While I was reading about the importance of friendships in motherhood the other day, it had me thinking about how fortunate I feel to have mine. I wanted to share some of the ways I try to keep my friendships strong, especially now that I am a mother. I know the topic of friendships as a mother can be a sensitive one. Many women find it hard to have relationships, to make new friends, or to keep up their existing friendships once they have children. It's important to remember that as individuals, we all have different needs. Some of us are extroverts that get our energy from being around others while some of us are introverts that gain our energy from more alone time. I really don't think there is a right or wrong way, but I do believe it is important to stay true to yourself. My friendships are everything to me. I don't know where I would be without them. I am so blessed with the friends I have, and I try always to let them know what they mean to me and how much I value them. Below I'm sharing six ways I do just that.
Check-In When it comes to relationships, I think we can often feel like sending a text, or an email just isn't good enough. Why bother if we can't spare time for a long conversation or coordinate some face time? But in my experience, I have found that if you don't send those texts now and then to touch base, you wake up months later and realize a lot of time has gone by and you haven't spoken. Don't get me wrong. I think face time and long conversations are very important and necessary. But don't underestimate the power of letting someone know that you are there. Even if you don't have time to talk or make plans soon, tell them you are thinking of them and update them a little with what is going on in your life.
Get Creative This is another area where expectations can prevent us from getting out there. As a mother, it can be hard to get time alone, nap schedules interfere, or you are just flat out exhausted and have no desire to socialize. This is where getting creative can help. If you have to make plans that involve your kids, plan to go somewhere that your kids can entertain themselves a little. A walk through the woods, grab a coffee and meet up in the park, or bring a latte over to a friends house and let your kids run around. We have some friends that we frequently make dinner plans with, and now that we all have kids the dinners look different than before. We used to get together for long dinner parties that would go into the late hours and stay up drinking wine. Now when we get together, we sometimes cook and let the kids stay up late, we grab something to go and have a picnic in a park, or we order delivery at someone's house. Get together. It doesn't really matter what you do. Just do something. Go walking together, grab wine, or go grocery shopping together. There are a lot of fun ways to spend time together, and I'm sure lots of ways you haven't thought of before.
Be Flexible Hear me out on this one! Your immediate reaction is probably that you simply do not have the ability to be flexible right now, and maybe that is true for you in the season of life you are currently in. But that's the thing about relationships. We are all going through different seasons. I have friends who have children and friends who don't. There have been many times throughout my journey with motherhood that I didn't have much flexibility to give. When I was deep in postpartum depression after Fox, I never wanted to leave the house. With Birdie, she never took a bottle, which meant I always needed to be around when she would want to nurse. I was lucky enough to have friends who would offer to meet me at any time to grab a drink or have a late dinner. I would nurse Birdie before she went down for bed and rush out the door to meet them. Now that my life grants me more flexibility because I'm not breastfeeding and my kids are fine to do their evening routine with Daniel, I try to be that person for other people. For the most part, I am a homebody, but if I have a friend who has to be home to nurse and put their baby down and can't meet me until 8:30 or later I will absolutely do it. Every once in a while won't kill me, and it means I get to spend time with people that maybe I otherwise wouldn't be able to. I think it's as life ebbs and flows we should give more when we can. On the opposite side, we should be honest with our friends during the seasons we need more and have less to offer. I have had to be late to events more times than I can count and had leave dinners early plenty of times, but I have friends who don't mind. In the same way, I don't mind when they have to do the same thing. In the end, we just enjoy being together, however that looks.
Small Gestures There is nothing that makes me feel as good as giving the people I love gifts or making a gesture of some kind. It doesn't have to be anything big or expensive either. One of my favorite things is mail, yes mail! I love mailing people cards for holidays and for no reason at all. I've gotten cards from friends on days that I really needed a little pick-me-up, and they were the best surprises. I mail little packages to friends, and their reactions always make it worth it. If they live in the same area as you, surprise them with their favorite coffee, or if it's a long distance friend, send them $5 and tell them to treat themselves to one. This is another area to get creative in. Again, I don't think you can ever go wrong with a little handwritten card telling someone how much they mean to you. Even if they live in the same area as you, it will brighten their day so much.
Offer Help Whenever and wherever you can, offer your help. Offer to hold their kids while they eat or shower, to run errands for them, or to go sit on their couch after the kids are in bed to talk and be together. It can be hard for most people to accept help, myself included, so be sure to remind them from time to time you are willing and that you mean it. Keep showing up! We all know how grateful we are when people have lent us a helping hand. On that same note, accept help when it is offered. It can be hard, but usually people who are offering are doing it because they genuinely want to, and it makes them feel good to be a part of your life in that way.
Honesty, Understanding & Support These are the most important parts of any relationship. I think it can be extra hard when you become a mother because it can feel like you are constantly being judged. I have seen a lot of articles where people share that it can be hard to find women that have their same parenting styles, which prevents them from forming relationships. I can see how that would be a barrier, but that is true in all types of relationships, not just mothers. For me, it's not important that we do everything the same. I have friends that breastfeed, friends that formula feed, friends that co-sleep, friends that sleep train, basically friends that fall all over the place for all sorts of things. What I care about is that we are kind, supportive, and understanding of one another. In the end, what matters to me is that my friends and their families are happy and healthy, both mentally and physically. I really believe that as mothers, we all want the best for our families and that each person and family has different needs, which we need to remember. We will all take different paths to achieve happiness for our families, but that doesn't mean that we can't support and be there for one another, even if those paths look differently. Bottom line - always be honest. If you know that in the coming weeks you won't be able to be as present as you would like, let your friends know. If you are having a hard time and need help, or maybe don't feel like sharing, let your friends know. Show up and support one another.