Moms Need Work Friends Too

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moms need work friends too

When our oldest child, Jane, was born, I was teaching high school Spanish.  I had great co-workers who were also friends.

Throughout the school day, we could swap war stories from failed lesson plans or give each other some much-needed cheerleading to keep fighting the good fight.  As our friendships grew, we talked less about shop and more about life beyond the four walls of our classrooms.

After I finished out the school year, I started staying at home with Jane full-time.  The social isolation was a shock to my system.  I went from being surrounded all day long by colleagues and students to having one boss (Jane) and one assistant (our dog, Larry) — neither of whom had much to share around the water cooler!

I loved my new gig at home, but I missed the camaraderie and friendship I had with my teaching gal pals.  I felt additionally isolated at home because my husband, Philip, wasn’t able to be around much throughout medical school and residency.

As I got into a daily routine with Jane, I realized I desperately needed new work friends — comrades who were working the same job I was on a daily basis.  I needed mom friends, but I didn’t know  where to start.   I had no idea where to find them, and I knew it would be difficult to forge friendships with mom friends as we juggled our conversations while taking care of our kiddos.

I felt like a pioneer, heading out into the unknown.  Most of my high school and college friends had moved away, and few were married or even considering having babies when I started staying at home.

One day, I realized a new circle of friends wasn’t going to arrive on my doorstep with an invitation to join a book club or playgroup.  I had to make it happen for myself.  I decided to start putting myself out there in the hopes of creating regular play dates and get togethers with other mamas and kiddos.

Jane and I started getting out more, visiting our favorite spots: the zoo, neighborhood park, children’s museum, library, and community center.  Even though it was kind of awkward, I decided to start striking up conversation with the other moms while Jane toddled around with their kids.

On these outings, I realized how tricky it can be to make a mom friend.  There are all kinds of variables: Do you get along with the woman herself, or are you talking just because your kids are playing?  Do your parenting styles clash?  Are the kids constantly fighting as a result?  Do you have similar values?  Yaddah yaddah yaddah…

Negotiating all of that while making sure Jane somehow injure herself or run away made my head hurt.  In the rare instance that everything clicked, there came the moment when I felt like I was trying to “pick up” the other mom.  Should I ask her for her phone number so that we can set up a future play date?  Is that too much?  What if I ask her if she’s on Facebook?  Do I casually mention we’re going to come back to the museum (or library or gym or wherever we were) next week at the same time?

Despite our frequent outings, most mamas weren’t interested in chatting up strangers!  So, I considered what values mattered most to me in my friends and where I could find those like-minded women.

The next year, I decided to create a playgroup with the few moms I knew.  It went very well for awhile, then life happened, and the group sort of fizzled out on its own.

Things got sunnier on the friendship front when we joined a new parish, and I found out about their “Mothers in Fellowship” group through the parish bulletin.  We spent Monday mornings together discussing both faith-based and non-faith-based topics.  The babies snuggled in our arms or crawled around while the big kids played in a separate space with Safe Environment trained childcare providers.  At long last, I had a place where I regularly gathered with like-minded women.  As an added bonus, we could carry on (mostly) uninterrupted conversations or listen to inspiring speakers without the kids demanding our attention.  The kids loved the regular opportunity to see their buddies, too.

After being in that group for a year, I felt God putting it on my heart to bring women together for a faith-based book club.  Half a dozen of us started meeting every other Thursday evening at my house as we made our way through three of Kimberly Hahn’s books.  God continued to bless our time together, our friendships grew, and each woman’s individual faith flowered.  As we finished our last Kimberly Hahn book and looked toward the future, I felt God putting it on my heart to lead a Bible study.  As a group, we decided to begin Jeff Cavins’ Bible Timeline.  We invited more friends to join us, and we started gathering in my parish meeting space.  Never in a million years would I have dreamed that I could be leading a Bible study, but I trusted that the Holy Spirit was the One leading our group.

Through the good, the bad, and the chaos of motherhood, we’ve kept every other Thursday evening from 7-9 p.m. on the calendar for two years.  We have lived and prayed through so much together.  Being able to carve out that time so that we can pray, learn, and be together has transformed all of us.  These amazing women show me on a regular basis what selfless, godly friendship looks like, and I am forever grateful to God for bringing them into my life at just the right time.

A cornerstone of our group has been personal and group prayer.  As prayer warriors in one another’s corner, we’ve cheered each other on in our vocations as wives and mothers.  These godly women have shown me the rich blessings that come from keeping the proper order of relationships: God, husband, children, extended family, friends, and everyone else.  They understand that love wants what is best for the other person.

Ironically, that means that these dear women place themselves toward the bottom of my priority totem pole.  They are thrilled for my family as we prepare to move an hour away from them.  (Philip is finishing up residency and joining a pediatric practice in a new city.)

The thought of having to “start over” with new friends used to scare me.  Now, I realize that it’s an opportunity for God to bless me with even more godly friendships.  My girlfriends here have shown me what real, godly friendship looks like, and I know that the distance won’t affect our affection for one another.

We may not be able to see one another face to face as much as we’d like, but we can remain powerful intercessors from afar, cheering each other on.  I’m glad I traded in the water cooler for the changing table, and I’m excited to see what new work friends await me in our new zip code.

Copyright 2014, Catherine Boucher

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About Author

Catherine Boucher went into "early retirement" from teaching high school Spanish to become a stay-at-home mom. She has three children on earth (Jane, Walter, and Harold) and a saint in heaven (Thérèse). When she isn't taking care of her children, she's probably spending time with her husband, blogging, reading, cooking/baking, or catching up with friends. Catherine's personal blog is The Life I Need.

