Connection

3 concrete ways to feel more connected and supported in your life

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by Lisa Byrne

Lisa is the bestselling author of Replenish and founder of WellGrounded Life. She's got a big-hearted vision of a world where moms are fully equipped to live calm, healthy, and vibrant lives. She lives in New Jersey with her husband, three kids, and 110 pound yellow lab.

Ever since I began working with moms, I’ve found myself listening, deeply listening, to the conversations we have with each other.

I listen because there’s always gold in the way women talk about what they need most, where they feel least supported, and what’s missing in their lives that they crave more of.

One thing I’ve noticed is we tend to have very conflicted feelings about our desire for more authentic connections and support in our lives.

On one hand we know how important it is to reach out and invest in relationships and friendships with other women and mothers as we navigate the motherhood journey.

On the other hand, we often don’t know where to find these kinds of relationships that feel easy, natural, and honest. And simultaneously we complain about having “no time” for anything these days, our life is so jam packed full.

As I’ve worked over the years to circle myself with a strong maternal network of friends and mentors, I’ve found these 3 guidelines hugely helpful.

1. Invest in what you want more of

We tend to think that seeking out connection is like filling a hole in our lives–that it requires us to simply receive the good coming from another person. But the truth, all good and true relationships function on a sacred value exchange, they thrive when each person has the reserves to offer parts of themselves to the other.

It takes energy, time, and attention to cultivate a meaningful relationship. Many of us give lip service to wanting deeper friendships in our lives, but we’ve created a life that has no space for those kinds of relationships.

As a busy mom, a meaningful and essential connection with another mom doesn’t have to take the lion share of your time…but it does need something. Often we can keep ourselves so busy that we have essentially buttressed ourselves from true connection. Consider if there are ways you can make yourself a little more available to invest in the kinds of connections you most deeply desire.

2. Watch the old stories we keep telling ourselves

This one really hit home for me recently. I was in conversation with a mom I had just met and we found ourselves deep in conversation about our mothering experiences. I caught myself telling her that I wished I had more “soul-sister” kinds of friendships with other moms that lived in my local area. I was commenting on how isolating and lonely the job of mothering can be sometimes.

No sooner did I begin saying these familiar words I realized I’d been telling the same story to myself (and apparently to others) for 5 years now, but it’s simply not true any longer.

I do have beautiful, deep, rich friendships and mentors in my life now. I had to remind myself that I no longer had to hold onto my “old” story.

Sometimes we keep feeling disconnected simply because of an old story we’re telling ourselves. Look around at the relationships you do have in your life and take an honest assessment. Many times we get so used to feeling a lack in this area, we don’t recognize the friendships that have taken root and grown in our lives.

3. Allow open spaces

When I first began having children, I had just recently moved back to New Jersey and didn’t have many local relationships with other moms. A huge lesson I learned was that sometimes it’s better to be okay with feeling lonely instead of immediately trying to fill those lonely spaces with people that weren’t a right fit for me.

We all know that energetically some people feed us and some people drain us. In my desire to feel less lonely and more supported, I often let people have more time and access to me than I should have. I’d leave their company feeling drained, anxious and insecure rather than uplifted, encouraged and confident.

In my (newly released) book, Replenish, I write, “Cultivating authentic connection in your life is about mastering the art of boundaries and access within your relationships. You need both. But often we get these things utterly backward. We hedge ourselves from true intimacy and connection (which comes with vulnerability) and we give free access to people who, time and time again, leave us feeling depleted.”

Do you feel well-supported in the area of authentic connections and support in your life? How do you manage to cultivate deep, vital friendships while managing the demanding life of a mom?

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Comments

  1. Number 2 and 3 really hit home for me.

    Old stories carry old weight. But, even if the story is true, it’s better to let the universe know that you’re trying to make some connections. When I made an effort to meet new people after moving abroad, all I needed was the resolution to do so. Changing my attitude put me in charge of my life, which was nice. But, yes, it was a struggle. I went to many playgroups where no one spoke to me because they were uncomfortable with their English. I continued to go because I figured doing something was better than nothing, but I didn’t force friendships that just weren’t there.

    I just hope that moms reading this also realize that these things are hard for moms. Even today, I might cancel plans because I’m overtired. Some new friendships are worth cultivating and having patience with, and some aren’t. But, please don’t let cancelled plans with friends-to-be be the sole indicator of how that friendship will turn out.

  2. After 4 years in a new state, I feel blessed to say, “Yes, I have an awesome, close support system.” My two best friends get together just 1-2 times every two weeks or so, but we keep a running facebook message where we pop on to share stories of kids, work or life in general everyday. It’s been a safe place to talk about scary medical issues, miscarriages, and fears. It’s definitely the biggest way social media has helped my real-life.

  3. Such great wisdom for friendships! After moving 11 times, I’ve learned that I have to make the time and take the initiative to cultivate deep friendships.

    I’m still learning to be patient with the process :).

  4. So true about holding on to old stories! After I ran my first 10 miler, I went out for a run. I caught my self chanting my running mantra, which was basically “I’ll never be able to run 10 miles” over and over.

    Well of course I’d run 10 miles the week before! So I changed it to “I’ll never be able to run 10 miles *again*”.

    Thanks for the reminder, I’m going to pay attention to which old stories I’m still holding on to.

  5. Love this, it’s SO TRUE. About energy drains, lonliness, and old stories. Now I need to check out the book!

  6. This is very interesting. I can completely relate to the ‘open spaces’ point. I live in a very small community so when you’re in the pursuit of natural friendships you can easily get absorbed by people, other people that just aren’t the right fit for you. I came to realise that I needed to invest my time in truer friendships, and focus on quality (friendships) rather than quantity (of friends).

