Wednesday, November 12, 2014

the hidden benefit

After a few months of staying home with the boys, we are finally getting into a certain rhythm of life. This rhythm is only slightly slower than the rhythm we had when I was working, but it is different nonetheless.

Yes, I am able to spend more time with our boys, which I love. However, I'm slowly discovering an amazing hidden benefit of staying home: deepening friendships.

Let's be clear for fear that you will think I am a loser: I had friends when I was working. I saw many of them often in the halls of my school building, I talked to others occasionally (via text, of course), and even spent time with a few of them on Friday and Saturday nights, sometimes even Sunday afternoons if I was feeling ambitious.

But those friendships often lacked a few vital pieces of relational currency: Time & energy. Quite simply, I had no time for friends, nor did I feel like putting extra energy into anything that didn't involve getting my mile-high laundry done, grocery shopping, or scrubbing the dirt off of my boys after a day outside.

And since I didn't have time or energy for friends, my friendships weren't particularly deep. They often--not always, but often--consisted of some pretty empty "How are you's" and "Have a good day's," along with some "Everything is greats" for good measure.

Other people who are more extroverted and amazing than myself are much better at navigating this no-time, no-energy conundrum. They can probably ask genuine questions like "How can I help you today?" and be honest in their answers by saying, "Glad you asked. I'm going to be honest: I'm really struggling today."

But that was not me when I was working. Yes, I had great friends at work and loved seeing them every day and enjoying an occasional deep conversation, but I also couldn't muster up the energy to go past much of the everyday smalltalk we all experience. I had usually used up all of my emotional and social capital by the end of each day, and at 3 PM, I wanted to go see my kids and get on with the 15 errands we needed to run together.

And don't even get me started on nights out with friends. Weekdays were basically out of the question because the next day of school and the connected 5 am wakeup loomed in front of me, telling me to shut it down at 8 PM.

Weekends were often off-limits, as we had a gazillion to-dos to accomplish before the next Monday rolled around, not to mention the fact that I wanted to see my kids because I had just handed them off to someone else for 45 hours the week before.

I will admit here that I was probably wrong in not putting more effort into creating bonds. I was probably selfish in not offering more of myself--"my" conversation, "my" time, "my" attention--to others. Often, however, I suspected they were feeling just like me. And often, I wondered--and still wonder, at times--what I had to offer anyone anyway.

But now, with some extra time and--really, most importantly--extra social energy, I am experiencing the hidden gem of deepening friendships that move beyond the "Hello's" and "How are ya's" and into the "How has your day been's" and "How's it going with that discipline thing with the boys?"

This has been a season of friendships with real talk, joy, struggle-sharing, increased vulnerability, and encouragement.

It's been a season of texted prayers for my family and for Sweet C, just at the right time (namely, when I was increasing my walking pace while walking by the little girlie clothes at the store, because sometime it hurts to look).

It's been a season of receiving unexpected gifts in the mail from a dear-but-far-away awesome-sauce friend.

And it's been a season of deepening relationships with my boys, learning how to be a better wife and mom from an older woman of God, community-building at church, and truly enjoying some girl time on the weekends or on Monday mornings.

I am ever so thankful for this season, and I am learning to enjoy it without worry.

((And working-moms-who-don't-want-to-be-working-moms and who aren't in this season...please know that I feel your pain. I know what it's like to have the energy tank on low or empty and to feel that you are failing everyone all at the same time. (Please tell me it wasn't just me who felt that way.) I don't know what it's like to do all of that well, as many of you probably do. You all are probably WAY better at managing friendships and social energy than I am, and I assure you, you are failing no one. I fail my kids DAILY from home, and I fail on budgeting our one-income, minister-paycheck budget almost hourly. So just because I'm now parenting from home doesn't make my parenting any better AT ALL. Please understand this. Hugs to you, and know that I miss seeing many of you in the halls.))

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