Friendships in motherhood are tricky
Recently I got to know the shows listeners better by running some polls and questions in the Story section. The results were pretty phenomenal - not only because I felt the same was as many, but because it was breaking this empaths heart that women are struggling in this area.
I was young when I became a mum, which I found excluded me from a lot of groups. I didn't fit in with my friends who weren’t yet at married or baby stage, or with the other mums at church who were on their third or fourth babies and I was a struggling first time mum. Mothers group was pretty great until the one year mark and majority had returned to work and that just fizzled out. As I think back though, I think I was putting too much on the friendships I was seeking out.
I’ve found it tricky to navigate friendships as a mum. Not only is it hard to find someone you get along with, and has a similar work or nap schedule, but our kids' relationship impacts us too. Ultimately though, I think the hardest thing is that there’s two needy women who are catching up and unloading on each other.
Motherhood IS hard. We are pushed to the end of ourselves every day. We have big hurts, big wounds open, big questions, big fears, big failures. Everything feels weighty. And we need help.
So when two women are catching up, it’s very easy to use this space to debrief, unload and share our grief and burdens with each other. Which - how beautiful and wonderful it is that we can do?!
But sometimes, it can feel too much.
I want to carry my friends and ease their burdens. I’d love to step in and save them, or at least help, if I can. Make meals, watch kids… give me something I can do to fix you!
But, I can’t.
I am not strong enough to carry my own burdens, let alone theirs as well.
Sometimes, we want our friends to do this for us too.
We want them to step in and fill the aches and pains we’re feeling.
Sometimes, I think we can put too much on our friends.
I find when I’m noticing this in myself - whether that’s being the fixer, or wanting my friends to fix - I stop and align my thinking.
How am I trying to do God’s job here?
What am I called to?
Is this what the bible says, or am I taking it too far?
It is biblical for me to want to serve my friend, to walk with her during times of adversity, to listen and comfort and empathise.
More often than not, I put myself in place of God.
To really be a friend, I need to point her to only one who can truly carry, comfort and console her. Pray for her hurts to the only one who can heal them.
This is not an excuse to not step in and be a friend, to not actively seek out how I can serve her in her struggles. But it is a challenge for me to not be the “fixer”.
"Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.'
On the flip side, I have noticed that I unfairly put too much on my friends as well.
What I said is true, wounds are open, failures feel abundant, mental health is a challenge… and sometimes, I put too much expectations on my friends to “fix” me, or my problems. It’s unfair of me to put them in God’s role.
I actually do have a lot that I need to process. To chat through and figure out my hurts and pain, what I think and feel, and strategies to cope with it all.
A huge part of my healing, of dealing with recurrent sin in my life, has been with a counsellor in talk therapy. In therapy, I have a safe place to process and understand what’s going on with someone who is trained to handle my emotions, can guide or offer insight that furthers my thoughts and beliefs.
I feel better because I’m not carrying a heavy emotional load on my own, there is clarity to questions I’ve had for years, and understanding into myself and why I think and act as I do. I have someone to soundboard struggles we have in our parenting and a different perspective for my husband and I to consider. I’ve been taught how to communicate effectively, which has profound benefits in my marriage and friendships. I’ve been taught how to listen to other people and be empathetic.
People are often surprised to learn that I see a counsellor ever 2-3 weeks, and have for the last 5 years. It has changed my life.
And one of the most unexpected, yet beautiful benefits, is that it’s impacted my friendships.
I’ve taken those skills I’ve developed (and still developing) above and using them with my friend. Because my emotional turmoil has a safe space to be dealt with, it’s allowed room for me to be more open and have capacity to love and listen to my friends better.
I found that I used to get so overwhelmed, I’d pull back from investing in some friendships because it was tiring for me to handle their emotions. I hate admitting that publicly, but it’s true.
I find I now have capacity, and boundary setting skills, to lean into those friendships. To love them and lead them to Jesus. To step in and meet needs practically where I can, though this really does look different than before.
But more than that, I am not burdening my friends with the full force of my heartache. I am still walking and sharing what’s going on, but it’s from a much healthier and processed place. My intent is to love my friends by doing this, to not overwhelm her but give my burdens to the one who can carry them.
I hope and pray that I am serving her, and our friendship, well in doing this.
And so far, I can see it being a great thing for the relationships in my life.