The changing face of friendship


Don’t walk in front of me; I may not follow. Don’t walk behind me; I may not lead. Just walk beside me and be my friend.”
Albert Camus, 1913-1960

I read posts by two favourite bloggers this week about friendship and the importance of having a village. Both Becca at Drama for Mama and Shannon at Comments from a Non-Blogger talked about their search for meaningful friendships in what can sometimes feel like a lonely world. I’m certain we can relate, but perhaps in different ways. Some of us may be fortunate enough to have extended family to rely on, enjoy large social circles, perhaps even supportive neighbours, co-workers or employers who help us with the daily struggle. But that’s not enough is it? Sometimes motherhood, parenthood is just a very lonely place.

Arguably, motherhood is a time when we need supportive friendships more than ever. And, it’s also one of the most difficult times to give our friendships the attention they deserve. We’re busy, preoccupied, living life in a blur of daily tasks and responsibilities. Picking up the phone and checking in with a girlfriend is often the furthest thing from our minds. I know it’s true for me. Weeks go by and I forget to connect with a close friend. Sometimes I’ll look at the calendar only to discover that, in fact, it’s been quite longer. I’ll make a mental note to reach out, to remember the things that are happening in their lives, their birthdays, special occasions, life stresses. But, it’s hard. Though it feels like an excuse, I can barely remember my own calendar.

And yet, this stuff is important. It’s how we make and keep connections. And real life connections are vital. I remember reading a study once which demonstrated that new mothers who spent even just an hour a week chatting with a girlfriend were less prone to depression and unhappiness. The women in our lives who we call friends play an important role in keeping us healthy.

Even before reading Becca and Shannon’s respective posts I had been giving this some thought. I’ve been wondering why the relationships that I’m developing online are flourishing so well, when those I have had with friends for years sometimes feel as though they are fading. To some degree I believe it’s a matter of convenience. I can nurture my online friendships when it’s convenient for me. My favourite blogs are always there to be read, commented on when I need to feel that connection. I can chat on Twitter at times that are convenient and for random pockets of time, even just 5 or 10 minutes throughout the day. There is no time imperative, so it makes it easier to nurture.

But I think it’s also changing need. As we grow older and change. As our families flourish and get busy and venture on new paths, so too must our friendships grow and change. In some cases, the qualities that came from pre-baby friendships are no longer needed. Now we crave new kinds of attachments, one’s that relate to our identities as mothers and nurture us as individuals.

I am fortunate to have several friendships in my real life that are thriving and important to me. These women make all the difference in my life. But I also believe I’m discovering rich, valuable relationships in the online world because I’m actively choosing to connect with people who are similar to me, who think, feel, communicate, and wonder about the same things. In reading each other’s deepest thoughts, in sharing our most personal life experiences, in laughing together, commiserating about ideas and strategies, we are forging a new model for creating relationships. Barriers like distance cease to exist and so we are freed of traditional boundaries and it literally opens up a world of opportunity. It’s rich. It’s fulfilling. We choose to walk together on the path of motherhood through our shared experiences and by inspiring one another. This is a powerful thing.

What do your online relationships mean to you? Have your in person relationships changed with motherhood, or do you still keep rich, important connections with friends you had before children? How do you nurture those relationships and your online friendships? Do your online connections feel different, less or, perhaps, even more meaningful? I’m very, very curious!

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