“The poverty of being unwanted, unloved and uncared for is the greatest poverty.”Mother Teresa
Sometimes being a mom can be a lonely business. That may sound funny if you’re surrounded by, touched by and leaned on by a number of small humans, but it’s true.
We had a unique family – lots of kids, lots of mental and physical health challenges, and an awareness that we REALLY stood out. I spent a number of years “in the trenches” and one of the things that still stands out is how lonely I felt. I did not know where to turn for support. Turns out, Moms need tribes too. We need to know we’re not alone.
Remember the last column I wrote on laundry? I told you I washed a mouse. For years, I was so mortified that I had not been on top of my laundry that I never shared that story. When I shared it recently, I had someone tell me they accidentally washed the family cat. Who did not survive. I’m not alone in not being perfect! C.S. Lewis once said:
“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one.’”C.S. Lewis
There are all kinds of benefits for having strong groups of friends and guess what – women are generally better at close friendships than men. For at least the last couple of decades, there is a growing body of research on the value of strong female friendships. Shelley E. Taylor, a professor of psychology, wrote a book in 2002 called The Tending Instinct that looks at “women, men, and the biology of our relationships.” Women’s need for community is, Taylor argues, part of our DNA. We tend to be more social, more community focused, more collaborative and less competitive.
Research in 2013 by Comaz-Diaz and Weiner reiterated that happiness is contagious among women and that strong female friendships “enhance women’s self-esteem, connectedness and enjoyment,” leading to a sense of well-being and even healing. Said another way, strong friendships get us through the rough times and make us happier.
They also make us healthier. Women with strong social ties smoke less, are less overweight and have less cognitive decline in their later years. Additionally, those friendship ties impact women’s longevity even more than marriage. We’ve known for years that married men live longer than single men – but married women have the same life expectancy as single women. Those women with strong friendships, however, live longer than women without those strong ties.
As you might have realized from your own life, friendships wax and wane. Life circumstances change, as do our points of connectedness and skill at communication. I’m no longer part of the “actively-seeking-to-adopt” tribe, or the “multiple kids in diapers” tribe. I also know that no one person can be “all the things” for anyone. My husband is a software architect. I’m not his “computer tribe” and he’s not my “fashion advice” tribe, bless him.
If you don’t already have a tribe, create one. It takes some time and it takes deliberate effort to reach out, but it’s so worth it. Knowing you have a tribe that has your back makes those long days and sleepless nights easier to get through.
I’m cheering you on!