When I found out I was pregnant I knew I was going to be the recipient of numerous life lessons. While "how to be a mother" would be at the top of that list, I knew my child was also going to teach me how to be a better partner to his or her father, how to be a better worker, how to be a better cook (hopefully) and, it turns out, how to be a better friend. There were things I didn't understand about true friendship, until I became a mom; things I thought I had a handle on or an understanding of; things that have made me a better friend to the women (and men) in my life, and have helped me determine who should stay in my life, and who shouldn't.
I've always considered myself a good friend and have prided myself on how willing I am to be there for the people in my life. Growing up in a toxic household with an abusive parent made me acutely aware of just how important friends and friendships are, and I never wanted to do my friends wrong, as they were the family I was actually able to choose for myself. Of course, I have failed many friends countless times, too, and friendships have ended because I haven't handled things the right way. Which is why I'm so thankful for motherhood (among other reasons) and consider my son to be the reason why I've become a better friend as I've grown and matured in my role as someone's mom.
Thanks to motherhood, I know who's worth my time and effort and energy and who isn't. Thanks to motherhood, I know when to let the little things go and when to be more understanding. Thanks to motherhood I definitely know that I need to talk about problems and ask for help and be communicative with those around me. All of those lessons have made me a better friend and, as a result, made my friendships stronger. Honestly, sometimes I wonder if I'm raising my son, or if my son is raising me (then I have to remind him to wipe his butt, and it all becomes crystal clear.) So, with all of that being said, here are just a few things I didn't realize about true friendship, until my son showed up.
A True Friend Isn't In Competition With You
Since our culture has a linear checklist of "life choices" someone is supposed to make in order to be considered a "successful adult," it seems that we're all in a race with one another to be more adult than the other adults. It's exhausting, and it's so unnecessary.
A true friendship won't make you feel like you're in that race. Not with them, at least. In fact, a true friendship will make you feel supported and valued and "on track," regardless of where you are in life. It took me far too long to learn that valuable lesson, and nothing separates the people who support you from the people who think they're racing against you, like procreation.
A True Friend Is Genuinely Happy When You're Happy...
In college I had a dear friend who seemed happy only when I was miserable. If I was going through a break up or having financial trouble or just genuinely disenfranchised, she was giddy. When I was doing well — getting jobs, furthering my career or in a healthy relationship — she wasn't so giddy. In fact, she was upset, and considered it an affront to our friendship that I found happiness outside and unrelated to her.
I would feel guilty for, essentially, living my own life, and it took me far too long to realize that our relationship wasn't genuine friendship, it was toxic. Thankfully now, and especially after I had my son, I am surrounded by people who are genuinely happy for me and the life choices I have made. They don't consider my successes to be their failures; they don't wish me ill will so they can feel better about their lives; they just want us all to life one another up, support one another, and celebrate one another. That, dear readers, is true friendship.
...And Is Quick To Celebrate Your Successes
If you find yourself engaged and your friend feels bummed, they're not a true friend. If you find yourself pregnant and your friend can't seem to squeak out an, "I'm so happy for you," they're not a true friend. If your life successes and milestones are met with trepidation and resentment, that person isn't a true friend.
My pregnancy was unplanned, so I knew announcing my pregnancy would be a shock to every single one of my friends. Almost all of those friends received my startling news with wide eyes, giant smiles, and genuine happiness. Of course they had questions, but they were quick to let me know that they were happy for me and supported me in this new life choice. Others, however, were quick to jump straight to the negative. You don't have room in your life for people like that, in my opinion. Yes, you want people who are going to be honest with you and raise real concerns, but if people can't be happy for you when you're happy and celebrate with you when you're doing "big things," you're better off without them.
A True Friend Doesn't Judge You For Your Feelings
I didn't hide the fact that I was absolutely terrified about being a mother. Not with my friends, that is. I let them know that I was afraid my life was going to change so drastically I wouldn't recognize myself anymore. I told them I was afraid my partner and I would grow distant, because the time a baby needs and deserves is time we would no longer be able to give one another. I told them I was afraid I would end up like my toxic parent or my child would hate me or I would have to quit my job, and my career was and is the first baby of my life. I said it all — all the things I'm sure I would be chastised for and judged for by strangers — and my friends didn't bat an eye.
The same holds true today. I can call my friend and tell her that my child is driving me crazy and I need a break before I go insane and she doesn't assume that I don't care for him or that I love him less. She knows how difficult motherhood is and she knows I'm a human being. A true friend is someone you can divulge every single thing to, and they won't think less of you for it.
A True Friend Isn't Threatened When Your Life Choices Differ From Theirs
My best friend doesn't want to have children. Ever. She is adamant about always being the auntie and I know she is never going to change her mind (nor do I think she should). She's still my go-to person for anything baby or motherhood related. Our different life choices haven't changed our friendship or made us feel like we can no longer relate. She was never worried about me thinking I can no longer talk to her because she's not a mother and "wouldn't understand," and I was never worried that she would find me annoying when all I wanted to talk about the amount of sleep I wasn't getting.
A True Friend Knows Relationships Are Never 50/50
Since becoming a mother, I've learned that relationships are never a 50/50 split of effort. While we like to talk romantically about every relationship a person can have as being a "meet in the middle" scenario, it rarely plays out that way in real life. Usually, one person is going to need a little more from someone else and, if the relationship is healthy, the pendulum will swing in the other direction and the person who was giving more than 50 percent, will start getting more than 50 percent.
There were moments (and still are) when I wasn't able to give my friends 50 percent of my time or effort or attention. Not once did they ever make me feel guilty for that. Instead, they realized that one day I would essentially "return the favor" and when they needed more than 50 percent from me, I would be there.
A True Friend Doesn't Hide Their Feelings...
A college friendship of mine dissolved in spectacularly painful fashion when the two of us failed to communicate with one another. Instead of talking about how we were both feeling, we bottled it up and hoped our feelings would go away. Yeah, that didn't happen.
In the end, we didn't respect one another to tell the truth. We were afraid the other couldn't handle it; afraid that any subsequent argument would end the friendship and, well, if you have to be afraid of someone calling off a relationship with you because you're honest, you probably shouldn't be involved in that relationship at all.
...And Isn't Afraid Of Confrontation
I know that, with my true friends, we can disagree and even argue and we'll still be friends. I know that our bond isn't fragile and we don't have to always see eye-to-eye in order to love, respect, and cherish one another. In fact, I value their opinions — especially when they differ from my own — and want to hear their thoughts and opinions on things, regardless. When you're part of a true friendship, you know an argument or disagreement (when it's handled in a healthy and respectful way, of course) won't be the end of your friendship, so you won't be afraid to say what you need to say, when you need to say it.
A True Friend Can Handle Watching You Poop During Labor
Two of my best friends were in the labor and delivery room with me the moment my son was born. My very best friend drove to the hospital the moment I started labor, so she was there from start to finish and witnessed every painful contraction, the unsuccessful attempts at using the birthing tub and the birthing ball, the epidural, and, well, the poop.
She saw my poop, you guys.
She literally saw me poop while pushing, in front of strangers, and she didn't bat an eye. She didn't make a noise. She didn't say something that made me feel self-conscious. That is friendship. If you can watch your friend poop in front of strangers and act like it's nothing, you're a gem.
A True Friend Will Never Bring Up The Face That You Pooped During Labor. Ever.
My friend never brings up the poop, and that is why I love her so.