Part of the problem with becoming a new mother was that I didn’t have any friends. That’s not to say that I was Billy No-Mates. I had many friends, but they were either at work or at my old University or left behind in America. I didn’t have any local friends, and the ones I had didn’t have any children. Consequently, when I had my first baby I felt utterly lost for adult company.
I was fortunate that it was easy to meet other mothers in my area. I went to groups run by health care practitioners, aimed at mothers and babies; I went along to toddler groups; I struck up conversations with other mothers at the library or the swimming pool. I met a lot of people.
And yet I felt so lonely.
In hindsight, I know that the missing link was connection. I had plenty of pleasant conversations with other mothers, but I’d usually get home feeling like I’d eaten a doughnut for dinner: somehow emptier than I was before I’d left the house that morning. The conversations I had with my newfound friends touched upon the practicalities of life with a baby, but skated over everything else. Sometimes the conversations felt competitive or judgmental: I didn’t parent in a mainstream way, which seemed to leave me open to criticism. Sometimes my meet-ups would take the form of an interview: me asking all the questions, doing all the listening, but never having a chance to share about myself in return.
It took a while before I met friends who were really interested in getting to know me. And I don’t mean learning about where I came from and what I did for work and what my favourite colour was. I mean authentic friends who actually wanted to know the me that is inside of me: the eternal me. Those friends were willing to connect about our parenting similarities and learn from each other, in spite of our different choices. They were willing to take the time to listen to me from their hearts to find out what lay in mine.
When I’d had a particularly bad day recently, one such friend phoned and asked whether she could pop in for a few minutes before collecting her child from school. She sat on the sofa with her cup of tea and listened as I vented about my day. At the end of our discussion, I felt calmer and more centred, like I was back to being my true, authentic self. As she left, I thought, “When a friend listens to you with her whole heart, it helps you to listen to your whole heart.” I wrote that sentence down and stuck it to the inside of my cupboard. Never again would I forget the value of wholehearted listening. Connection is the master key.
I have had many friends, but only a handful with whom I have truly, meaningfully, intimately connected. They know me, and I them. Last year I chose the word “connection” as my focus for 2014. This year I chose “joy.” Somehow I don’t think they are all that different.
©Lisa Hassan Scott 2015.