Friends. Who Needs ’Em?
Well, me, for one.
Though we waited until we were nearly thirty, my husband and I were the first in our little group of friends to have children. The first, and the only for several years. Those friends’ lives went on, but ours…well, ours came to a screeching halt. No more spontaneous trips to the races or staying out all night. I mean, we were parents. We had to be adults and, you know, do the adulting.
After our daughter was born I decided not to go back to work. I never thought I’d feel that way—I loved working, loved being around people, loved using my brain—but one look at her and I knew I couldn’t leave her.
So not only did I not have friends with similar life circumstances, I no longer had coworkers. My family lived three hours away. My husband worked a lot in order to support our growing family and enable me to stay home. I felt isolated and alone. I didn’t really have a support system. I went a little crazy.
What I needed was to get out of the house, to talk to another adult, to make mom friends. I had read about the Central Arkansas Library System’s Children’s Storytime, and began going to the Main Library once, sometimes twice a week. There I met other moms like me. Moms who hadn’t found the time to shower yet that day. Moms with applesauce on their shirts and spit up in their hair. Moms who were giddy with the prospect of having five minutes of adult conversation once the stories were read and the crafts packed away. Storytime was a lifesaver during this very difficult time in my life. I made dear, irreplaceable friends whom I love and depend on today.
Of course now, with three kids of my own and a nephew all under our roof, I look back and think what did I do with my time? But I digress. That first child, that initial life change, that learning curve—those are tough adjustments. Tough.
We’ve all heard “It takes a village to raise a child,” and the adage is as true today as when it was first spoken. “Community” is so important, whether that source of community is our churches, our neighborhoods, our schools or our adopted families. Besides a support system, communities—and within them other moms—are a rich source of information and history, which are essential in child rearing.
New moms have a million questions from “Are all kids such terrible sleepers?” (yes) to “Is breastfeeding this hard for everyone?” (yes) to “Does this rash look weird to you?” (Ew. Yes. Call your doctor.)
I recently read something by Glennon Doyle Melton about the term “sistering.” Sistering is a word used by carpenters to describe reinforcing a joist so that it can withstand a heavy load and support an overall structure. But sometimes a joist must bear such a heavy load that it begins to weaken. When this happens, the carpenter fastens a supporting board to one side of the weakening joist to strengthen it. If that’s not strong enough, another board is added to the opposite side. This finished product, that reinforced beam, can bear any load. To paraphrase Ms. Melton, when life’s burden becomes too heavy to bear alone, “sistering” or having support by our sides, can help strengthen us and hold us together. Isn’t that lovely? Isn’t it true?
It’s impossible to navigate this stage in life alone. If you’re lucky, you don’t have to. But what if you’re not so lucky? What if your mother doesn’t live nearby, or you’re new to town? Where can you find this essential piece of life’s puzzle that is friendship? How do you even start to form a community?
You can meet new people at the library like I did. You can chat up other moms at the park—chances are they’re as desperate for camaraderie as you are. (True story: I once made a friend at TJ Maxx.) You could ask your church to start a new moms group. You can Google it. No, really. A quick Internet search for “Little Rock, moms, meet” resulted in seven different Meetup groups ranging from fit moms to an autism support group to mamas Latinas.
But the best way I know to have good friends is to be a good friend. This month—yes, the one reserved for sweethearts—let’s do something extra special for those dear friends, those “sisters” who support our heavy loads. We could even try to make new friends. You never know when the woman standing next to you in the grocery store is moments away from a sleep-deprived, isolation-induced breakdown. Maybe she could use a friend.
Jen Holman is often irreverent and frequently imperfect. But she’s happy, by God, and that’s what matters. She lives in Little Rock with her husband, three children and a nephew, striking that delicate balance between inspiration and frustration. Jen has published two novels under the pseudonym Jen Crane, the second of which was selected by iTunes/iBooks as “Our Pick” in fantasy sci-fi.