8 Comments

  1. Catherine, I loved this piece, and I so relate with it. I heard another writer say once that he was an extrovert in an introvert’s career, and I still always hesitate to consider myself a writer, but…the truth is, for those of us who work at home (whether with children or by ourselves in offices), it gets lonely. We need mentors and role models and…PEOPLE TO TALK TO (who aren’t, ahem, 3 feet tall and demanding a drink).

    Thanks for this important reminder. And I wish you were moving closer to ME. (Selfish.)

  2. What a great piece about the power of friendship. Time with female friends tends to get pushed off my “To Do” list, but it’s so important for the heart and the soul. Thanks for the reminder.

  3. This is great Catherine! Mom friends are ESSENTIAl for surviving and thriving in motherhood. (They are our oxygen masks and tanks!)
    A few years ago I started a group also – Catholic Motherhood – and we also meet on Thursday evenings! From that group, another mom and I are getting ready to start one for our parish, I’m so excited to offer a way for other moms to connect and find support.
    Thanks for sharing this!

  4. I laughed and sympathized when you mentioned the feeling of trying to “pick up” other moms! From day one, my husband and I said, “This is like trying to date all over again!” How do you know when it’s okay to ask for their phone number? What if you want to break up with them? What if they want to break up with you? Wait, what’s wrong with me? Am I not funny enough? Am I too fat? Whatever, I’m too good for her anyway….We’ve had some good laughs seeing the similarities between our past dating efforts and our current efforts to make friends!

    Kudos to you for starting that book club and sticking with it! I tried to do something similar and it fizzled. *sigh* Your article is a good reminder about how much friendships are needed!

  5. My response comes so late after this article was first written but I am hoping that somebody out there may respond and offer me some help. I am struggling with the stay at home reality that I rushed into with the birth of our beautiful son 18 months ago. I had not given any thought to how lonely, monotonous and exhausting it would be for me and while my son was an I dint taking several naps, I was able to work from home and even manage our home much better, now that he is a toddler, taking only one nap a day, I find myself bored to tears and exhausted at the end of each day. I taught Univeristy Chemistry for almost ten years before being blessed with our son. I am pregnant again, almost four months and this blessed reality also makes it more physically demanding for me to mother my toddler with out any help. I am not a young mother, I am a healthy 42 praise God but I am still 42. My husband gets home after dark most days to find me irritable and unhappy. I don’t drive, so going out with my son is very challenging as I should not be lifting him too often. Is daycare a few days a week for him my only solution?? Can anyone relate? Can anyone help? Thank you.

    • Hi Nicole, it can indeed be lonely, monotonous and exhausting to be Mommy all day! But it does sound like you need to try to get out somehow, if you can, even with your son. Maybe there’s a moms’ group you can join, or a prayer group. Or you could offer to tutor high-school students in chemistry. If there is a shelter for women in crisis pregnancies near you, you could tutor there as well–and possibly have child care arranged for you onsite while you help a mom or mom-to-be complete her education. This time in your life is NOT forever, and you will find ways to use your gifts as you mother your children and maybe in some other ways too. I will keep you in my prayers!

    • Nicole,

      I apologize for my delay in replying to you. I haven’t contributed to CatholicMom in awhile, and I somehow missed the notification that you commented on here. I’m so glad to see that Barb chimed in already with a helpful response.

      I can *SO* relate to what you’re talking about! Even though I wanted to be a wife and mother, I really struggled with the transition of staying at a home. Part of it was the isolation and another big part of it was learning how to receive affirmation at my new “office.” Shortly after writing this article, I worked very, very hard to cultivate a community of moms. I started a group that meets on 1st and 3rd Thursdays of the month after daily Mass. We discuss a variety of both faith and fun topics while college-aged girls from the Newman Center watch the kids 1 and older in another room. The moms take turns leading meetings, and we have guest speakers come in from time to time. The group has been a great way for us young-ish mamas with littles to build community, encourage one another, and realize that we aren’t alone. I’ve gained some of my best friends through this group. I’m so glad I put myself out there to get it started. Is there something like this at your parish? If not, you could start smaller by inviting a few women to your home.

      Something else that really helped me was reading Holly Pierlot’s A Mother’s Rule of Life. I have to warn you to take everything she writes with a grain of salt and to NOT put undue pressure on yourself to adopt everything she does. Nonetheless, the book is a great place for a woman to start thinking about how to bring some order and peace to being at home.

      Aside from making time for friends, consider whether you and your husband are working on your relationship as much as possible. Are you making time to talk to each other at the end of each day? Are you connecting for a few minutes in the middle? What about date nights? Could you do a date night swap with another couple if it’s not in the budget to go out and hire a sitter?

      What about you? Are you taking care of your physical health with exercise? Good nutrition? Getting out of the house–even if it’s just a 10-minute walk? How about your own personal prayer life? Finding a spiritual director and having monthly confession made a big difference for every area of my life. Are you taking time for your favorite hobbies, or are you putting yourself out there to try something you’ve always wanted to do? I started tennis lessons last month, and I’m finally learning how to sew on the machine my husband bought me 3 years ago!

      I think a mother’s day out program would be a great option for you if you’re looking to get a little break.

      I hope all of my ramblings were somehow helpful….I’ve been writing a lot about all of this on my blog lately (www.thelifeineed.com). After giving birth to our baby in March, I decided it was high time I started taking better care of myself. I declared my 6-week follow-up with my OBGYN the start of “The Year of Me.” It took me 6.5 years of parenting to figure out that I am worth it, and my family has never been happier. I’ll be keeping you in prayer, Nicole!

  6. Nicole John-Thomas on

    Thank you dear ladies for your comments. I am still struggling mightily but will pray more consistently as well see what suggestions I can implement to make things better.
    May God bless us all,
    Nicole

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