Social distancing got many of us out of the “making new friends” habit. To help you get back into the making friends mindset, I’m sharing an excerpt from Chapter 2 of Better Together: Because You’re Not Meant to Mom Alone. Grab your copy!

When my daughter Erica was six weeks old, I took her to the doctor. She had been sick for a couple of days and I didn’t like the sound of her cough. Anne, almost six, and Evan, almost four, accompanied me to the doctor appointment. The pediatrician examined Erica and said, “You need to go directly to the hospital. I believe she has RSV and is in respiratory distress. I will call ahead to alert them you are coming.” Wow—I knew she was sick but I certainly didn’t realize it was that bad! Talk about a game changer.

I called Mark at work and I called my friend Bonnie. Mark headed to the hospital to get Anne and Evan and take them to Bonnie’s house. Because I was nursing Erica, I stayed with her around the clock over the next four days and that meant I missed Anne’s sixth birthday. However, Bonnie filled the gap! She made a birthday cake and had a little party for Anne on her birthday while Mark and I were at the hospital with Erica. What a gift Bonnie gave to Anne—and to me! I was grateful that Bonnie and I chose to mom together.

I met Bonnie at Mom to Mom, a moms group I started eighteen months before Erica’s hospital stay. Her two daughters were the same age as Anne and Evan. We traded sitting, enjoyed letting the kids play together, and always seemed to have plenty to talk about. Our friendship has lasted all these years and now we’re both “grandmomming” together.

When I think of my mom community when the kids were growing up, I met my friends in many different ways. My friend Julia and I met at story hour at the library. Mindy and I met at a church event. I met Sue through my friend Janice. Marianne and I met at the park. Patti and Rita were my neighbors. Each one of these women, and others like them, formed my mom community that kept me sane, strong, and secure during the crazy years of raising kids. Some of them I’m still “momming” with, and some were in my life for a season.

There are times when looking for mom friends can feel like you’re back in junior high dealing with cliques, feeling awkward, and trying to start up small-talk conversations. Too often you’re attempting to do this on four hours of sleep (either because you were up with a baby or waiting for a teenager who is past curfew). Maybe you’re feeling a little unqualified to be anyone’s friend because you’ve got spit up on your shirt or you’re dealing with an issue with an older kid that is causing you to feel inept at parenting.

On top of that, you might be carrying all your “friendship” baggage from middle school relationships gone bad, or maybe you’re like me and you just didn’t have much experience with girlfriends before you became a mom. No matter what you’re feeling, you need to know you’re not the only one who sometimes feels the whole world has this figured out and you’re the only one struggling with it.

Recently, I shared an article about becoming a “there you are” person, a crucial perspective that makes it a whole lot easier to develop new friendships. Today I want to share a little more about the stages of friendships.

Friendship is a progression of time, energy, and trust and only a few will make it all the way to carry a BFF label. BFFs don’t drop out of the air. They start as MBFs, then move to TBFs, and then GGFs before they ever become BFFs. We need all of those kinds of friends and all levels of friendships in our mom community. So what does all of that mean? Here are the typical stages of friendship:

MBF—Might Be Friends

This is where friendship begins. It’s the “Crossed Path” stage of friendship. You cross paths in some way—at a moms group, at church, at the park, at the library, at your kids’ school—and there’s a sense of intrigue, interest, or even curiosity about who they are and if you might have something in common. A friendship won’t happen here, but the seed of friendship will be planted.

TBF—Trying to Be Friends

This is where the seed of friendship is watered. This also might be called the “Playdate at the Park” or the “Let’s meet for Coffee” stage of friendship. To move from MBF to TBF, you have to spend some time together and get to know one another more. In some settings this will happen automatically (at a moms group, in a work environment, at an exercise class, etc.), but much of the time this is where we have to put ourselves out there. Take a risk. Make an invite. Why? Because you can’t move from MBF to TBF without showing up for time together.

GGF—Good Girlfriend

This is where a friendship seed was planted, watered, and is now fertilized with more regular time together and deeper conversations. This might be called the “Hang in My Family Room” stage of friendship. There’s a mutual enjoyment experienced when spending time together. We no longer feel the need to pick up the toys or clean the crumbs off the counter before this friend comes over. This level of friendship isn’t usually experienced before you’ve had a handful (maybe six to eight) of TBF connections and you’re feeling more and more comfortable around each other. This is the stage where you can spontaneously call and ask her to watch your kids at the last minute and she can do the same. This stage of friendship might also lend itself to setting up regular date night trades if you’re married, or sanity saver nights if you’re a single mom.

BFF—Best Friends Forever

This is the “Know Your Garage Code” stage of friendship. She doesn’t knock on the door, she just walks in and yells. You can laugh together and share your pain and your struggles. You know this person’s strengths and her weaknesses. You can cry on each other’s shoulders. This is your “call in the middle of the night friend” because there’s a commitment to one another. You know this person will show up when you need her and you’re committed to show up when she needs you. You’re both emotionally healthy for each other, and when you are with her you are refueled and not drained. We love our BFFs like a sister. In fact, for some of us, she is the sister we never had or the sister we wish our sister had been. Not every friendship reaches this level, but a handful of BFFs makes your mom community even richer. These relationships, however, usually take a year or more to make. True friendships aren’t slice and bake; they’re made from scratch. They can’t be rushed and are the result of time, vulnerability, and commitment.

Of course, relationships don’t always fit neatly into these categories. While these relationship stages have blurred lines between them and usually blend into one another without us even labeling them or realizing it, I have found it helpful to understand the types of friends we need and the progression of friendships we will experience!

Interested in diving deeper into the “how” of developing strong friendships in your life? Friendship is truly a “do-it-yourself” activity, something that other people can’t do on your behalf. In Better Together: Because You’re Not Meant to Mom Alone, my daughter Anne and I break down the specifics of how to move from each stage of friendship to another. If you have a moms group, we offer free video curriculum for the book (available on our website here and in Right Now Media, if your church has a Right Now Media membership.)

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