A close friend of mine has recently become a mother.
She is an amazing mother. Or at least that is what I think of her.
She doesn’t always feel the same.
Lately she has been feeling both anxious and depressed about her transition back to work and the first day of daycare for her daughter.
“It’s really hard,” She said to me.
“And, I know it’s just half the day and she will be okay but it is really hard for me to leave her.”
As we were texting one another the night before the first day of daycare and her first day back at work, I asked “how are you?”
I knew it probably wasn't going to be good, but I wanted to give her the chance to share how she was feeling.
She replied “I'm okay.”
My first impulse was to reply back to the text saying something like “I’m here if you need me” or “Let me know how I can help.”
But I stopped myself before I could send the text her way.
I wanted to pause and think about moments when I felt sad or scared or just heartbroken before saying anything else.
I recalled that it was nice to hear from friends and to have them check in. That was true for me.
When a friend would express “let me know if you need anything,” however, that was often frustrating and just went unanswered.
It didn't go anywhere because I didn't necessarily know what I needed or, when I would need help or even, if I would need help.
We often think of these phrases as ways to give the person who is feeling hurt a chance to state their terms and then tell you what your role should be.
Instead, I thought, “What if I just decided my role?”
“What if I just decided the type of friend I want to be and said what I wanted her to know and left it at that?”
Instead of tiptoeing around the issue or feeling like I shouldn't intrude or impose I felt moved to say all I could to let my friend know that she matters and that I really respect her honestly about how she is feeling and that I will help, not when she says so, not when she can tell me what to do, but I will help how I can and give what I can now.
That’s what friends are for.
That’s what it means to care about someone.
So instead of staying “let me know how I can help” that evening I said,
“Carly, I love you. You matter to me and I am here. This is your experience too. Moms matter.”
And she replied, “Thank you so much, I needed to hear that.”
For me, this story gets to the core of what it means to be a friend, what it means to show love for the people we care about through our words when we can’t always been there. It’s about how we are holding ourselves responsible for taking care of our communities and the people within them.
Love requires accountability.
It’s my job as the friend to decide how I want to help. And, your friend doesn't have to accept it.
They can say no, or say cut it out and you can back down.
But asking the person who is hurt to define your role, to tell you what to do or say when they are the one feeling down is insensitive and it is ingenuine.
We overlook the fact that we are already friends. We have done the work to get to know one another and to express a sense of commitment to each other’s lives.
Just because things are hard for one of you, doesn't mean this all goes away.
Think about when things are going well.
Friends surprise each other with coffee. And when they do I’m not like, “you didn't ask me if I wanted coffee.” I’m like, “thank you for thinking of me!”
Friends will share their extra tickets to the upcoming Sounders game.
You’re not like wow I really prefer the Seahawks (although you might). You take them and go if you want or you don't go!
Yet, when the going gets tough we say to our friends, “let me know what you need.”
IF YOU ARE THEIR FRIEND, show up and offer to help with their garden since they haven’t had any time to work on it since their illness.
IF YOU ARE THEIR FRIEND, ask how they are (just like you would when they are feeling well) even though you know they might say I am doing bad!
IF YOU ARE THEIR FRIEND, provide support in your own unique way.
You are the friend. You can make the difference.
Show up and share your love.
Your friend needs you.
Click here to know what to say the next time your friend needs you!
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