Maybe it’s your friends.
It’s practically epidemic, the number of moms I speak with who are struggling with feelings of inadequacy. Feelings of being less than. Skirmishes of heart and soul that deplete any sense of accomplishment or value or confidence.
Lots of worries.
Lots of discouragement.
Moms tell me that those feelings stem from lots of places. Comparison to the seemingly idyllic lives of online bloggers. Pinterest perfect expectations and the depletion that comes when any detail goes rogue. A generalized sense of sorrow that moms aren’t more valued in our culture. The difficulty of balancing roles of mom and wife and career and the sense that in excelling in one area, another is failing.
And all those things can contribute. Lack of support from extended family, hostile employers, clashes with a spouse, all of that can add to a pile of what seems to be paltry accomplishment when it comes to how we view our mothering.
But there is another area to consider.
Sometimes, it might just be our friends.
Now, don’t get me wrong. My friends have been hands down some of the most important people in my mothering journey. In friendship, I’ve found support, commiseration, laughter, inspiration, and fellowship.
But choosing friends well, especially in the tender years of active parenting, is a defining decision. Check out this verse, found in Proverbs 12:26: “the righteous choose their friends carefully.” Those that we hold closest, those that we allow the greatest access to our hopes and fears and dreams, should be a carefully considered group. Jesus established relationship with many people during His ministry, but He had a handful of friendships He held most close. While we don’t ever need to seek building friendships with ‘perfect people’, we do need to be on the lookout for those who may have entered our inner circle and could be wreaking unintentional havoc on our hearts.
1. The Competitor
No matter the situation, her kids achieve more. Her husband’s job is more successful. Her vacations are better. And she makes sure you know it. She’s magnetic and self-assured, so you’re drawn to that. But being with her leaves you feeling like you just didn’t quite measure up. Now here’s the caveat: we may have friends who raise the bar in all areas but that doesn’t mean they are competing. I’m not talking about a lack of confidence that is on us or a jealous spirit that comes to roost that we need to deal with. I’m talking about a friendship that seems to actively use us, our kids, our house, as the lowest common denominator, the ledge from which someone steps to feel better about themselves.
2. The Complainer
Her social media posts always reflect gloom and doom or a passive aggressive tone. She is constantly in the throes of complaint development. Her husband is a distracted jerk. Her kids don’t appreciate her. The school is messed up, the church is messed up, everything is always messed up. Bless her heart. Be kind, be friendly, but don’t allow the constant stream of negativity to become your own soundtrack as well.
3. The Complacent
She never challenges you. Ever. And so the friendship never grows into the deep places, those folds of the soul that need another loving pair of eyes of them to speak truth and light. Don’t be afraid to have a friend who will speak tough truth to you when it’s needed. And don’t mistake a friendship that is only willing to stay at the surface level with the kind of relationship that speaks up in love. Proverbs 27:6 says, “Wounds from a friend can be trusted, an enemy multiplies kisses.”
4. The Crisis Monger
There’s always something brewing. And you always seem to have her kids at your house, seem to always be the one bringing dinner, seem to always be the one dropping everything and coming to the rescue. We should be the kind of friends who are available and ready to help those in need. But if you’ve been the one doing constant upkeep for a while now, it’s time to evaluate what’s really going on. We can unwittingly and with the best intentions become a player in a co-dependent game. And the cost to your parenting because of the constant pull of focus can become significant.
5. The Covetous
At first, you’re like two peas in a pod. And then something subtly shifts. She feels rejected if you spend time with another friend. She feels abandoned if you have a play date with your kids with another family. The jealousy may come from a deep wound in childhood or from a previous relationship. Whatever its origin, it will take a tender but honest talk about boundaries to be able to maintain a healthy friendship.
6. The Critic
She’s only pointing all these things out for your own good. All the things you should be doing but you’re not. It’s not that she means to be critical of you…but she is. While we do need good friends to tell us the truth and to help us see our blind spots, someone who can only see what needs to be tweaked can chip away at our unique purpose, the path God has for us individually to conduct our marriages, our parenting, our lives.
I’m not talking about cruelly cutting people off. Not at all. But I am talking about actively seeking friendships that have their strength rooted in encouragement, honesty, laughter, iron sharpening iron, and then nurturing those friendships well.
And here’s the question I have to ask myself as I look at the above list: am I guilty of being one of those six in my relationships? What do I need to do to take my closest friendships up higher and deeper? And can I challenge you to do the same?
If you’re struggling to develop your core, your sisterhood, be a good friend to yourself and ask where changes could be made. Sometimes, when I counsel with a sweet mama who is longing for friendships but is so lonely, I often find she is trying to develop friendships with the wrong people, or she’s running people off with her intensity. It doesn’t mean we have to change who we are or try to please people. It does mean we need to exercise good friendship hygiene habits, with healthy expectations, boundaries, and joy.