There are extra barriers for caregivers in friendship. But to have the kinds of friendships you want, you have to be the kind of friend you want. And that may mean you go first. We’re going to talk about going first in three ways that will strengthen your friendships!
- April’s self care newsletter
- Abiding Caregiver Facebook group
- Connected: Curing the Pandemic of Everyone Feeling Alone Together, Erin Davis
April 19th- episode 65 – Going First in Friendship
Hi friends, this is Self-Care and Soul Care for the Caregiver, and I’m your host Sandra Peoples. To us, self-care isn’t a luxury—it’s a necessity. We need to take better care of ourselves so we can care for those God has entrusted to us.
This is episode 65, and if you’re a regular listener, you know that I took a couple weeks off from releasing episodes. I had planned to take off the Monday after Easter. But then I needed another week to work on some other projects and get back in the podcasting groove. I’m so thankful you’re meeting me back here today as we talk about going first in friendship.
In this month’s Abiding Caregiver newsletter, I wrote about what I learned in therapy over the last year. If you’re new here, I started seeing a counselor for some social anxiety I was feeling. Friendship is a big topic we’ve been talking through, and I wrote about it in that newsletter. I’ll link to it in the shownotes if you missed it https://mailchi.mp/4c28bcfbe6ee/celebrating-easter-therapy. One detail I wanted to talk about more is how to go first in friendships. To have the kinds of friendships you want, you have to be the kind of friend you want to others. And that may mean you go first in lots of different ways. Let’s talk through that today!
Let me give you this invitation before we jump in: if you haven’t already joined our facebook group for Abiding Caregivers, we’d love to have you! It’s one of my favorite places to hang out on the internet. You can find the link in the shownotes at sandrapeoples.com/thepodcast. This summer I won’t be podcasting as regularly. So join me there so we can stay connected!
Ok, first let’s talk about the challenges to friendship, especially as caregivers. Making and maintaining friendships as a special-needs mom or caregiver feels extra hard. There are three challenges to friendships I’ve experienced and heard from others:
Busyness– We are busy with therapy and doctors’ appointments. Some of our kids have prolonged hospital stays, and we’re with them as much as possible. We have more meetings at school than typical parents. Some of us are active working toward reform in insurance or government services or advocating for inclusion at churches. All parents are busy, but in some seasons special-needs parents have even more on our plates than others.
Super mom perception– Years ago I sat down over coffee with a friend who hadn’t been very friendly lately. I asked if I had done something to hurt or offend her because I wanted to apologize. Her response, “You don’t seem to need me as a friend. You’re like a super mom.” After James’s diagnosis I had gone into warrior-mom mode. I was focused on being the kind of mom James deserved, who would help him reach his potential no matter what. And that meant I refused help when it was offered and didn’t let anyone know when I was hurting or needy. Friendships need to feel reciprocal, and I wasn’t letting my friends be the friends they wanted to because I was putting off the super mom vibe. This is often unintentional, but it’s perceived by others nonetheless.
The stage my son is in vs. his age– My boys are now fifteen and thirteen. The people we are meeting and making friends with have kids close to our kids’ ages. But James’s developmental stage is closer to that of a three-year-old. When we hang out with peers, James can’t disappear into the game room to play video games like the other boys can. I have to watch him every minute. This keeps us from getting invited over to friends’ houses, and when we do get invited, it keeps me from being able to actually spend time with others.
There may be even more reasons that you experience that I haven’t listed. But there’s good news too. We can overcome these challenges. We can fight for friendships and invest in relationships. Here’s what has worked for me—going first.
In Connected: Curing the Pandemic of Everyone Feeling Alone Together, Erin Davis writes, “The secret to feeling less alone is not to simply wish for others to come into your world to meet your needs. Instead it is to go into their world and meet theirs.” Someone has to go first. You can be that someone in three important ways:
Go first in reaching out. if I’m having a bad day and think, I wish someone would text and ask how I’m feeling, I text a friend to ask how she’s feeling. During the pandemic, I became more intentional about this. And it’s ok to be intentional (or even methodical) about friendship. Better to have “text a friend” on the to do list every day than to forget to ever actually do it. Can you think of 5 friends you want to reach out to this week and decide that each day you’ll text one of them? Or even three friends you could text all in one morning? Make a plan and do it!
Go first in making plans. We talked about how a busy schedule is a barrier to friendship. So why don’t you be the first to make plans? Invite someone to lunch, have a family over and grill out, plan a playdate. You can even think big and see if your friends are interested in a girls’ weekend this summer. Especially if you’ve said no to getting together in the past, you may need to be the one to plan something in the future. What sounds fun to do with friends? You know I love my book club. Maybe you want to start one yourself. Or invite someone along to do something you’re doing anyway. I have a friend I invite to go into Houston to Trader Joe’s with me when I go a few times a year. It’s way more fun with her. Here’s an idea you can plan today: invite friends to lunch the day before the last day of school. Get it on the calendar now! Celebrate surviving this chaotic school year!
Go first in vulnerability. You’ve probably heard the quote from C. S. Lewis on friendship: “Friendship…is born at the moment when one man says to another ‘What! You too? I thought that no one but myself…’” How do you get that kind of response? You go first. This is especially helpful if others see you as the supermom we talked about. Can you share what’s really happening when everything looks so perfect on Instagram? Can answer “How are you?” with the truth and not “I’m fine”? I’m not talking about with everyone, but with the friends you want to grow closer to, those you value. I’ve got to tell you, this takes time and practice. And it’s not always easy. There’s a woman at church I want to be better friends with. So I keep throwing out these vulnerabilities, hoping it will bring us closer. She hasn’t reciprocated yet. With me (and it seems like in most of her friendships), she’s still answering “Everything’s fine” when she’s asked, but I’m going to keep trying. That “you too?!” moment is coming for us
Friendship isn’t as easy as it was when we were kids or living together in dorms in college. It takes extra steps to stay connected. But going first in reaching out, making plans, and being vulnerable is a great way to keep those friendships healthy and meaningful for you. Let’s pray together:
God, thank you for the gift of friendship. We see how important it is in the relationships we read about in Scripture between David and Jonathan, Ruth and Naomi, and Mary and Elizabeth. There are many encouragements in the New Testament about how we are to love and serve one another. We want to pray today for our friendships—that we would take time to cultivate them so they are healthy and strong. Show each one of my friends listening how they can go first in friendship this week. Help us reach out with intention and care. Help us go first in sharing what’s really happening in our lives so we can point each other to the hope we have in You. In Jesus’s name, amen.
Thanks, friends, for spending time with me today! I’m praying for you as you care for your family and make time for others who are important to you. I’ll meet you back here next week for another reminder of how we can practically live out our calling to abide in Christ!