10 Habits of Happy Mothers: Maintain Key Friendships

After three really good conversations on Habit 1 (one, two, and three), I think we're ready to move on to Habit 2. Am I the only one who made casseroles for people after reading this chapter? It's 110 degrees and there I was in the kitchen, inspired to bestow the friendship of a casserole. Maybe that's just me. 

My hard copy of The 10 Habits of Happy Mothers: Reclaiming our Passion, Purpose, and Sanity is all marked up throughout this chapter. I think I'll just walk through it and share with you what I found noteworthy. 

No perfection is needed. Love is required but even that can be woefully broken,  because at the end of the day what we really need as mothers is a friend who simply stays. Because when she stays, we know that we are loved.

I think this speaks to the quality of friends that allows us to trust them with our hearts. Over time, we learn that they are connected--bonded, if you will-- and so that they can be trusted to keep loving us even if we show our failures and our weaknesses. For some women, baring our souls in this way is extremely difficult and it takes years to build that kind of trust. Bruised and broken relationships in our past, childhoods without unconditional love, can make women skeptical that such a friend even exists. It takes loving patience to befriend a broken woman and to show her that faithfulness in friendship really does exist.

The most terrible poverty is loneliness and the feeling of being unloved. ~ Bl. Mother Teresa

It is hard to laugh without feeling pleasure or enjoyment. Believe it or not, many mothers subconsciously refuse to let themselves feel pleasure. This sounds peculiar, but it is true. Mothers who sacrifice, protect, and martyr themselves take themselves and their behaviors extremely seriously. And when life is serious, there is little room for joy, because joy doesn't feel serious. It feels fun and light and brings with it a sense of vulnerability.

I thought this quote very interesting. I think that Christian women live this idea to an extreme sometime. We are all about sackcloth and ashes. I disagree with the idea that there is little room for joy when life is serious, but I think I understand the point she's making. Instead of "serious" I think I'd substitute "intentional." When we live our lives intentionally, taking seriously the charge to live every moment as our Creator intended, there is still room for joy. We can see the joy He wants for us. So, the serious intentionality does happily coexist with joy.

That said, does laughter and overt happiness bring with it a sense of vulnerability? I think it does. I heartily agree that women can be afraid to laugh, to have fun, to embrace the good with a full-on bear hug. Because it makes us vulnerable. It puts us out there where we can be disappointed or disillusioned. Because it's just plain scary sometimes to be happy.

Where love stops, chicken pot pies take over. There is an understanding what while the blender whirls and the oven preheats, the friend in pain is being remembered in her hurt. The cook is thinking of her, wondering how she is faring, what she is experiencing. While friends cook, they slide their feet into the shoes of the hurting mom in order to participate a bit in the pain she feels.

I have been the beneficiary of so many lovingly prepared meals in my mothering years. After every baby, meals for weeks on end. I still remember in crisp detail the gorgonzola and grape salad my friend Martha brought over after I returned home the day of my first miscarriage. And I am certain that I will remember to my dying day a perfectly prepared hamburger (sans the bun) and a tomato and fresh mozzarella salad my friend Megan just happened by with one day in the middle of my pregnancy with Karoline. I had gotten myself in that "I know I need to eat but I'm so beyond the need I can't think straight" place. While we talked on the phone, she was cooking all the time and then she just appeared with that plate. Heaven. She was an angel. My children still talk about how, when I was in the hospital on bedrest with Sarah, Mrs. Smith found out that Karoline loved to eat peaches and then went and bought enough to last until the baby came. I believe from the bottom of my heart that we are designed to love one another around a table. I think that much of our human experience happens in the breaking of the bread. I'm so saddened when I hear of family who never eats family meals. To me, the emphasis on food and its place in a friendship is not overstated.  

We will need an inner circle and outer circle of friends, if you will; women who satisfy our longing for intimate emotional connection and others who provide comfort and affection on a lighter level.

I needed to see this in print. I think it's something I have learned over the last decade, but it helps to have Meg Meeker crystallize the thought. For most of my adult life, I operated on the "one level" friendship model. I worked hard to make deep and lasting friends. I gave of myself, perhaps too freely, and I trusted too quickly. I thought the goal was to be and to have only what Mrs. Meeker calls "inner circle" friends. Now, I've learned that distance isn't a bad thing or even an inferior thing; it's a necessary thing.  Both circles are important and necessary.

The hallmarks of inner circle friendships are trust, maturity, and faithfulness, all of which work together to cultivate the deep love between us.

I have thought about this quote for nearly two months. I've weighed it against every good, solid, longterm friendship I have. I held it up to the friendships I've seen die. Yep. It holds up. She nailed it. Those are the hallmarks. I might add that a shared faith is also necessary, but maybe that's just for me.

[Inner circle friendships] require attention, diligence, and emotional elbow grease on our parts. Like a marriage, they need honing sweat, and time.

To this, I would add that friendships lack the sacramental grace of marriage and they lack the commitment. It is ok to walk away from a friendship. And sometimes, it's the right thing to do.The challenge is to know when to stay and work on it and when to acknowledge it's time to move on.

One of my mantras to the parents of teenagers in my practice is "Be careful if you have a really nice girl; they are the ones who get into trouble." Girls who are kind, polite, ethical, and bright find themselves doing things that they don't want to do simply because they don't want to hurt others' feelings."

This one is so true. I know it has been true in my life and I can already see how it might play itself out in my daughters' lives. I think that having it in print will give us all a good, solid springboard for ongoing conversations about the fine balance between goodness and danger.

No female friend can meet all of our needs so we shouldn't expect one to.

This quote is interesting. I have only one complaint about this book. I think the author missed a big chunk by failing to talk enough about the role a good marriage has in a mother's happiness. I hope that when we reach the end of this study , we can fill in the gap on our own here. My husband tells me all the time that I am his best friend. And he is truly the only person on this planet that I completely trust and to whom I completely abandon myself. My girlfriends are valuable and necessary and I think Mike is the first person to be grateful for their role in my life. But he is my best friend on earth.

And even he can't meet every need. 

A truly happy mother has a real and living friendship with Jesus.

Women friends are vital because they help us become or stay emotionally more stable. They lift us out of despair, they make us laugh when we want to sob, they force us to keep living when we don't want to.

There was a time in my life when I would have thought this statement melodramatic. But now I know the feeling in the pit of one's stomach when you know that the person on the other end of the phone is in so much pain that really she just wants the world to stop turning. And you can't turn back the clock. And you can't change the horror in her life. And you can't alleviate the pain. But she needs you say something, anything. Because she needs to hear your voice and she wants, somewhere deep down, someone to tell her how to keep going.

The deep mystery of friendship is its intense security which accepts us exactly as we are and at the same time yearns for us to change, to improve and live a better life. 

Intense security. I don't think that can be overstated.

This sentiment reminds me of the pledge Ann Voskamp shared last year:

"I promise I will never speak an unkind word to or about you. I will never be jealous of you. I will never compete with you. I will never abandon or betray you. I will love you. I will pray for you. I will do all I can to help you go far and wide in the Kingdom. 

I will accept you as you are, always. I will be loyal to you. Before our loving God of grace, you have my words and my heart in friendship for this life and forever with Him.”