“One of the most beautiful qualities of true friendship is to understand and to be understood.” – Lucius Seneca
I’m a fairly introverted person.
It’s not so much that I enjoy time to myself, but that time around others feels awkward and exhausting.
As a kid, and as a young adult, I enjoyed one “best” friendship at a time. “Best” for me usually meant “only.”
When I got married, though I loved my best friend dearly, I assumed that title and all of its implications, fell on my husband. After all, I’d married my “best friend.”
When I had kids, things began to shift. There were things that my husband, even as a co-parent, could not possibly understand about my motherhood experience. My best friend back home, who did not yet have children, was supportive and amazing in every way she could possibly be from 600 miles away and at a different stage of life.
Feeling lonely, as new moms often do, I did that other thing that new moms do. I found myself some groups to join; Women’s Bible studies, neighborhood playdates, Bunko nights with kids in tow. I involved myself in things with lots of people.
I was craving friendship. But I thought I was craving adult interaction. For an introvert mom, those two things are as different as my kiddo’s currently mismatched socks.
Craving adult interaction seems to be a right of passage for stay-at-home moms, especially. We spend all day tending to our children and our home, filling sippy cups and changing diapers, wiping faces and little butts, folding laundry and folding it again, all the while neglecting our own showers and texts from friends. We go for days and weeks and months like this. But sometimes, it only takes a few hours to notice a nagging hollow in our souls.
At the end of the day, we need to talk to someone over the age of apple juice. I mean three. See, I can’t even think.
That’s about the time we go online and find every single play date group and stroller club we can possibly fit into our schedule.
Don’t get me wrong, adult interaction can be swell. But it usually involves many adults, most of whom I don’t know, in a group setting that is manufactured specifically for feel-good conversation and yummy finger foods.
For some moms, I imagine, that works! It can feel good to be around other adults just for the sake of being around other adults. You talk about kids and partners and carpools, all on a surface level, just enough to feel like you’re not alone in motherhood.
But if I’m being honest, for some moms, that gets old fast. Adult interaction for the sake of adult interaction feels simultaneously loud and stifled. There are half a dozen voices all around you talking about things you can relate to, yet no one is digging deep into those experiences. And if you don’t catch on to someone else’s conversation early, you become stuck in the spiral of silence. Unable to interject, unsure of your place in the mix. There will always be someone, in a large group of people, who is ready and waiting to throw their voice into the ring. And if you’re an introvert like me, that someone is not likely to be you.
At the end of such an event, I go home. I feel both drained and guilty. Guilty that something that was supposed to fill my cup, instead left me feeling more empty.
So what’s an introverted mom to do – when being around children all day leaves you exhausted, but being around adults does the same thing in an hour?
The answer for me came when I started making plans with one or two women from those groups (or other places completely unattached to large gatherings) for a coffee date, lunch at my place during nap time, or reorganizing a Sunday school classroom in the middle of the week. It came when I started inviting people into my life.
The difference in adult interaction and adult friendship, for me, is the quality of time spent with that adult – whether it’s another mom, or a coworker, or just someone in one of your circles that you think is really cool and you can mesh with.
For me, friendship doesn’t just mean having similar stories to bond over. Sometimes, it’s having wildly different stories, but making the time and creating the space to better understand them. It isn’t just getting together with a large group of people. It’s finding those few people you can spend more time with. Not only to share stories, but to share lives.
This isn’t to say that joining moms groups isn’t a fantastic way to meet people and make friends. For me, it’s been a great starting place! But in the end, we’ll remember more intimately those moments shared with a precious few than we will the uncomfortable half-hour mingling sessions with plates full of veggie sticks and hearts full of half-shared stories.