I often ponder how friendships change after having children. Perhaps a better way to say this is how changes in you bring about change in friendships. I began to notice after my first daughter was born how I saw my friends less and less despite my best efforts. Lunches, dinners, or just sharing our favorite Starbucks Frappuccino, weren’t the same with a toddler at the table. Since I was in my early 30s with our first child, most of my friends had older children and some had grandchildren so understandably they weren’t interested in discussing “first-time mom” or “kid stuff.” They wanted our conversations to remain the same as they always had-focused on a life without little ones and with a full-time career.
Finding My Place
So, as a person and a professional, I struggled to find my place. Up to this point in my life, I had no interest in building friendships with other mothers. Other women, yes. But to talk about “mom stuff,” forget it. I couldn’t fathom why anyone in their right mind would want to breastfeed. I mean, yuck, didn’t that hurt? And hey, what about the bedroom? Didn’t it put a kink in romance? (Needless to say, I’ve nursed my children until they were 22 months old). God brought me a long way and renewed my mind in all aspects of being a mother.
However, after giving birth to our first daughter, I had never felt so incompetent in my life. (The birth seemed to be the easy part!) And I had few friends who could offer advice. I returned to work after six weeks and soon realized that although I still had a career, it had changed. My career was in academics as a university professor in the field of organizational leadership. I remember those first few months of teaching. The university had four-hour classes. At the break time, I ran to my office, locked the door and got out the breast pump. During the days when I held office hours, if my door was locked and the proverbial cow bell was hung on the door knob, everyone knew to wait for 10 minutes.
God gave me the grace to keep this up for a year. Then, I decided to go part-time and teach on-line so I could work from home. Before I had children, I would have perceived this as accepting failure. But my life had changed and now my priorities were different. However, I still struggled to find my place. I prayed, “Lord, why did you lead me through all this education and teaching experience, only to let it go? It hasn’t helped me become a better mom. I know how to lead an organization, be a consultant, and a teacher but now those skills will no longer be used. What else do I have besides being a mom, which I know nothing about!”
God Doesn’t Waste Anything
Then I realized part of the answer was in the training I already had…I have learned that God doesn’t waste anything. Many times, I have taught students about the concept of organizational culture. This is the values, beliefs, and norms of behavior that make up an organization and make each organization unique – their own unique “fingerprint” in the marketplace. I suddenly realized that each family has their unique, God-given, “fingerprint” as well. When God blesses you with children, He changes your family “fingerprint” along with everything else. I felt that we no longer fit in anywhere, even at our church. Our family dynamics were unique.
Unique Family Dynamics
My husband is a federal fire-fighter and hazardous materials specialist. Since he is employed by the government, his hours aren’t, well…normal. He works for 24 hours and then comes home for 24 hours. This continues for seven shifts or 14 days and then he has 3 consecutive days off. Try to plan family weekly activities when your husband is home Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday one week and Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday the next. It is almost impossible. Combine that with part-time teaching that I can do from home and we don’t fit into the normal “family” mold. However, as I began to watch other families, I realized (in addition to wallowing in self-pity) that very few families fit the “traditional” family concept. We all have unique family dynamics – everything from parents’ schedules, children, schooling, faith, and mealtimes. Each family has their own unique “culture” and family identity.
No Longer Less of a Mom
I no longer feel like I am less of a mom if I run to my laptop when my children take naps. That is what God has gifted me to do and it does fit in with being a mother. I teach leadership-what it means to be an effective, Christ-centered leader and the impact leaders have on organizations. I can’t think of a more complex organization than the family unit. There are people of different ages, generations, and genders living under the same roof. As mothers, we are often in the position of bridging these gaps, organizing these people, and getting everyone working toward the same God-given family vision. We are leading and teaching through modeling, challenging, equipping, encouraging, and listening to our children. It takes skill to lead and manage a family.
No Longer Less of a Friend
I no longer feel like I am less of a friend because…I have an organization to run and I am in training to develop new skills that will benefit the people of the organization (my family). What an epiphany! So God did know what He was doing. I do fit. Perhaps not the way I had envisioned it (or with the friends I had envisioned sharing things with), but it is a new season. I no longer feel left behind or left out. I feel that I have grown and with that growth comes a need for new relationships-for sharing, giving, and learning about this new season of life that God has uniquely equipped me for. I don’t know what it will look like in the years ahead, but God is infinitely creative and He doesn’t waste anything.
A Purpose Only You Can Fulfill
God has a reason and a purpose that only you can fulfill. There is no family situation that is too weird or unusual or too “normal” or boring. And yes, your friendships do change. This may seem lonely if you are not able to embrace it. How does one embrace it? In the same way Jesus did. He knew who God created Him to be and didn’t try to be anyone else. Jesus had absolute certainty about who He was and His significance because of His relationship with His Father.
The Example of Jesus
Jesus knew His mission and with the Father’s help he completed it. “I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do,” John 17:4 (NASB). He faced each day knowing that with His Father helping Him, He was adequate for the task at hand. He had no fear that His Father would put Him in a situation that He wouldn’t equip Him for. Like Jesus, we must spend time with God each day so we have the assurance that our Heavenly Father will see to it that nothing comes into our life that is beyond what His strength working in us can handle.
He can live through us and provide the power, grace, and answers needed to embrace our new seasons and God-given family vision. As Jesus did, we need only to ask.