    I am now blessed with some beautiful friends, real soul sisters who get me and what I’m about, they’re such a wonderful inspiration and support to me.

    Unfortunately I feel I am now suffering the repercussions of not leaving the space open whilst I waited for these friends. I now have a couple of people in my life that leave me feeling drained and stressed. Although they are very well meaning, they just aren’t the right fit for me and now want far too much access to me than I am comfortable with. It’s hard to break these sorts of ties, so I definitely agree that we should learn to be ‘okay with feeling lonely’ for a time.

    • Jessica, I totally relate- be gentle with yourself as you slowly shift your boundaries with the people you need to in order to honor your own life’s energy. It isn’t easy, but slowly and steadily you can recreate ways to relate with them that feel much more life-giving than life-draining.

  7. I think that it takes time to see if someone is on your wavelength. When I first met one of my best friends I remember saying to myself. Oh I could never be friends with her. Sometimes it takes time to really see if you click with someone

  8. I can totally relate to Lisa’s words. Being a full time teacher, wife, and mother I often put my needs last. I have found that if I stay in tune with my girlfriends , I am able to navigate through life much easier. The key for me is just being able to share my heart with my intimate girlfriends!!!!! Lisa, I love your words of wisdom…….and gentle reminders! Smiles!

  9. What a timely post to read at this point in my life! I have been a mother for five years and have really never focused on forming relationships outside of my family. I have a close friend, but have never seriously prepared the soil of my life at this stage to grow friendships of my own. With that being said, I leave tomorrow for a trip with eleven other ladies to attend a Beth Moore conference. I have literally battled inside myself with going or not going because, as a mom, I feel I need to be here for my kids. A peace came over me about going when I came to the realization I need this time with these ladies. My life needs this time of focus on me, on my heart and planting those seeds to see them bloom into sweet friendships.

    • Jennifer, may I encourage your heart that this will be good not only for you but for your children as well? I adore my children and strongly dislike being away from them. I’ve learned, though, that it’s really great for them to KNOW that other adults love them and want to help them. Enjoy your time and take comfort in your kids learning that self-care is important for people, even mommies, and that they are loved by more than just Mom. :-)

    • Just chiming in to encourage you to be open to all the gifts in store at this conference- I always find when I open myself up to unexpected beautiful moments with others that I am just getting to know – the most wonderful experiences sometimes come from it!

  10. Trying not to cry because number 2 is very convicting for me. We’ve lived here three years. After reading your point about the “old” story versus what is true now, I’m realizing that those painful, painful lonely days in the first year/year and a half are what I still think of even though that isn’t the case. I actually do have neighbor friends I *love*. I actually do know people I could call to talk to. I have friends who will go to coffee with me. Clearly I need to give this more thought and figure out how to turn that record off repeat.

    Thank you for these thought provoking guidelines, Lisa. Blessings to you.

  11. I think I just need to buy the book already. I so appreciate your posts, Lisa, and this one was particular timely. We moved across the country last year and at first, made friends with anyone and everyone because I needed some sort of community. Now, I’m being much more careful about who speaks into my life and letting the deep friendships take the time they need.

  12. Excellent points here. You articulate what I have been struggling to find for years. Each time we move, the process of connecting has to start over.

    I once asked an experienced mother who had published a study and video series for moms how she found time for deeper friendships when her children were young (and while her husband was extremely busy building his career). Her answer was not wholly satisfying. Basically, she did not have time to develop much support outside her home and family. Yet she somehow drew enough strength from her spiritual life to carry out her responsibilities as a wife, mother, and home manager well.

    For me, however, friendships have been a lifeline, even as I have struggled with motivation and outcomes in those other roles. It’s a very tricky balance, and I have seldom met a woman who is actually triumphant in each realm simultaneously. Most of us tend to have at least one area that we let slide…

  13. Thanks Lisa. This makes so much sense. The space. The stories. The waiting. Just yesterday I found myself journaling about how overwhelmed I felt when it dawned on me that I could just call a friend. So I did. And even though she didn’t pick up, hearing her voice on the voice mail message reminded me that I do have friends, and that I can make time for them. Thanks for the reminder!

    • Amy- Such a great example, it can feel so hard to just push through our habit of isolation to reach out for connection when we need it most- and even if we never connect, the fact that we took some action in and of itself feels so good!

  14. As a pastor’s wife, it’s good for me to have relationships inside my church, but it’s equally vital to have friendships outside it, too, where people know me apart from that setting and role.

  15. I can definitely relate to those stories. Even though I still believe mine are mostly true I still need to push myself to adjusting them and honoring the friendships that did develop.
    The other part that is very hard for me to overcome is that I feel like I’m the only one in a situation like this. Everybody else has already a “Soul sister”. And this makes me often feel extremely worried that I’m a burden and not an enrichment to others.
    Great post!

  16. One more thing: I sometimes wonder if we put too much emphasize on the part that we need to find another mother with a very similar life and kids around the same age. That adds to the pressure. Sometimes it is much more enriching to connect with women who are in different situations and it also eases the urge for comparisons…. just a thought :-)

  17. This post pushed me over the edge…to step out and invite other ladies in my neighborhood to start a book club. Lisa, I think something you can add to your list is “friendship in proximity.” The people I see on my street and in my neighborhood are sometimes the people I see most…and I need to work to cultivate friendships with them. I’m thrilled to report that so far, seven ladies will join me definitely with three maybes! (We will read/discuss/eat with Bread & Wine by Shauna Neiquist.)

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