When you feel like a hot mess and it’s hard to fight for friendship

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Dear friend,

I’m not a good friend. I’m not. Perhaps there was a time when I was. But the truth is that being my friend today requires a good portion of patience and heaps of grace. Being a mama to my little flock requires much of me. Sometimes, it feels like all of me. And, though I’m eager to connect, and I love you from my depths, friendship feels hard.

I desperately want to be there for you when you need me. I want to be dependable. Consistent. Punctual. I want to be truly present. I want to remember your birthday, and all the days that matter to you. I want to be distracted by nothing when your heart is hurting and you need my listening ears. That’s my heart, as it always has been.

I want to be the best of friends to you.

But these little people who need me, and this other side of my heart where the light began to shine eight years ago…it steals me away. And the scary truth of my beautiful, messy life now…is that I never, ever stop being mama.

I forget to call. I forget to respond to emails and texts. I sometimes forget to follow up after an important conversation.

My thoughts are muddled. I cannot remember how to speak in full sentences, because it has been eight years since I finished one.

When the school called while we’re out to coffee, I answered. When I heard a crash in the next room, I sprang to my feet in the middle of your sentence. When one of my people got hurt or sick, I canceled our time together. I backed out of commitments when I saw things get unbalanced in my home. I never wanted to do that to you.

I have packed up lunches and children and arrived at a playground picnic only to leave 45 seconds later with a handful of bee stings to tend to, and a van load of tantrums. I once left your tender moment when a child of mine mistook a playhouse chair for a potty. Yup, that happened.

I grow frustrated that even your tears or deep pain can’t find the shelter of my uninterrupted focus.

I have arrived without someone’s shoes. Without enough snacks or Band-Aids. We have been overtaken by whining, and potty breaks, and questions. We have been defeated by the shear noise.

I know you understand.

It’s not convenient to be friends. And it’s not safe. We could start to think that friendship needs to just be put on a shelf until our children are older. But some deep down place in us knows better.  Doing it alone is not the answer.

Despite the best of intentions and sometimes what feels like monumental efforts, I fail you. And I recognize that I really can’t make you any promises. The truth is my promises were always weak – my dependability was always reliant on the grace of God. But I really know it now. I know it in the flesh because I have failed you time and again.

It was not always a crisis that stood in our way, friend. It’s just that my little flock took all of me. My heart’s eye zoomed in a bit, and my other loves fell out of focus for a moment. But I need you to know that your friendship – right there in the mess – it keeps me going.

We must fight to believe that it is so very worth it. As we balance the needs of these precious little people, we must offer one another grace upon grace to believe that our love for one another remains.

I want to say “I’m sorry” for not being a good friend, but I can’t say it in good conscience. I see that God made you and me with one fleshy body and 24 hours in a day, and a mind and a heart that can’t keep all the things in focus, the way that He can. And I see that He gave us these little flocks and a job to do. So, I really can’t say “I’m sorry,” because I will fail you the same way again. And please don’t say “sorry” either, because I want the same for you.

I need you to know that I am trusting a gracious God who can keep your heart in focus all day and night – that He will tend to your heart when I can’t.

I need you to know that even though I fail to be there, that I am with you. I see you. And I believe in you.

I’ve never gone to war, but I imagine that the dearest soldier friends are comforted by one another’s presence on a battlefield. You and me are like that. The soldiers are unable to keep an eye on one another as they fight, but their hearts belong to one another. They are empowered by fighting as one. And, as soon as the dust begins to settle, their eyes dart around looking for one another. They are prepared to tend to one another’s wounds, and carry one another out of harm’s way, if they need to. I’m fighting alongside of you, friend. And I will always come looking for you.

I never stop being a mama…but I need you right next to me. Will you stay?

I know you will.

I want to ask you to trust that I treasure your presence in the middle of it all. You help keep the beat – the rhythm of my life. And your partnership makes me strong.

The inconvenience, the risk, the interruptions, the mess, the utter failure to connect when distractions mount – I wouldn’t trade it for doing this without you. To keep fighting for friendship feels dangerous, but doing it alone is far more so.

We must keep fighting.

Motherhood brings these unique challenges to walking in community. There is no water cooler or office party, where we share our successes and grievances. There is no performance review that helps us feel confident that we’re on the right track. Our “direct reports” are not likely to offer any helpful feedback or thanks for many, many years…if ever. And the only job description is an unwritten “Do All The Things.”

We are often hungry, worn down by sibling squabbles, messes, and discipline challenges. And we are oh, so very tired. In the long days full of little people who don’t speak in logical sentences, with carpool and nap schedules, with frequent interruptions, doing it alone can feel easier. But the more alone we are, the heavier this thing of motherhood feels.

Alone, we start to think we’re the only one. The only one struggling. The only one who yells at her kids. The only one who locks herself in the bathroom for a break. The only one who can’t stop nagging and criticizing.  The only one who finds it so difficult to try to switch from Spit-up Covered Mama to Sexy Wife.

Alone, we might believe that lie that every one else is doing it better.

Alone, our hopelessness might get the best of us.

Alone, our shame has no accountability. The darkness of isolation hides and feeds it. Shame can hold us down in those dark spots where we believe we’re the wrong one for the job, and our children are doomed.

Alone, we forget to pray.

Alone, we forget to laugh.

Let’s not do it alone.

This is why I’m so grateful for the understanding we have between us. When it comes to those social graces we learned in elementary school, about eye contact and not interrupting. We’ve let those go. We know a million times over that it’s not personal.

We both know the struggle of a heart that is always, always divided. That never stops being a mama. Our hearts are one, yours and mine. We’re fighting on the same battlefield, and we’ll come looking when the dust settles.

We know and believe that it’s worth the struggle. That we need each other.

This kind of friendship is something magical. Sister, our hands are full, but our spirits are walking hand-in-hand.

And I couldn’t do it without you.

With Love,

Your Not-So-Awesome Friend, Who Will Always Come Looking

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