Since becoming a mother, I have sometimes felt lonely and wondered why it isn’t easier for me to make friends in this stage of my life. Motherhood can be both isolating and super busy—which can make it difficult to foster relationships with the women around us.
Even at playgroups and pool get-togethers, I sometimes find myself sitting there feeling quite alone, like I’m not really connected to anyone there on a level that is deeper than small talk.
In order to overcome some of this mom loneliness, I’ve tried these three strategies, and they have helped me immensely:
- Use people’s names. Doesn’t it feel good when someone uses your name for the first time? It feels like, “Oh! They know me! They care!” Yet sometimes, I don’t use the names of the people around me because it feels a little too personal or intimate when we are just acquaintances. Since noticing this about myself, I’ve tried to be much more mindful of using the names of the people that I see around town or in the halls at church. In the preschool pick-up, for example, I will say, “Hi, Sarah!” to another mom. I feel like this invites more authentic conversation than a simple, “Hi there.” This truly simple tip lets people know that I see them and value them, which fosters connection.
- Follow up. I’ve found that one of the best ways to show someone that you truly care and want to deepen your friendship with her is to simply remember what she talks to you about and check back in. If a friend mentions that she is struggling with a headstrong child, for example, instead of just brushing by it and saying, “Yeah, kids are hard!” I try to really listen to her and then follow up in a few weeks. It can be as simple as sending a text that says, “Hey, I’ve been thinking about you since we talked. How is Sam doing?” I sometimes go a step further and send a card or a care package to someone who I know is really hurting. If you don’t have time to put together a care package or go to the post office, there are some great services online where you simply choose what you want them to send and what you want the card to say, and they will do it on your behalf. Check out BrightBoxes and Care Crates. This goes for your friends’ exciting events, too. If a friend is going on a cool trip, participating in a new opportunity, or anything else that she is clearly pumped about, celebrate with her and check back in after the event to see how it went. You can even send a congratulations card.
- Let people serve you. This may be the toughest suggestion of all because it is so vulnerable to allow yourself to be served. But nothing builds deeper bonds than to serve and be served. A few months ago, our family received news that one of our loved ones had taken her own life. Then, a day later, I got a kidney stone attack that landed me in surgery. I was hurting so much—emotionally and physically—and one night, I looked around at my messy house and thought, “Oh I wish I just had someone to come be with me during the day and help me get this chaos under control.” Early the next morning, I got a text from a friend I didn’t know very well. She said, “I can’t stop thinking about you, and I want to come and clean your house this morning. Please say yes.” I stared at that text in disbelief—realizing that the prayers of my heart had been answered, but also feeling a little weak and guilty. Should I really say yes to this friend, or should I pretend that I could do it on my own? I decided to be humble and grateful and said yes. My friend came over and cleaned my entire main floor while I lay on the couch with a heating pad on my kidney. We talked and laughed and cried together, and at the end of the morning, my soul felt so full and peaceful—and hers did too. She told me over and over how grateful she was that I’d let her into my home and my heart like that. If we want people to feel close to us, we have to allow them to serve us. It is very difficult to admit that we can’t do it all and we need other people, but it is ultimately what forges the closest bonds.
Since being more mindful of these three strategies for building closer friendships, I have felt an increased connection with the women in my life and less loneliness on a daily basis.
**For more ideas on building meaningful friendships, listen to Rachel’s podcast, 3 in 30 Takeaways for Moms, Episode 020: “How to Be a Friend, Instead of Just Being Friendly” with guest Brooke Romney.
QUESTION: Do you feel lonely at times? Are you reaching out to those around you to build friendships?
CHALLENGE: This week, choose one of the three tips and use it to build a connection with another person.
Edited by Nollie Haws and Kimberly Price.