Kindred Spirits and Motherhood: A Musing on Friendship
This musing is going to be sprinkled with quotes from Anne of Green Gables by L.M.Montgomery, which, if you have never read, I highly recommend you do! Reading it as a young girl, the parts about friendship warmed my heart because Anne was such a sincere character and felt everything so deeply.
“Marilla,” she demanded presently, “do you think that I shall ever have a bosom friend in Avonlea?”
“A—a what kind of friend?”
“A bosom friend—an intimate friend, you know—a really kindred spirit to whom I can confide my innermost soul. I’ve dreamed of meeting her all my life.”
I was never one to have a lot of friends. Hanging out with groups of people often feels overwhelming; and for me, friendship is a relationship that is about trust and sincerity and those take effort. I remember, when I first read about the difference between ‘extroverted’ people and ‘introverted’ people, I was thrilled that I had a simple word to explain my personality in a nutshell, and that clearly I was not alone! As a child, a close friend or two was just right. A friend to ride the school bus with, feeling so mature as we stopped to buy pastries for a treat on the way to a playdate at her house. A best friend just down the street to meet at the park, play dolls with, and sing Beatles’ songs with at the top of our lungs. Even in college, my roommate and I had a small circle of friends that we enjoyed our four years with before we parted ways. And then the adult world. It’s not so easy to make friends. As so many of us leave home for college and end up living far from childhood friends and family, we have to find new circles and new excuses to make friends.
Motherhood, I found, actually makes it easy to make friends in the beginning. It’s like you become a member of this big club, where initially, everyone is going through a lot of the same experiences. Pregnancy, birth, exhaustion, helplessness, joy. There are certainly different sub-groups – crunchy moms, working moms, single moms, etc – but if you put your feelers out there, it’s usually not hard to find other women to connect with purely because you are both experiencing the transition from maidenhood to motherhood. All of the women I met like this have a special place in my heart and always will. There are the moms I met in a birthing class during my first pregnancy; and the moms I connected with through an Attachment Parenting Meetup group I stumbled upon when I had a newborn and a one-year old; and the moms in the New Moms Support Group I ran starting soon after my miscarriage until my third baby was almost walking. There is that line (from a poem I believe), “Some people come into our lives and leave footprints on our hearts and we are never ever the same.” Whether I keep in touch with those women or not, this sentiment will always be true of them.
I’m entering new territory now though. My children are getting older and it’s not so easy to make plans for a playdate with another mom and just have the kids hang out while we chat. We homeschool now and while that means I don’t exchange pleasantries with other parents as often during pick up or drop off as I used to, it doesn’t really affect my social life that drastically. I don’t drink alcohol so getting together to ‘Wine’ isn’t really appealing. My children’s friend’s parents aren’t automatically my BFFs and visa versa. In fact, I recently reached out to someone whom I had considered a good friend because we hadn’t seen each other in quite some time. She told me over text message that she didn’t like that my 3-year old had grabbed toys from her 2-year old and she wasn’t going to make her daughter play with mine. She said that sometimes friends go in different directions – “take care.” It hurt. In fact I’m still recovering. I’m not sure if I’m more hurt that it feels like she is being critical of my parenting or of my child, or just that friendship is more casual for her than for me.
“If we have friends we should look only for the best in them and give them the best that is in us, don’t you think?”
For me, a true friend is like family. Even with distance between you, when you spend time together, it doesn’t matter if it’s been a while since you’ve last talked, you can laugh and smile and re-connect. When you are going through rough times, a friend might be able to help, or they might be able to say, ‘I’m here for you… just because.’ You don’t always need to explain yourself (or apologize for a messy house). As a busy-homeschooling-introverted-mom-of-three, I have friendships in bursts. I’m comfortable with the ‘hey, are you free to come over for tea this morning?’ or ‘we’re free to hang out at the park this afternoon, are you?’ I keep up with friends’ lives over social media and random bursts of text messaging that we can either re-visit when we get together IRL (in real life in case anyone hasn’t asked what that acronym stands for yet – or are people born just knowing those nowadays?)… or not. The things that give me pleasure in life, aside from my family, are things like reading a good book while sipping tea, crafting (while sipping tea), and hanging out in beautiful natural places (with or without a cup of tea). I usually find it’s easiest to just do those things on my own because the organizing that comes with trying to coordinate doing those with other moms in this phase of life almost takes the fun out of it, if it even happens.
Human beings are social creatures. Yes, maybe there are a few that can live completely alone and be content but even they benefit somewhat from some circle or community to plug into. An article just popped up on my social media feed about a woman that has lived in a mud and stick hut in the middle of a Welsh forest for over two decades. But she teaches workshops in nearby communities and looking at the photos of her and her home, she has many items made by other people, from clothes to books to instruments. And I wonder if she has friends. There are many studies and articles and books written about women and the need for meaningful relationships – about how women give each other the support and empowerment we need to feel happy and confident in our unpredictable lives. As I reflect on the friendships that I want for myself, I guess I have to ask myself what I want friendship to be based on. If it is not based on motherhood alone, then what? And how can I nurture it? Maybe this is just a bit of a lonely phase of life. I cherish my good friends dearly – the ones that don’t mind if we don’t get together for a while, or if we have to keep re-scheduling plans, or if our kids aren’t BFFs, or if we get together for coffee and plan on taking walk around town but end up chatting in the car because it’s just so chilly outside. The ‘moving on’ of one good friend made me feel that perhaps all of my friendships are tenuous and makes me want to imbue them with all the good feeling and sincerity I can. This is also a phase of life where I feel that I have very little of myself left to give. As we enter another annual ‘season of giving,’ we’ll see how that manifests. To all of my friends that take me as I am, know that you are dear to me.
One final quote from Anne-with-an-‘e’ because she was ever optimistic:
“Kindred spirits are not so scarce as I used to think. It’s splendid to find out there are so many of them in the world.”
(Side Note: The main/top image I used in this post was one I stumbled upon online and it was just too perfect. It was described as being in the public domain but I am not sure. So if you know which edition of the book it is from or who the illustrator is, comment and let me know please!)