Sometimes I collapse on the couch at the end of a long day and I just can’t shake it – this feeling of loneliness that creeps in and stays with me. How is it possible that I am lonely? I am never alone. I spend my days surrounded by kids or coworkers. It is the great paradox of motherhood – I long for ‘me time’, yet I long for connection just as much, if not more.
Every woman needs her tribe. Those few people who know you and love you in spite of yourself, who pick you up when you fall down and are the first to pat you on the back when you succeed – I need them. My tribe is my place of belonging. It’s just that I have been distant from my tribe for a long time – years even – and it’s starting to wear on me.
I have always been one of the guys. I enjoy playing and watching sports, and have never been into girly things. Looking back, I can see how this prepared me to raise boys. But, I need my girlfriends more than ever now. No one is better able to relate to me and where I am in life than the women I call my close friends.
If I have these friends, why am I so lonely? Time, responsibilities, family, career…they all pull us in differently directions and leave little to nothing for any semblance of a social life.
Growing up, you go to school with your friends. In college, you live with your friends. Before marriage, you work, but you have a cash flow (albeit small) that enables you to enjoy time with your friends. After marriage, there is less time, but there is still time. Once the kids come, you blink and realize that six months of your life has passed and you can’t remember if you have spoken to any of your friends in that time-frame.
Some of my friends began having kids a little bit before I did. I didn’t get it. Why can’t we just go out for coffee? Can’t you just keep the baby in the infant carrier? How hard can it be? Then I had a kid and realized that just meeting for a cup of coffee turns into a 57-step process that requires three weeks of advanced planning to pull off. And even then you aren’t guaranteed to be able to keep this simple social engagement. If you are like me, then you found yourself just staying isolated in your own little world because it becomes easier than the extreme effort it takes to leave the house. It’s not that I didn’t want to see or spend time with my friends – I desperately did – it’s just that demand, after demand seemed to pile up on my plate and my relationships were the first things to go.
I have found that the best thing we can give each other as women is grace. Grace in our friendships to know that because we haven’t heard from one another in a while does not mean that the love and caring is no longer there. Grace to realize that this too shall pass – it won’t always be this crazy.
My friends are grace-givers. I pray that I am a grace-giver. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that if something happened and I needed my girlfriends to come to my side, that they would drop everything and be there. I can still depend on my tribe and that is amazing. They don’t hold it against me when we haven’t talked in a while or haven’t shared that precious cup of joe. I try to do the same thing because I finally get it now.
Just last week I was having a day. You know, one of those days. As soon as I put the kids to bed, I myself crawled under the covers and prayed that God would give me the strength to deal with everything. And I prayed that God would help me to feel connected to others again – that I could find the time and energy to be with friends.
Shortly thereafter I fell asleep. When I woke up in the morning, I saw that I had missed a text from a friend. She said she was just thinking about me and wanted to see how things were going. The text was sent about ten minutes after I had poured my heart out in prayer. Coincidence? I think not – that’s a God-thing. I responded honestly and said that I was overwhelmed and would appreciate her prayers and that I missed her greatly. She promised to pray for me and I believe her. I know she cares and I know those weren’t just empty words sent to my phone.
That’s the second best thing we can do for our tribe – remain honest. I didn’t have to share that I was overwhelmed, but it was the truth and hiding it wouldn’t get me anywhere. I don’t need to feign perfection around these women, or pretend that I can do it all – no one is buying that lie. Like I said, I know she cares and I know that she genuinely prays for me. Not only that, but these women are willing to give me tough love if I need it. I trust them to speak the truth to me, even if it is hard to hear. If my relationships aren’t authentic, then my loneliness will never be eased.
Honesty also provides an opportunity to give and receive encouragement. I don’t know about you, but at this stage in my life, I feel like I need an awful lot of encouragement. I’m talking about an insane amount of encouragement. Most of my closest friends are in the same stage as I am – young kids, figuring out how to keep our husbands first, maybe juggling a career, definitely juggling housework. It can be rough, but we need each other.
I’ve often heard it said that “it takes a village to raise a child.” Frankly, I don’t want the village to raise my child because I don’t agree with all that the village does. However, I do believe that it takes a village to encourage a woman. It doesn’t matter if our beliefs or viewpoints on parenting differ, I can still offer encouragement and a shoulder to lean on. Also, encouragement shouldn’t be limited to just mothers. Some of the people in our lives who could use the most encouragement from us might be the ones in waiting – waiting for marriage, waiting for children, waiting for careers. Those can be incredibly difficult and lonely times.
I have seen encouragement come to me from different angles. It has come from the mom with kids the same age as mine. It has come from the woman at church who has been there and done that but has been a mentor to me in many ways. It has come from a fellow working mother with a heaping pile of responsibilities on her plate. Encouragement is a miracle worker and it can be so simple. I mean, that text that I received didn’t take a lot of effort, but it was still sincere and it meant so much to me. Reaching out to my girlfriends does not need to be this elaborate thing. The connection has already been made; I just need to acknowledge that connection.
Recently, I have had friends come out of the woodwork to reach out to me. One woman noticed that I needed a pick-me-up and sent me a care package in the mail. Amazing! Another dear friend had a gift certificate to a salon that she offered to share with me. Not only did we get to pamper ourselves (rare), but we desperately needed that time together. It was what I like to call ‘soul therapy.’ There is something so special about meeting the needs of others, especially when you don’t even realize that you ministered to them exactly when they needed it the most.
Realistically, I can’t go and hang out with my friends all the time. I can’t afford to have a weekend away and I can’t meet for play dates in the middle of the day. But, it’s not always going to be this way. My kids won’t always be as needy as they are now and someday I might be able to afford a girls weekend. And when that day comes, I know that my tribe will be there waiting with arms wide open to welcome me back and pick up right where we left off because I will do the same for them.