I get by with a little help from my friends….

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A number of studies have shown that an individuals sense of happiness and overall well-being are enhanced through good friendships. From the moment we are infants and we are able to socialize we start trying to create bonds with the people we interact with the most.

From what I have observed with my kids in childhood friendships are often based on the sharing of toys, and the enjoyment received from performing activities together. As parents, we are the ones in charge of making sure these friendships are maintained by organizing play-dates for our kids or taking them to various activities where they can interact with other children.

Growing up I was always good at making friends. I am not naturally shy or introverted so I was able to approach kids I thought would make good friends.Friendships got a little complicated when I was 13. I remember a lot of tears, disappointment when I realized certain girls didn’t want to be my friend anymore and a lot of confusion. I know this is totally normal when growing up but I was happy when at 14 I made the most amazing group of girl friends. There were about 12 of us and we were inseparable. We all liked to do well in school, we all enjoyed sports and we all looked out for each other. When I was 16 I moved to boarding school in France and was faced with having to make new friends.

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After I finished high school in France and had made some good friends from different parts of the world (Holland, Scotland, New York, France, Italy, Belgium) I moved to England for university.

Making friends in University in England involved a lot of drinking. Basically, if you didn’t drink then you didn’t socialize. So a drinker I became!! I made two good friends, Nat and Caroline,  in my first year and somehow that was all I needed.  I see university as the best years of my life. I met so many interesting people, traveled and had a lot of fun.

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When I graduated and moved to London I found it harder to make friends. Maybe it was the fact that only three months after graduating I got pregnant or that I worked in an office with only three other employees. All I know is that suddenly the only friends I had were my husbands and the ones I had from university.

Scientific studies have shown that loneliness and a lack of social support have been linked to an increased risk of heart disease, viral infections, and cancer, as well as depression. I can say I have experienced the depression side of things personally.

When I moved to California, I was once again I faced with making new friends. Having a five year old daughter gave me hope. I thought that surely I would be able to make good friends with the others moms I met. Unfortunately, that was a lot harder than I realized. When my daughter started kindergarten I realized that most moms were so relieved that they finally had some kid free hours in their day. They would drop off their kids and walk away before I had a chance to introduce myself. When it was time to pick up the kids they would chat to the people they already new and weren’t very open to meeting new people.

Then I decided that I would try and make friends through the moms of kids my daughter was friends with. Only problem with that is that at her age when I arranged a playdate the mom would drop off the kid and come back later…..so much for my brilliant idea!!!

After months of feeling really lonely and isolated I was finally able to become friends with two moms. That was a life saver. I would go for walks with one of the moms after we dropped the kids off at school. It made such a difference in my life.

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The real change happened after I had my son last year. All of a sudden I had access to a group of new mommies who needed friends just as much as I did. When you go from not having kids to having them your friendships change. Maybe you have kids at the same time as your friends and you enter that new season together, but that is not always the case. More times than not a new mom has all this free time during the day with their little baby and they are also desperate for some adult interaction.

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I joined a bible study group with lots of new mommies and a mommy and baby workout class called Stroller Strides. I finally hit the mother-load for new friendships. These moms are my lifeline. They cheer me up when I need it, they encourage me when I think I am failing as a mother or as a wife. They make me laugh, they help me with my kids when I need it and they WANT to hang out with me. I cant imagine my life without them.

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The only thing I hope for is that when our new babies reach school age we don’t become closed off and alienate other moms who are looking for friendships. It is so easy to stay in our comfort zone or to be selfish and closed off and think to ourselves “well, I have enough friends” or “I really don’t have the energy to make new friends right now” but you never know when there is a person out there feeling alone and isolated and in desperate need of a friend or maybe even just some friendly conversation.

 

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Shaming my life away….

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There is a natural order to life. Things are meant to happen in sequential order. We are taught from a young age even through playground songs that “First comes love, then come marriage, then comes the baby in the baby carriage”. So what happens when all of a sudden you find yourself having reversed the “natural” order of things?

I was raised mostly in Mexico, a very catholic country. There people tend to be very judgmental if you decide to jump out of line and do something that “society” doesn’t consider appropriate. Getting pregnant by your boyfriend when you aren’t married is definitely one of those situations.

When I was 16 years old and living in Mexico I found myself trying to explore who I was and experiencing a surge of hormones most teenagers are faced with. Unfortunately, I was wrecking my reputation and causing a lot of hurt to my siblings when all the rumors about me would circulate around school. At the time I lied and told my parents that I dreamed of learning a third language and I asked them if they could please send me away to boarding school. The next thing I knew I was on a plane headed to the South of France where I would do my International Baccalaureate at the Centre International du Valbonne.

The truth was that I couldn’t bear to be in my home town a second longer. Going to school every day was torture. I had a great group of friends but they would beg me to change my ways for fear of their reputations being tarnished. My little brother would get into fist fights at school defending my honor (or lack thereof) and then my dad would punish him for getting in trouble at school. It was the hardest months of my life. I couldn’t sleep at nights, I found it hard to focus at school and keep up with my school work. Which is why I came up with the idea of going away, leaving everything I had ever known behind. I was only 16 years old but somehow I knew that life was not meant to be that hard. I hoped that distance and a fresh start would be enough to help me through those difficult times and would allow my friends and siblings to mend their own lives.

Gossip is something we all fall into from time to time. We may not do it maliciously but even if we have the best intentions we can find ourselves sharing information that wasn’t ours to share. We find ourselves judging someone else when we don’t have all of the information. We may not set out to be destructive but at some point or another we have hurt someone with the words we allow to come out of our mouths.

Perhaps this is why I was so tormented when I found out I was pregnant. I used to walk to work with my massive pregnant belly and my bare ring finger with my head held low. I used to think people looked straight at my ring finger when they saw I was pregnant and that when they spotted the empty finger they were silently judging me as they walked past.

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Pregnancy is normally a magical time for a woman. It is a time when she glows, she is growing life inside of her and everyone can witness the miracle of her growing bump. For me my pregnancy was a time of shame. No one ever came right out and said it to my face but I can imagine the conversations that took place behind my back when people back in my home town found out I was pregnant and unmarried. Not just old classmates but also aunts and uncles who told others at my wedding that they couldn’t believe my parents were celebrating me, it was shameful that I had gotten pregnant and there they were throwing me a lavish wedding. Perhaps things were a lot worse in my mind, perhaps I projected a lot of my own feelings and insecurities on others. All I know is that even after I had my daughter I continued to feel ashamed and guilty for messing up the natural order of things.

It has now been eight years since I was pregnant and I am happy to report that the guilt and shame has faded. It has been a long road to get to this place where I am happy with the way my life has turned out. Perhaps it would have been more convenient if I had gotten married and then gotten pregnant but to be honest I don’t think things would be any different. I wouldn’t love my husband more or my daughter more if I had followed the natural order of things. Many times we are our own worst enemies. When I think back to the amount of time I spent judging myself, being hard on myself and allowing the shame to consume me I want to cry. It didn’t help me, it didn’t make things easier for me and it certainly didn’t fix anything. All I am is grateful now that I lived through it, came out the other side and am stronger for it.

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No matter what you are going through don’t forget you are not alone. Hold your head up high and remember that this too shall pass. Things in life are temporary and we have to enjoy them while they last.