Ladies from all life stages have shared with me how hard it had been for them to find and grow authentic, deep friendships, especially in the years of raising littles. We struggle to find not only the time to pursue mom-mates, but also to find ways to grow these associations into deep, lasting relationships we can rely on instead of just acquaintances.
Even so, I believe that having ladies in our lives with whom we can share the good and the hard is extremely important. When I don’t have female friends, I’m quick to put the heavy burden of filling all my relational needs on my husband or family, and that’s just not fair to them or me. Growing a Mommy Mob is hard, but worth it and these practical tips to grow and deepen your mommy-army are things I’ve seen to be helpful as I navigate the confusing world of grownup friendship.
Seven Practical Ways To Grow And Deepen Your Mommy Mob
Don’t weigh down new friends with expectations.
Sometimes building the trust and comfort level will take time. It’s okay if things with a new friend are moving slowly because life is busy or it’s taking time for walls to be broken down. Don’t weigh your new pal down with expectations that they be for you what close chums have been in the past. Even if you do all you can to deepen and grow a friendship, sometimes these things just take time and relationships will develop slowly. Our mommyhood buddyhood might not grow as quickly and deeply as our childhood or college buddies, but they are still valuable and worth pursuing.
Fill silences with questions, not stories.
(And listen to understand; NOT to reply!)
When a silence in the conversation comes, it’s so easy to jump in with a silly story or anecdote about something that happened to us recently. This isn’t a horrible thing to do, but I find that conversation flows and deepens so much more when the silences are filled with questions. People love talking about themselves and asking someone a question about anything from their favorite restaurant to what life’s been like recently is a great way to show interest and deepen a relationship.
Be the first to be vulnerable.
It’s so scary and there’s no guarantees about how the person will respond, but if we aren’t willing to take risks and share our hearts, the friendship will never go anywhere. When relationships are growing, it’s so easy to want to wait for the other person to share their struggles or ask the perfect question that will give you a chance to share. But sometimes, we just have to swallow our pride and insecurities be the first one to be honest. Be the first to share and I can almost guarantee that you open the door for the other person to share too.
Ask open-ended questions.
If leading a conversation and asking questions is intimidating, there is absolutely no shame in brainstorming a few questions to ask before you hang out with someone. The key is to ask questions that give people a chance to answer honestly and share about things that they’re struggling with if they’re ready to do so. The question-starters below are a great place to start if you’re feeling lost about how to make a conversation go deeper. Think about what you know about this person and what’s going on in their life, and be bold enough to ask real questions about it!
Listen closely and ask “the second question.”
Being bold enough to ask the second, third, or even fourth followup questions can give someone the encouragement and space to be honest about how they’re doing. Sometimes we try our best to encourage conversation by sharing our own hearts and filling the silence with open-ended questions, but people still respond with their go-to answers like, “Oh we’re doing fine, just busy, you know?” or a vague answer like “Oh, things are always tough with little ones but we’re surviving.” These more surface-level answers are often the clue to what’s going on in people’s hearts. They give us a great chance to care for our friends by asking the “second question,” or a question that follows up and asks them to give more details.
If a friend says she’s been busy, I might ask what that’s been like for her or how she’s been feeling in the midst of that. There’s definitely a balance and if someone isn’t ready to share, they might still respond with a vague answer.
Share your struggles WHEN they happen, not after the fact.
What really builds and deepens the bond of friendship? We fear that people will judge us, reject us, or just plain leave us if we reveal that we don’t have it all together. But there are so many reasons to share our struggles with people we love and are sharing life with. When we can share the hard moments AS they happen, not after the fact when we’ve had time to practice our summary and give the picture-perfect, gift-wrapped version of why everything is still okay. Life can be so, so difficult and painful, and being brave enough to reach out to new friends when we’re hurting and let them love us in the midst of that is one of the best ways to let (Dare I say it?) intimicy deepen and grow. When I give other people the chance to love me and know me in my brokenness, they almost always respond with love and grace and our sisterhood deepens as a result.
Initiate, initiate, initiate.
Oh man, my social anxiety causes major struggles with this one. I am completely content to hang at home by myself with a blanket, a good book, and a 9:30 PM bedtime, so sometimes it’s easy for me to give in to the fear of rejection instead of texting someone to hang out and fill that blank space. A lot of us are in the same boat: we think all of the people we know already have things to do and people to hang out and couldn’t possibly want to hang out with us, so we don’t reach out. And then for the most part, we wonder why we don’t have friends to hang with on the weekends or when things get tough. If we want to see our buddies grow, we have to be willing to risk rejection and initiate that coffee date, walk, movie date, or shopping day.
Pursuing fraternity in our mommyhood years requires a lot more work and intentional pursuit than building a community in college. It’s challenging and scary at times, but it’s absolutely worth the work it takes to find ladies who can be our people, the ones we call when we lose the baby or have that awful argument with our husbands or feel lonely and lost and scared. We need those people and they need us, so let’s be brave and take the steps to pour into those connections. I promise you’ll be glad you did!