Motherhood

5 Ways to Nurture Friendships Between Mothers and Childfree Women

The Johnson and Johnson commercials have made popular that saying  that “having a baby changes everything”, and while this statement rang true from the moment I got that little plus sign on the stick, what I didn’t expect were the ways that having a baby would change my life outside of my own home. 

I reasonably expected my home to be taken over by a baby: my sleep to be disrupted, my wardrobe and style tastes to change to accommodate said tiny human and their tendency to spit up on my shirt or try to climb a bookcase (on which occasion you’d better be wearing comfortable shoes so you can sprint across the house fast enough to catch them without breaking an ankle). 

What I didn’t expect to change was my ability to connect with women who were not mothers. As another old saying goes, “Like attracts like” and before I realized what was happening, for one reason or another, most of my female relationships were comprised of other young mothers. (Not that that is a bad thing. After all,  motherhood is a team sport and there is a need to connect with someone who shares your perspective and can say “me too”. ) Friendships outside your current life stage are so valuable. However, it’s not been easy to connect with those that no longer share my schedule (which involves getting up with the dawn and a forced afternoon homebound time for naps) or affinity for restaurants with play spaces. But as I have travelled along this path of motherhood, my desire, and need, for connection with women who have a different perspective, who see me first as Amanda and then “Noah’s mom” has also grown.  Admittingly, I do not know what it’s like to be on the childfree/less side of things. My friend, Krystal, has written a blog post from that perspective, which I will link here when it is published and I encourage you to check it out. She encourages friends to respect boundaries and needs, but to not let that stop you from engaging with one another and being a life-giver.

What can it look like to maintain a friendship with a childfree/less friend? This is something I am still working on, but here are some thoughts I’ve had about making it work.

  1. Make sure to let childfree/less friends know that their friendship is still valued. I have not been great about this. It can be easy to get swept up in all the changes that a baby brings and it can be really hard to rise above those waves and grab on to any semblance of normalcy, especially during that first year. I could do a better job of letting my childfree/less friends know that although I am overwhelmed by this change right now, they are still an important part of my life
  2. Check in with your friends about how things are changing and how it makes each of you feel.  Change is never easy, but it can be made more difficult when we are unwilling to accept it. When changes come, as it so often does when kids enter the picture (and keeps changing as they grow through the stages of life) relationships have the potential to grow and change, too, if you let them. 
  3. Keep the line of communication open and think the best of one another. All too often, relationships fall apart because communication becomes difficult or because of a perceived hurt. I may not speak for all moms, but I think most of us would say “please don’t give up on me.” We need adult interaction. We may not be able to go out the way we once did or meet up at the same times or text back in the same time frame (or at all), but please don’t stop trying. It’s not you, it’s my brain. Express your concerns over a cup of coffee, offer to meet me in a kid-friendly place, adjust expectations, but please don’t give up. We may need you now more than ever.  There are several apps out there for sending messages besides just texts, Voxer and Marco Polo are two of my most-used apps now that I can only seem to communicate with others in fits and spurts in between wiping butts and noses and countertops (there’s a lot of wiping going on these days…). I could do a better job of reaching out (and know that I am so hoping my childfree/less friends will reach out to me, but I fear imposing on their ‘cool’ lives). 
  4. For my mom friends: don’t give in to the temptation to shut people out. Express your needs to your friends and you might find them more receptive than you anticipate. Also, try to remember that you are sleep-deprived and your needs may have changed. It’s okay to communicate that to your friends. This isn’t forever, you are in a new season. It’s okay to ask friends to meet you at your house during nap time if that is easier for you. It’s okay to suggest a girls’ night in or a spa day. Things are changing, but that doesn’t mean you have to figure it all out on your own. Prioritize friend time. Schedule it if you need to, but don’t fall prey to the lie that you’ve got to go at this alone. 
  5. Allow people to see your mess. This is tough in general, but when you become a parent, I feel like a whole other layer is added to the desire to hide your mess.  When we invest in one another’s lives, our ‘real-selves’ are exposed, but my real mom-self is also unrested like never before and constantly forgetting one thing or the other. Not only that, but I feel like  there is more to be self-conscious about than before. Now, I have the added pressure of measuring up to everyone’s ideas about what a mother should look like and prioritize and do. Will my childfree/less friends be shocked by how messy my floors are? Will they not want to sit on furniture that has spit-stains and an inexplicable layer of stickiness? Will they want to try to come over for a chat when we will be frequently interrupted (where at least 50% of the time it will involve a bodily function) and we will need to tune out the noise of tiny children playing pretend at the only volume they know how: loud? It makes me nervous.

Life with kids is a beautiful adventure, but it’s also an in-depth study on the messiness of humanity. Will my childfree/less friends want to be a part of that?

Honestly, I wish I had more childfree/less friends. Their perspective is refreshing. Currently, I can get pretty saturated in the stage of life that I am in (raising children) and the risk is high that this stage will become all-consuming. I miss having conversations that are not all about what the kids are up to. It would be nice to connect with other women as a woman myself and not just as a mother. Simply having a friend come over and share a meal with my kids and I, especially when my husband isn’t able to make the meal, like lunch times or when he is working late, would make such a huge difference to me (and my kids!) 

What do you think? Do you have children? Has the make-up of your friendships changed because of that? How can we make more of an effort to develop meaningful friendships with women who are outside of our life stage? I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas!

Miscarriage, Motherhood

Jesus and the Bleeding Woman

I like to think of myself as a fairly logical person. I want proof for things I cannot see. I want someone to give me evidence for their opinions or thoughts. I frequently ask “why”? But that doesn’t mean I am heartless, as I have been accused. In fact, if anything, it has taken me many years to learn how to guard my heart so that emotions do not completely over take me (and I am still very much learning).

