Posted by Robyn on July 10, 2009 at 3:17 pm

    My biggest friend turn-ons are being accepting and empathetic–someone who actively tries to see things from the other person’s point of view. A person who says, “I accept you for who you are and affirm your value and difference from myself.” Also, someone who is slow to anger, not easily offended, and quick to forgive. These are the characteristics I try to cultivate in myself and my friendships. A good sense of humor helps, too.

    Turn offs? Judgemental attitude, dishonesty, gossip.

    I’ve made a few good friends at work. We end up talking about work a lot, but we’ve also gone deeper into personal topics. I love talking current events, politics, art, music, movies, and even parenting with my work friends. I like the opportunities I have to meet people at work also because they are from all different backgrounds, lives, and ages. One of my good work-friends is a single mom, one is an unmarried woman in her 30’s, some are men with or without kids, both older than and younger than I. It’s easier, time-wise to hang out with work friends because we can spend our lunch hours together. Plus, we see each other every day, so there’s that.

    Honestly, I think I found a mom-friend soul-mate. I’ve never told her that, though. The Kristi who posted above me (the one who uses capitals) is, like, my ideal friend. She’s totally what I described in my first paragraph. I absolutely love her, in the truest phileo sense of the word. I trust her implicitly. I feel totally comfortable talking to her about anything and everything, even unpleasant things, revealing all my nasty parts and knowing she will love me anyway. If we didn’t live in different states, we would totally be BFF, I think. (Kristi, so if you ever want to move, consider this! I’m sure Joe could transfer, and home prices here are KILLER right now…)

    Reply

  14. Ah, Robyn! I love you, too! ❤

    Reply

  15. For me, the most important essential in a girlfriend relationships is mutual admiration and respect. One of my closest friends in town and I seem to have NOTHING in common…she’s a happy-at-home, bread-baking, clothes-sewing gal, I’m a three-jobs-at-once, career-driven, cream cheese crackers for dinner kind of mom…..

    But what we have for one another is joy in our differences. We love and admire the differences in one another, and we talk about that all the time….like the afternoon shortly after my son was born and she ripped down purple and green curtains in his nursery left by the former homeowners (I was just going to leave them and let him be a euro-baby)….and in less than three hours returned to my house with gorgeous blue and green embroidered frog curtains and hung them up. I love that about her. I don’t want to be her, but I can love that she’s like that.

    And she loves my gregarious nature, my dreams, my ministry plans….and supports them even when she doesn’t understand me completely.

    We challenge one another, but it’s in an atmosphere of love. And I am so thankful for that! It’s a rare friend that you can be a mom with and be just a girl with. It’s amazing, and I cherish it.

    Turn-offs? fakeness, sugar-coated judgmentalism, Pollyanna tendencies, and women who can’t tell it like it really is. Unless we can get real with one another, how can we possibly get along?

    Reply

  16. Posted by April G. on July 12, 2009 at 7:33 am

    This is such a great conversation! I feel like I agree with almost everything everyone said, but I am in the same place as Laura S. I spent a good part of my life having exciting life experiences, getting an education, and focusing on my career. I really miss those things sometimes, but for the past six years I have been completely consumed with a new relationship, getting married, and having two children quickly. Now I am just starting to come out of the fog and realizing I have lost some important relationships in my life, and I need to cultivate new ones. I love the mom conversations. I think I connect most with moms who can have those conversations and others seemlessly. They are honest about their struggles as a mom and are wanting to be better moms too. I think I am also really drawn to moms I respect and want to learn from. Even though we are different, we can appreciate eachother without judgement.

    It has taken me a few days to respond to this blog as we have been very busy. I read it and have been contemplating it since. The other night (after reading the blog) I got to go on a very rare double date to dinner and a play at the Guthrie (one of the nation’s best theaters). We got free tickets from rich family members. 🙂 I asked another couple to go with us who I feel like both of us connect with well. I love this other mom because she is all of the things we’ve been talking about. I have a lot in common with her, but we are also different. We respect those things about eachother, learn from eachother, and enjoy talking about a range of subjects. Though our conversations often focus around children (we both have two young ones), it doesn’t always stay there. I tested this on our date the other night, chosing to be more aware of what we were talking about. Like most of you said, am also drawn to moms who are vulnerable, honest, and deep. This was also what first really attracted me to my husband. I love the conversations on this blog because I think we have a lot of that here as well. And, I can read and attempt to write while caring for children. I am longing for the day when I’ll have more time to develop relationships. Someday… (right now I am singing variations of “Who Let the Dogs Out” with my son. “Who let the bees out – buzz buzz buzzz buzz” hard to concentrate.)

    Reply

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