Can I be your friend?”
Making friends came pretty naturally to me when I was a young, outgoing little kid. My strategy was simple and straight to the point. I’d say, “Hi, I’m Peggy. Want to be my friend?” Usually that worked.
Friendliness + confidence + a desire to connect = friendship.
It was a simple equation.
Friendship is a lot more complicated for adults and many of us are much lonelier than we ever want to admit.
Friendship has gotten way more complex over the years. In part, this is inevitable thanks to all the commitments and stressors that typically come hand-in-hand with adulthood. And, once I became a mom, the situation became even more challenging. All those mom friends I dreamt of did not suddenly appear out of thin air.
Looking back at my first year of motherhood, I can still feel the abiding ache of loneliness that filled most of my days. I was a full-time, stay-at-home-mom the first six months of Everson’s life and after that I worked one day a week, but was still home for most of my days.
On one hand, I was desperate to get out of the house to connect with humans who could actually talk to me, but on the other hand I often felt too overwhelmed by trying to plan things around Everson’s nap schedule. Needless to say, we spent way more time at home than was probably healthy.
I was only 25 when I had Everson and most of my peers were not yet in the baby stage of life. While my friends were working 9-5 jobs, I was changing poopy diapers and getting spit up on ALL of my clothes. There were so many new things I was going through emotionally and physically that I longed to connect with other women about. I felt so alone and constantly wondered things like “Is this normal?” and “What am I doing wrong? I must be doing something wrong?” I also often thought, “Does this amount of crying mean he has colic or does my baby just hate life or…?”
I ended up joining a breastfeeding support group and my husband and I liked to call my friends from that group my “breast-friends” (because we are exceedingly mature). I also made some more mama friends along the way while we were in Colorado for which I am very thankful!
While we ended up making some wonderful friendships with people in the same season of life as we were in, we still never really connected with a cohesive “group” of people while we lived there. Once we decided to move to Michigan in early 2015, I realized I had a blank slate to start again in the friendship department.
I determined to do three things that really ended up being beneficial for me:
First, I decided to prioritize the whole “making friends” thing. I determined before moving that I was going to put in the effort to make good friends. It’s hard to do this when you’re an adult and life’s responsibilities pile up. It feels even more insurmountable once you gain the 24/7 job of parenting a totally dependent little one. Nonetheless, I knew this was important enough to make a top priority.
I also decided I would join something–a Bible study, play date group, book club, neighborhood association, etc.–whatever I needed to do to get plugged in locally.
And, most importantly, I determined in my heart to be 100% myself in any social situation I was in. As a people-pleaser, I have a not-so-very-life-giving tendency of being a social chameleon sometimes. I often read how I think someone would want me to act or what they’d like to hear and I find myself acting like that rather than just being me.
I am so grateful to be able to say that prioritizing those things and putting in the time and energy to seek out authentic, close friendships really did pay off. I’m in a season right now where my heart is quite full from strong female friendships and I could not be more thankful. Believe me, when I say that I have also been on the other side of the equation feeling lonely and longing for more connection.
If you find yourself in a current season of loneliness, first of all, I want you to know my heart is with you. Know that you are not alone and, in fact, SO MANY women (and men) around you are experiencing the same exact thing. I also want to share five things I would encourage you to try putting into practice. These five things have benefited my life greatly and I’m excited to share them with you all.
- Make it a priority. Life is busy and time moves fast. If you don’t make friendship a big priority, it’s probably not going to happen.
- Get involved. One huge component to satisfying friendships is consistency, which again is a big reason why friendship was simpler for many of us when we went to school and saw the same people every day. Joining a book club, play date group or Bible study is a fantastic way to build friendship and allows you to see the same people consistently. I made many of my close friends through MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers), which is an awesome organization for any SAHM moms with littles. My husband and I also plugged in to a couples’ small group through our church, which has been a big game-changer for us. We meet twice a month with our small group and it’s really become a place for deeply close community for both of us.
- Put yourself out there.This is possibly the most important thing, in my opinion. You can be involved in a hundred things and see the same people each week, but if you never exhibit any vulnerability you probably won’t develop satisfying, meaningful friendships. I remember when I first moved to Grand Rapids, I really put myself out there a lot. It’s a bit scary to meet a mom at the park and ask for her digits, but if you feel like you’re hitting it off just go for it! (Yes, I realize making mom-friends sounds a lot like dating. Ha!) One night I really wanted to go see a movie, so I decided to send a group text out to about 10-20 women to see if anyone was free. I pretty much texted anyone in Grand Rapids who’s number I had saved saying “I know this is last minute, but would any of you want to ditch your kid’s bedtime tonight and meet me for a movie?” No one was able to join me, but all the ladies responded back with so much warmth and kindness that it didn’t feel like a total fail. All that to say, sometimes everyone might say “no,” but don’t let that deter you. Keep putting yourself out there! I can’t imagine that it won’t eventually pay off.
- Look for other people who need friends, too. A lot of my close friends here in Grand Rapids, moved to the area near(ish) to the time that we moved. We all kind of “found” each other while we were in a similar season of looking for friendship. If you’re looking to strike up a friendship with someone, seek out people that seem to be in a similar place. It’s commonsense, but sometimes we forget practical things like that.
- Learn about friendship. We often think that being a good friend or making a good friend should be intuitive, but it doesn’t always come naturally. I’ve really been loving Jen Hatmaker’s podcast “For The Love.” She just kicked off the podcast with a series on friendship and I highly recommend giving it a listen. My favorite episode so far was episode number three when she interviewed Shasta Nelson. Shasta has done tons of research on friendship and she should be your go-to girl if you want to learn more about this topic! One point Shasta made that really resonated with me was this:
“I think that most of us think that there’s nothing to learn about friendship or we think or feel shame if we think that we need to learn something.” -Shasta Nelson
This topic matters you guys and I bet it strikes a chord with some of you reading this. If that’s you, leave a comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know how I might be able to help support you right now. And if you try any of these ideas out, I’d love to hear how it goes!
Let’s go make a friend! :)