When we finally brought our son home from neonatal intensive care and my husband had the gall to go back to work and leave me alone with our four-pound floppy baby, I felt overwhelmed.
I’m not the only one, right?
Young mothers are shriveling up into crusty dried raisins of despair. Every minute feels like forever when your two-year-old wants to put on her own socks and your five-year-old won’t get in the bathtub. When you’re a mom, you spend hours and hours sitting with other moms while your kids kick a soccer ball, learn how to blow bubbles in the pool and shake maracas at music class.
You bat eyes at each other and glance away. It’s awkward and someone always needs a diaper change and no one ever knows what to say. And most of us are frazzled and lonely, isolated in our minivans, schlepping bags, strollers and munchkins to and fro across town.
You need some mom friends. Some “momlationships,” if you will. Just a few other women who get it, who like you, who want the best for you. Friends who will encourage and laugh and drink coffee with you while your kids all play with Duplos and learn how to share.
Making mom friends can feel awkward and it’s hard to muster up the emotional energy to put yourself out there. You may find yourself wondering, “Why bother?”
Here are five reasons why it’s important to have mom friends:
1. You need to be known.
One of the basic needs that we have is to be known, and not just known, but understood. In The Gifts of Imperfection, Brene Brown writes,
“We cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and known, and when we honor the spiritual connection that grows from that offering with trust, respect, kindness and affection.”
We want people to know us and we want to know other people. In a world of selfies and status updates, we’re longing for something deeper.
2. You need grace.
I want friends who extend me grace when I don’t quite say something the right way, who know what I mean, who understand my idiosyncrasies and weirdness and still want to be my friend because they see something in me worth knowing. And I want to do the same for them.
I have an overzealous gag reflex that’s actually getting worse with age. When my kids throw up, it’s all I can do not to join them, like I’m a contestant in the pie-eating contest from Stand By Me.
I wasn’t always this wimpy. My teeny preemie son couldn’t keep anything down for about the first 18 months of his life. Geysers of milk would erupt out of him, and somehow I survived. But now that he’s older and I’m removed from the daily dairysplosions, I’ve become a sympathy barfer.
When I met a friend for lunch and her two-year-old launched nuggets across the tile floor, I crawled underneath the table to get away, throwing over my shoulder, “I’ll go get a mop, some help, away.” This same friend has an adorable little wide-eyed baby, the most precious bundle of giggling bliss. And he spits up. A lot. I want to tell him, “Hon, your mama worked hard to make that liquid gold. Now keep it down!” Every time it comes back up, I have to turn my head and think about tea tree oil and eucalyptus and ocean breezes.
I’m a total loser. And I’m grateful for my friend who loves me even though I dry heave every time her baby spits up. If she was a new acquaintance, I’m pretty sure she’d break up with me, so praise God for close friends with all their grace and understanding.
3. You need safety.
You know each other’s strengths and weaknesses, and you encourage and shore up accordingly. Friendship is for opinions shared in safety, disagreements worked through lovingly and times when you just don’t have to explain.
There’s a code. No gossiping. Total trustworthiness. Grace for her quirks and failings. If she needs you, you’re there, whether it’s a texted prayer or a midnight vigil. Close friends snort-laugh together, cultivate inside jokes in the fertile soil of shared humor, and aren’t afraid to let each other know when there’s a wayward booger whistling in and out of a nostril or a stray piece of kale stuck between teeth.
4. You need support.
When your life falls off the edge and into a trench, close friends don’t just throw you a rope. They crawl down in the trench with you. If your marriage is on metaphorical life support, if your parent is on actual life support, if your kids are cracking at the center, if you’re fighting depression, demons or disaster, your friends wade into the muck and hold you up.
They are not our Jesus. But He can use them to speak truth into our lives and hold us together when we’re falling apart. My friends aren’t my Savior, but sometimes He uses them to point me to Him when I can’t find my way.
5. You need courage.
We need momlationships because they help us to be brave. They give us strength to stick up for our kids when they’re drowning in school, to chase the dreams that glitter like diamonds nestled in our souls, to fight for truth and justice for the kid down the street or the kid across the world. They remind us that we’re not alone, and we’re doing a good life’s work. My friends provide a safe place to wrestle with faith questions and marriage questions and parenting questions.
I believe that we are better together. We make each other better moms, better humans. We need each other, because mothering is just too darn hard.
Are you reading this going, “Sounds great, but how the heck do you develop friends like that?” Check out Melanie’s book Women Are Scary: The Totally Awkward Adventure of Finding Mom Friends at WomenAreScary.com.