shell friendship

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.

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On friendship
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14 thoughts on “On friendship

  • 08/01/2015 at 7:06 pm
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    Wow, what a wonderful friend. Thanks for sharing. That’s going to stay with me. X

    • 08/01/2015 at 7:48 pm
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      Thank you, Kirsten. X

  • 08/01/2015 at 9:18 pm
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    Thought provoking Lisa. When I worked in a normal job, I was surrounded by friends and work colleagues. But since working for myself I have lost most of that contact. Social Media is my only connection to have a natter and laugh and a joke. Men don’t like to share feelings, they don’t understand them(?). Its not easy for me to explain to another male my inner feelings. Yet I am much more at ease with a female, I get on better with women than men. I am not gay or anything, just have a closer affinity with my feminine side! 🙂

    • 09/01/2015 at 8:04 am
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      Hi Mo,
      It’s great to hear how much you enjoy your friendships with women. It sounds as though you have found friends that bring you what you need. That’s wonderful!

      Lisa

    • 09/01/2015 at 8:01 am
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      Thank you very much for taking the time to let me know. 🙂

  • 09/01/2015 at 1:51 am
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    Love! Connections should bring us joy!

    I skipped the whole stage of meeting other mothers at prenatal or baby/toddlergroups because of the whole twin thing. It’s only now at 3 that we are on the brink of launching ourselves into society! Watch out NJ the Pingus are coming and my 2015 word is connect.

    Now I’m glad I had so much time to find my feet with parenting and to embrace the type of lifestyle we want. I have a clearer understanding of the types of connections I need to make.

    • 12/01/2015 at 2:10 pm
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      Watch out NJ!

      Did you ever feel lonely, I wonder? If not, why do you think so? I’d love to hear more if you’re willing to share.

  • 09/01/2015 at 8:51 am
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    Enjoyed this post, funny I had a very similar conversation at soft play today with some mothers I know – It certainly mirrored my experiences. Living and working in London in my 20s I had a huge pool of friends, some from Uni others from work and they were my most important social connections but, like you, I moved away and had a family very quickly and struggled to fit in with all the new mothers who constantly questioned me about slings and breastfeeding and getting my evenings back.

    I found La Leche League, which worked well for a while, but then I became a leader so it wasn’t really appropriate for me to vent at meetings as I felt the need to be more professional!!

    But what I have reallised is now is that whilst I enjoy my online friendships and they are a good source of support and I am pleased to have good relationships with the parents of my children’s friends actually it was getting married and not having children that was the game changer. My husband is my best friend and he meets all of those friendship needs you describe and, as my children get older, they are more like friends too (yeah, yeah I know the mainstream advice about not being friends with your kids ;-))

    On New Years Eve I was thinking how in my single days spending a night out with 5 people would have been an undertaking of planning and coordinating but now they are 5 people right here in our house and, for the most part, that is enough!

    It is interesting too that the two words you have chosen are two of the pages on the Sandra Dodd website that were really key to me when I was forming my views on Home Educating (unschooling) http://sandradodd.com/connections/ and http://sandradodd.com/joy

    i think you would especially like the page on rejecting the prepackaged life

    • 12/01/2015 at 2:14 pm
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      Thank you ever so much for sharing those two pages– you’re right, I did like them, especially the one on joy & the pre-packaged life. Thoughts like the ones she shares are so liberating.

      I’m glad you pointed out the friendship your husband gives you. I’d completely overlooked my husband when I wrote this, and as you say, he’s my best friend.

  • 10/01/2015 at 9:37 am
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    Wise as ever, but it’s also set me thinking about the briefer connections that keep me going when I can’t access my really significant friends – it’s so hard at the moment to get a time to sit and really talk to those I’m close to (or to anyone). I love the way that sometimes in a brief, chance conversation you can really hit a few moments of resonance, a sort of “you too?” where very briefly the talk moves much deeper than being about wees and the weather, and you talk about something massively meaningful to both of you. I had this with another mother in the village just the other day as we happened to bump into each other in the street – everything we’ve talked about before has been superficial (perfectly pleasantly) but for a minute or two we were really onto something. Who knows, it may move into a deeper friendship, but even if it doesn’t, for the brief time of that connection I felt validated and understood, and it gave me a huge lift.

    • 12/01/2015 at 2:08 pm
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      Yes, isn’t it satisfying when a chance encounter turns into something deeper and more meaningful? It is the kind of thing that can keep you going, as you say.

    • 15/01/2015 at 8:58 pm
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      Thanks Marija. I appreciate your fellow-writerly-support so much xo

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