"Only hang around people that are positive and make you feel good. Anybody who doesn’t make you feel good, kick them to the curb. And the earlier you start in your life the better. The minute anybody makes you feel weird and non-included or not supported, you know, either beat it or tell them to beat it.” -Amy Poehler
I used to have this really close friend. We were roommates for years and best friends for even longer. When I was about seven months pregnant, this friend abruptly ended the relationship. It certainly wasn’t my decision, and the loss was devastating. In retrospect, it was time for the friendship to end, but it was the closing of an important chapter in my life. I was nearing 30, and I was about to become a parent. This period of upheaval made the loss all the more painful.
My husband and I had just moved to the area where this friend lived, and I didn’t know a single soul except her. I began motherhood without a strong community of peers, and it felt really lonely. I was sad to lose this relationship, and I was really sad about feeling so isolated. But what I had to grieve the most was that this friend never got to see me as a parent. I never got the chance to share such a significant part of my life with her, and she never saw me blossom into the person I am now. Yet, I don’t know that this transformation would have happened without losing her. I had to shed who I was in that relationship to become a more self-assured, centered person: qualities that I find central to parenting.
Losing this significant connection motivated me to seek out new friendships, something I seldom do. With time and effort, I began to create a new group of friends. I met some wildly witty, brilliant women who are in the same stage of life. I made friendships with other mothers who exude such wisdom and compassion that I marvel at the richness they bring to my life. I can confidently say these friends have made me a better mother. I’m certain that my old friend wouldn’t have affected my parenting in the same way. We didn’t bring out the best in each other, and she wouldn’t have inspired me the way the community of women I know do now. I don’t blame her for this, but I know it to be true.
I had to shed who I was in that relationship to become a more self-assured, centered person: qualities that I find central to parenting.
I wouldn’t be nearly as patient with my son if I didn’t see endless patience modeled for me at every playdate. I wouldn’t be able to laugh at the many trials of motherhood if I didn’t have a community with whom to commiserate at regular happy hours and book clubs. I wouldn’t be inspired to do better if I didn’t have beautiful examples to emulate. There's something truly unique about the power of female friends. As one anonymous quote so aptly observes, "when women support each other, incredible things happen." The grace my mama friends show reminds me that we can inspire change through the simple, and challenging, act of consciously raising our children.
What we allow to influence our lives matters. The environment we create for ourselves, including the community we build, has immeasurable impact on our parenting. We can hang on to relationships which fill us with insecurity, or we can invest in those which build our confidence in ourselves. This choice will determine how we treat our kids and the degree to which we criticize or encourage them. Choosing wisely can make the difference between a mediocre life and one of joy and fulfillment.