It has been two weeks and three days since we lost our baby and this has been the longest few weeks I’ve experienced in awhile. I feel like years have passed me by and yet I remain in the same space, doing the same chores, making the same meals, sticking to the same routine as before. It’s a strange place. Nothing much has changed, but it should have. It should have changed a baby’s worth. Continue reading “Jesus and the Bleeding Woman”

Miscarriage, Motherhood, Poetry

Invisible Mothers

There is a place somewhere
Between letting go and
Holding on
Where she exists.

She is your neighbor
Your grocer
Your friend
Your banker
Your Sunday School teacher
Your high school classmate

She is the lady next to you
In church.

She is the invisible mother

Sometimes she’s holding the hand
Of her visible children
Sometimes her arms are deceptively empty

But both carry the weight of an invisible child

Of children

Unmet

Unseen

She carries on

She carries her child with her
Everywhere.

No one sees

Because she is an invisible mother.

She is so many of us
That reaches out, that sees.
Through the darkness
The cloak
And offers her hand, her achingly empty arms to say

I see you.
I am you.
Me too.

And together, the invisible mothers
See
And are damn strong.

Miscarriage, Motherhood

How am I feeling?

How am I feeling? It’s been a week, am I feeling better? Has life moved on? Do I need anything?

The shortest answer I’ve been able to come up with when my dear, sweet friends and well-meaning acquaintances ask me how I am doing is “things are weird right now.”

They are weird because I feel everything. All of it.

I feel sad.

because of course I do. I lost a child. I lost it in my home, unexpectedly, before I could even wrap my mind around the idea of that child completely, but after I had started to plan for that child and love it.

I feel angry.

because who wouldn’t? I am angry in a weird way, though. I am angry at nothing really in particular. I am angry that God doesn’t clearly and audibly speak to me. I know that for the majority of human history, it has been this way and that people have gone centuries between ANYONE hearing from God, but that logic doesn’t remove the longing from my heart to hear my Father’s voice.

I am angry that the way my husband is grieving is different than the way I am grieving. Although, I also know this is silly because his difference is one (major) reason I love him. Whereas I am a passionate flame that burns quickly and brightly, hopping from one project to the next, throwing my full self into everything and seeing every hill as one to die on (I’m working on that…), he is a slow and steady discipline. He always takes the long view and paces himself accordingly. And I love that. But right now, although I need him to be the pillar of strength that he is, I sometimes wish to see that I am not the only one with strong feelings.

I am angry that I don’t know what this all means. Or if it has any meaning. I feel like I was a part of a slight of hand show. “Surprise! Look over there! What is that? Surprise! Now it’s gone!” because of that:

I feel shaken.

I feel frustrated with my body.

As a woman, I’ve had mixed feelings about my body my entire life and now that I am in my thirties, I am appreciating it more than I critique it, but I also feel like I still don’t know what it’s doing on how to treat it.

And right now, I despise getting dressed. This was going to be my fourth baby, so my body reacted accordingly and “gave in” to pregnancy. A week after losing my baby, I am still a little swollen. My clothes don’t fit and it makes me mad that I have to deal with that when the reason for them not fitting is gone. TMI for the squeamish among you: but I am also still bleeding heavily and that is heartbreaking and frustrating. As one of my dear friends lamented “it is so hard to watch life leave your body.” Every trip to the bathroom is a reminder of the death I recently endured.

And yet, the weird part is, I feel mostly normal. I am carrying on, preparing for all the classes I am teaching this fall. I am cleaning my house and continuing with home projects I had begun. I am exercising. I am not cooking again just yet, but I am close. (Cooking is a joyful experience for me, but right now, for some reason I find the creating of food…that simple pleasure of turning ingredients into something else entirely to be difficult to approach.)

I feel guilty.

I feel guilt when I am feeling normal. Shouldn’t I still be sad? Or should I? How do people expect me to behave right now? Why do I care what people expect?

I feel shame.

I feel shame because I have three beautiful children whom I adore. Who am I to mourn the loss of one that I never got to meet? And yet, I feel shame for not honoring this very real life. Because if I don’t acknowledge this very real loss, what does that say about this life, the beginnings of life, and the grief of those who have also felt this loss?

I feel embarrassed.

because I feel like everyone is looking at me and thinking I am broken. I know this is (mostly) not true. But there you have it.

Feelings generally don’t care about what is true.

I also feel grateful.

I am grateful for the community that has lifted us up in prayer, has fed my family when I couldn’t find the strength to care about food, has told me that they are thinking of us and given me tearful hugs and just listened to me tell my story. I am grateful for you all. I wouldn’t have made it through “mostly okay” without you all.

I feel pangs of longing.

I love love love all my pregnant friends and the ones with newborns and please hear me say I harbor NO ill will or feelings towards you. I love you and I rejoice with you and I pray and hope that everything goes well with you. If it can’t go well with me, I so want it to go well for you and I am cheering you on and praying for you and your child.

But … a part of my stupid brain whispers “I should be pregnant right now, too”, “we should be in this together”, “I should be getting to hold my baby soon”. And I hate that part of my brain because it is not helpful in the least. But please, dear friends, don’t hold back, don’t tip toe around me. I am mostly okay and I really want to be there for you as well, but also please forgive me if I avert my eyes from you or seem to dodge you sometimes, those are times when my brain is being stupid.

I feel sad, angry, shaken, frustrated, mostly normal, guilty, shame, embarrassed, grateful, and pangs of longing.

In short, I’m in a weird place.