10 Habits of Happy Mothers--Habit #2

If you haven't read my previous post, check it out to see where I am going with these habits. Each week, I'll touch on one of the ten habits, and this is the second week so I'm covering Habit # 2, which is "Maintain Key Friendships."

The previous chapter was about twenty pages long, full of small-font type, and I didn't get anything new until near the end of the chapter. The opposite is true for this one. Just a couple pages into this (also twenty page) chapter, a quote appeared that could have come from my own mind:

"A mother who feels lonely believes on some level that she is unlikable, even unlovable. She is too inept, stupid, disorganized, or messed up to be with." (10 Habits, Meeker, page 25).

Dr. Meeker goes on to discuss friendships, and how various types have effected her life, and the lives of other women, positively and negatively. Her overall point to the chapter is that women need friends, and we flounder in life without them. We need the emotional/relational connection afforded by women friends who are there for us no matter what happens to us or our lives.

The chapter ends with three suggestions to help us (women/moms) to make and keep friends in our lives:

1. Have an inner and an outer circle of friends:

This is important. I took this to mean that your inner "core" friends get to be there because they know you well and still love you. They have "earned" that place in your life by seeing you at your worst and still loving you. There are a couple of people in my life who have been that type of friend, but only one person -- Kathleen -- has seen me at my messiest, sinfully indulgent, selfishly-rebellious, raw-from-torn-asunder pain, and she (and her family) didn't consider me a burden, but welcomed me into her home and loved me...just loved me. (I'm bawling just remembering this.) Not once did Kathleen lecture me. She didn't say, "OMG! You shouldn't have done that!" She just loved me, and encouraged me. (And don't get me started on her step-Dad, Bud, or I'll really be bawling.) Kathleen has been a friend to me in a way that I've never experienced, and I hope that I've returned the favor, at least in some part.

2. Balance the types of friends you choose:

Not everyone you meet can be an "inner" circle friend. One warning that I'll give with regard to friendships is to guard your heart and your mouth. During an especially difficult time in my life, which I can only sum up with the word "despair," I confided some painful things to a few people in my "outer" friend circle simply because they are Christians. I was rewarded with lectures about selfishness, and looking to God not man, etc. While I'm making it sound harsher than it was spoken, the words might as well have been hot pokers stuck in my guts when they were said. Dr. Meeker cautions against this very thing. Outer friends are for lighthearted fun and encouragement; inner friends will help you pick up the pieces when your life falls apart. Choose your friends prayerfully and wisely, or you can get profoundly wounded.

3. Love a friend better than you know how:

Dr. Meeker's main point here is that maintaining friendships takes work. Just like we have to work at keeping close to our husbands (it doesn't just "happen" because we live and walk through life together), we need to make and schedule time to cultivate friendships. Don't wait for a friend to call you--reach out to her. If she can't get together, send her a card and tell her you love her and miss her. Or just tell her you prayed for her that day. Let her know you are thinking of her. Making an effort to show that the friendship is important to you will help her to see that it is worth making time to get together. No one likes a one-way relationship where you do all the giving and the friend does all the taking. Yes, there are seasons in life where friendships lean that way, but for it to be the way all the time can be exhausting for the giver, who may decide to just give up on the friendship one day.

Speaking of seasons, I'll sum up my thoughts about friendships this way--sometimes friends come and go out of your life because of differences in your lives. Maybe you have young children and hers are grown, or you stay at home and she works, or whatever differences there are, you don't have as much in common. At times like these, friends, the ones who aren't die-hard friends, will back off from you. And the temptation exists for us to be one of the backer-offers, to withdraw when someone we were close with enters a new phase in life that we don't know or understand. Take these times to God and pour out your heart to him.

I have a friend who has been in and out of my life for over twenty years now. Once she became a Christian, I thought we'd stay close forever. But I've offended her somehow (she admitted the offense but didn't tell me what it was), and now she's withdrawn from me. Sometimes, no matter what you do, people will be offended at you and pull away from your life. Don't fight that--give the pain and confusion to God, and He will work it all out. None of it surprises Him anyway, and it may be part of His plan for you, a way to get you to see things from a different perspective, away from the influence of that now-missing friend.