Growing up I wasn't great at having friends. I never had a proper model from either parent of what a good friend should be.
Throughout elementary, middle school, and into high school, friends came and went and I never really understood during those different phases of my youth why it was that my friendships easily dissolved. Why friends slowly began to distance themselves from me while I just sat back and let them, never actually thinking twice about the importance they had in my life. Looking back it all is so plain and clear that the way I knew how to be a friend was no friend at all.
My mother especially didn't possess the ability to be selfless and to consider others before herself so this was something I never understood was a deeply important part of being a friend. She modeled to me from an early age how to use relationships for your own advantage, getting what you want from the people in your lives and then casting them aside. While I never consciously hurt my friends, I certainly didn’t understand all the subtle ways I did. Not taking the time to consider their feelings or helping foster friendships and keep them alive.
Not only did my lack of role models for a proper friendship influence me but the general instability of childhood made me into a fiercely independent person dead set on showing the world that I could handle whatever life threw at me using only my own devices.
Through those years I denied that friendship was something that was even important in life, while at the same time deep down I know deep friendship was something I longed for.
Maybe it was that I didn't have a decent role model of tangible friendships to look to and much of my idea of friendship was based on unrealistic interpretations on television shows, movies, and even in books. I longed for a friend who was exactly like me that I could connect with on every level. We had similar childhood struggles, and dreams for the future, we liked the same activities and the same kind of boys, and the same kind of clothes. And if they didn't have all these things in common with me than they would never understand me, not only that but they would judge me for being different.
As I got older, I met my husband, friends again came and went through my life never feeling too strong of a desire to keep anyone too close, it wasn't until motherhood that this all changed. It’s easy to say that this transition was what changed everything, it was a catalyst, yes, but it was also a long time coming, years and years of self-reflection, of learning to look within myself, see how I evolved into who I was, learning to be mindful of the reasons I approached life and social interactions the way I did.
But at the same time there is nothing like the birth of a mother to set all that self-reflection and mindfulness into hyper speed. Becoming a mother transforms you. In those early months when you haven't yet met this unfamiliar little life making a warm cozy home in your womb, and you have all the time in the world to dream about what their little face will look like and who they will be but also what you will look like and who you will be as their mother.
Motherhood makes you look deeply at who you are, what you've been through, what you value, and what you want to instill in your children. As mothers we worry if our struggles, our fears, our flaws, will negatively affect them. We worry how we can raise them to be good people in a sometimes scary world of hidden dangers. Motherhood more than any other life change really makes us look deep within ourselves and out into the world at who we are, what we want, and who we want our children to be. During those hugely transforming months of pregnancy it becomes easier for many to embrace their inner goddess and the sensitive nature that comes along with being a woman. We yearn for others who understand the deep ocean of thoughts and emotions we are faced being a vessel for new life. We somehow feel closer to all women, across countries, and generations. Understanding our own mothers more, and each person we see we may for a moment see a glimpse of them as someone's child, or someone's mother. We begin to realize that in motherhood, we are all sisters.
When that new life is finally on the outside, in your arms, eyes open wide and looking to you for everything, this can be a terrifying and isolating experience for many. Not to mention caring for your newly birthed baby is undeniably hard! Those first weeks with your fragile unfamiliar newborn, trying to nourish them and not forget yourself. Trying to heal your body and keep theirs safe; on little sleep, with tired eyes, and sore nipples, and so many questions.
This is the time we need the most support. This is when we truly need a friend. This is when we truly need our sisters. Not just to give us guidance or advice but for encouragement and just to know we are not alone.
Motherhood can transform a woman in a multitude of ways. For me even between my weakest hours it gave me the strength and eagerness to allow myself to start the journey to be the woman I had always wanted to be. Having a child of my own felt like the ultimate incentive. With her by my side, I felt like I could do anything, or at least be satisfied with the fact that I tried. I always knew having a child would jump start my soul and give me the push I needed to realize my dreams. Something about being needed, being the role model, being the mother, gave me the strength and the drive to finally be the woman I wanted to be. No excuses with her in my life. I would do it for her, I would do it for me.
And now was the time to be the woman I wanted to be. And a big part of becoming that woman was finding woman, sisters; who could help me find who that was. Who could challenge me, inspire me, and support me. So I did something I hadn't really done my whole life.
I put myself out there.
I opened my heart and I swallowed my fears and my anxieties. Of not being accepted, of not finding anyone who I liked, who liked me, who meshed with my unique personality. I joined a group for new parents and I went multiple times a week for months. I chatted with people I thought could be friends, and who I knew I wouldn’t ever see again. This in itself was unbelievably cathartic and helpful for me in those first few months to feel I wasn’t alone in all my daily struggles as a new mother but most importantly after a few months, I had made connections, real connections with real woman. Some I may have written off years ago because we didn’t have enough in common, because they came from different backgrounds, had led different lives up until our paths crossed as mamas.
But what I would have missed if I continued down that path thinking that all friends needed to share so many similarities. I would have missed out on a true sisterhood. For the greatest thing I’ve learned through the beautiful friendships I’ve developed is that friends don’t have to have the same style, the same religion, the same struggles or achievements.
What I found is that our differences is what makes our friendships mean something, it is what teaches me lessons daily, what expands my mind and my heart in ways I didn’t know possible. Each one of my friends is different, each with their own personality, their own quirks and strengths, and each one teaches me more about myself than I could ever learn from someone who was a match of me.
I have believed that this wild and crazy life we are given was meant to learn as much as we can, about ourselves and this world, and about each other. And with each friend, with each conversation I am given the opportunity to see the world through a different perspective, through someone else’s eyes. To understand the way they view the world through the lens of their life. Through all their experiences that have molded them into who they are today.
What I discovered to be most important is to find genuine people. Real people. Who don’t want to hide behind who they are supposed to be. That don’t apologize for who they are or what they believe. People who you can be yourself with, even if it’s nothing like them. Ones where you can bare your soul without feeling judged, friends who you can whine to without worry, ones you can share your triumphs with, ones you can share laughter with and tears. That is what truly matters in the heart of a friendship and what every one of us truly needs.
Journalist: Holly Klisak