The HerStories Project: More Than Just a Book About Friendship
We’re honored to introduce a guest post one of our HerStories contributors, Julie Burton of Unscripted Mom!
The Community Established
It has been over a month since the release of Jessica Smock and Stephanie Sprenger’s book The Her Stories Project. The most striking aspect of being a part of this project is how Jessica and Stephanie not only skillfully compiled and published the book but that they worked/and continue working to create a strong, supportive community amongst the 50 contributors. It truly has been an honor to be a part of this amazing community of women writers. Although I have been a writer for most of my adult life, I was a bit late to the mommy blogging party that began several years ago, and really took off when blogs like Scary Mommy went viral. My blog will celebrate its first birthday in March.
I always found my writing career to be somewhat lonely. Until recently, I didn’t have any writer friends to speak of. Also, I am a gen-X-er and not a gen-Y-er, so I also didn’t fully “get” how to use social media to connect with like-minded writers. But then, last year, local writer and fellow contributor Nina Badzin appeared in my life (which is a friendship story in its own right), and she taught me “blogging and tweeting 101” (she really should offer an on-line course). She also introduced me to Jessica, Stephanie, and many other great writers and witty, engaging and inspiring mom bloggers. I am extremely grateful for the strength and connectedness I have found in this community, and how Jessica and Stephanie made sure that as they wove the essays together in their book, they also linked together the women behind the words.
Essential Lessons Learned
As I mother my four children and help guide them through the ups and downs of their friendships, I am continually reminded of how important friendships are, and how even at my age, some friendships can still be tricky to navigate. The essays in The Her Stories Project explore the beauty and the pain of friendship, as well as all the gray areas in between.
It has made me take a closer look at my friendships, both past and present—the ones that lasted a lifetime, the ones that fizzled out over time and the few that ended abruptly leaving a bad taste in both of our mouths, and an unsettledness in our hearts.
“Reason. Season. Lifetime,” my friend simply stated when I began talking to him about friendships.
“What do you mean?” I asked. He explained that there are three different kinds of friends:
- Reason—these are friends you bond with for a reason—you work out with them, you attend a study group with them, you serve on a committee with them. They serve a purpose and a fulfill a current need for companionship in your life.
- Season—these friendships often happen as a result of something that brings you together and keeps you together for, on average, five to seven years—your kids go to school together, you are in the same book club, you are neighbors or you work together. Oftentimes, these friendships fizzle out when the season that brought you together ends—your kids attend different high schools, you change jobs or move.
- Lifetime–The third kind of friendship, which you are truly lucky if you have even one, is, of course, the lifetime friend. Your relationship has stood the test of time. She knew you when, she knows you now and she still loves you, and you feel the same way about her. These friendships are the most sturdy and reliable friendships. (I truly don’t know where I would be without my lifetime friends.)
Women need all three of these types of friendships, and they are each meaningful and fulfilling in different ways. And certainly a “reason” or “season” friendship can evolve into a long-standing friendship. When I step back to look at women and friendships in general, I notice that many women shy away from talking about friendships that are more challenging (which is why Jessica and Stephanie’s book is so important).
Women often think their friendships should be easy and natural, but when they are not, many women feel a certain amount of shame and they just want to move on. Dr. Irene S. Levine takes a close look at women’s friendships in her 2010 article in the Huffington Post:
“Despite the romanticized myth of BFF, the hard truth is that most friendships don’t last forever. In fact, research suggests that when it comes to friendships, a phenomenon occurs that is somewhat akin to the seven-year itch: Half of our close friendships turn over every seven years. Women are reluctant to talk about their friendship problems, which turn out to be quite common: losing friends, having unfulfilling friendships, or having no friends at all. Just like other life-affirming relationships that we treasure–relationships with lovers, husbands, siblings, children, and pets–our closest friendships tend to be imperfect. Friendships are fraught with disappointments and misunderstandings—resulting in some of the highest highs and the lowest lows of our emotional lives.”
For me, I know that I have been an amazing friend and I have been a shitty friend (not intentionally). I have been a devoted friend and a “checked-out” friend. I have hurt friends and been hurt by friends. But from each friendship, I have learned and grown, and I hope my friends feel the same way.
For mothers, our friendships are essential. They don’t have to be the Cosmo drinking, lunching or hitting the town several nights a week, Carrie Bradshaw and her girl gang types of friendships. However, an integral part of being a healthy woman and mother (which I cover in complete detail in my upcoming book on motherhood and self-care) is to be mindful and thoughtful about friendships. Mothers are exploring the unknown, sometimes terrifying territory of raising kids, while often managing a career and relationship with their partner (or ex-partner). When moms need assurance, acceptance, clarity, validation, support, guidance, love and trust, we often turn to our friends before anyone else (including our partners).
So, in the spirit of friendship, give this a try (or even a thought): On a regular basis, make a point to reach out to a new friend, an old friend, or maybe even an estranged friend, and say or do something that could literally make her day. It could be as simple as a phone call to say, “Hi, I am thinking about you.” Without having any expectations, notice what transpires, within yourself and within your friendships.
Have you had a friendship that ended, either gradually or suddenly? Either by your choice or your friend’s? Please take our friendship breakup survey… You could win a $25 gift certificate to Amazon!