When Heidi and I hit record on this podcast we thought we’d address a listener’s question about experiencing loneliness in motherhood. Because as we started processing our own experiences, we discovered that loneliness isn’t something that only happens during one season of motherhood. In fact, feeling alone occurs throughout our lives.
Part 1 of this series looked at the loneliness we experienced as moms of younger kids. In Part 2 we further this conversation by looking at loneliness as moms of tweens and teens and offer encouragement and hope as we begin to transition into the next stage of parenting, empty-nesting.
▼ Jump to Listen to Episode #27: How to Overcome Loneliness ▼
The feeling of isolation and loneliness that Heidi and I encounter as moms of older kids really took us by surprise. We both anticipated a season of friendship with our teens that would look different than it does.
Praise God, we each have wonderful relationship with our teens. We invested on the front end, when they were younger, so that we could have older children that we wanted to spend time with! But they are still our children and there are definitely topics that we do not discuss with them due to the parent-child relationship. I think Heidi and I both knew this intellectually, yet there was still a moment when reality hit. We can’t rely on our kids to be our best friends, but we can experience wonderful, deep friendships with them.
So we adjusted our expectations of our friendships with our kids and began to think about how else to address this loneliness issue.
Identify Triggers and Truths…Again
We brought this up in the first loneliness blogpost and podcast, but it came up again. Just like when we were moms of littles, we have to remind ourselves to take an honest look at our circumstances, expectations, and time. Reflect on where you are in your home and work life. Depending on how you have to spend your days (in the home or working outside the home) you’ll need to get real with where you can make space to be with friends. Get creative – plan an early morning walk or coffee date; eat lunch with a friend; carve out a few hours over the weekend to catch up; or use technology to stay connected throughout the week (Voxer and Marco Polo are two of our favorite apps for this).
Moms also need to be real with what they need and want out of friendships. Are you willing to walk away from friends who are draining so that you can invest in those who really are life-giving? It’s hard to end friendships! Heidi and I have both walked through this, but we can attest to the blessings that come from wisely discerning to spend time with friends who fill your cup instead of leaving you high and dry. Some friends are truly for a season, but others are for a lifetime. Take time to pray about what you need and want out of your friendships.
Quality vs. Quantity
Heidi made such an interesting point about how many friends we really need. I hadn’t thought about that because I’ve always had a tight, small group of friends (think 1-3 max). But many of us think if we don’t have a large circle of girlfriends we must be doing something wrong.
For some of you a multitude of friends may be exactly what you need! If you’re a social butterfly and truly are filled up by having a larger group of women to spend time with, then go for it! But you’ll still need to consider your expectations of those friends and ask yourself if you are building deep relationships with them or simply keeping things surface level. Heidi and I have both found that less than a hand full is the right number of close girlfriends for us. We invest our time and energy in these relationships.
We still have room for the next group, I’ll call “acquaintance-friends.” These are the women we don’t know as well as our BFF’s and also probably wouldn’t call on in an emergency. It’s ok to realize that different people fill different roles and not all people will be all things to us! As a mom of teens, we often have a bit more time and space on our calendars as our kids don’t rely on us as much. But filling that time with lots of friends is probably not going to solve the loneliness problem. It takes time and effort to build true friendships, so fill your calendar accordingly.
Reap What You Sow
If you have neglected meeting regularly with a body of believers, the loneliness you experienced with younger children will only be compounded by the time they are teens. If you are a momma with younger children at home, please make time to spend with other people of faith now. These relationships might not fill your best friend role, but they will be the people you can count on to walk with you through all of the seasons of life. Like-minded, Christian friends share common beliefs and values that allow for the deep, heart-level conversations that are one of the key antidotes to loneliness.
Now, if you are a mom of teens, all hope is not lost! Jump in with both feet and get connected to a local Bible believing church. Invest time in meeting with other believers who will pray with and for you as you parent your older kids. This might seem contradictory to what I said above, but God is in the business of restoration. If you have delayed being in community with other Christians you can still benefit. God blesses our honest connection with other believers and He will allow those relationships to encourage you in your current season.
Loneliness can happen at any season of our lives. God created us to desire connection with others. If your house is now full of teenagers, seek others who can walk alongside you in friendship! Life is meant to be enjoyed with others, especially as Christ followers. Pray and ask God to open your eyes to the women around you, to the ones you need to reach out to, or to the ways you need to make room in your life for friends. Ask your husband or family members to figure out any necessary scheduling issues so that you can spend time with friends.
Heidi and I are rooting for you and your friendships, and we are praying that you not only enjoy being a mom but are also experiencing deep, rich friendships.