My daughter had two playdates set up with kids in her school this past Winter, and I was excited to meet the moms as well as the children she spoke so much about. Neither one of the moms knows that I write about marriage, divorce, relationships, and parenthood, so it was ironic that both moms revealed to me problems in their marriages in the short time span that we were all together. Even a few years back, a mom at our mommy-and-me playgroup started calling me to vent about her divorce even though I had just learned her last name. Oddly enough, here I am getting a divorce as well. You could say that perhaps it's me; maybe I am a good listener and a very friendly person with an open mind. I would agree with all of those sentiments, but the one thing that drove these women to reveal to me their personal problems is that they needed a good friend.
Too many of us carry our emotional burdens alone, and it takes a toll. Before you know it, you're ranting about your personal life to a total stranger or, perhaps, bawling in the middle of a girls' night out because of something going on with you that you haven't told anyone. I've never cried during a girls' night out, but one time when I was dropping off clothes at my dry cleaner, she asked me where my daughter was and I broke down in tears, saying, "I'm getting a divorce." My poor dry cleaner hugged me. She probably didn't know what to do.
If you find one mom or a few moms coming to you to bleed their hearts out, don't be judgmental. Be their friend. We live in a very different world than the one most of us grew up in. Grandparents are still working, people live far from their families, and more and more people are raising children alone or in divorced homes. Now more than ever, we need meaningful connections with each other beyond the all-too-easy Facebook "like."
Facebook couldn't have told me that one mom's husband deals with severe depression. Twitter couldn't have told me that another mom's husband left and never came back. Sure, social media can tell us these things, but more often than not people aren't sharing these things on social media. They're sharing the highlights of their lives, not the low points. And really, what does a status "like" or a post comment actually do for a mom who's out there struggling to get by? Nothing. It's just a brief interaction that doesn't hold her hand, tell her she will be OK, or offer help.
Even the most introverted of people need others in their community to stay sane. We've strayed too far from the setup that really makes people thrive: that elusive village that it takes to raise a child — and the mom. Yes, the mom too. If someone is coming to you, a brand-new person, and she is revealing some of her innermost thoughts, as long as they're not the thoughts of a maniac or involving illegal activities, sit, listen, and offer your friendship.
That night that the one mom rambled about her divorce, I stayed on the phone with her for over an hour and I had laryngitis. I couldn't say much, but I could listen much. We didn't really know each other and I wasn't sure why she felt I was a good confidant, but I empathized with her plight. I felt compassion for her. We could all stand to have a lot more compassion for each other.
Two years later, I have a group of about 13 friends who I message with weekly updates about my divorce from before we even said we were splitting up, right to this very day. Some of these ladies live far away, but for the ones who are close, I make sure to see them. No matter what amongst my darkest and brightest points, these ladies have been here for me whether virtually or in person. Someone needed me even if I was just an acquaintance at the time, and I was there for her in her worst moment. Now it's me in her shoes, and I need others and they are there for me. You never know when it will be your turn. When you will need that shoulder to cry on or sound advice. So the next time you meet a mom who starts to reveal the darkness in her "closet," don't shut the door on her. Offer her an ear because she needs someone and one day, you will too. And that's OK. Making meaningful connections with people is what life is about.