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