What About Socialization ... for Mom?
- Tuesday, June 21, 2011
As a homeschooling mother, I've often gotten the "What about socialization?" question. My typical response is, "While it's hard to do, we try not to socialize too much!" There are so many opportunities out there for our kids that if we're not careful, we'll end up doing more socializing than schooling.
Socialization, however, isn't just a question for our kids. What about us as moms? Do we need socialization? If we do, what should it look like?
"My life is perfect!" she said. "I'm doing what I love. I get to stay home with my children. My husband is home every day by 4 p.m. I love our home. God is good."
Never before had I met anyone who viewed life with such peace and confidence. It was not with arrogance that she spoke, but with gentle meekness. Two weeks before, my family had packed up our home of nine years to move three hours south so my husband could attend college. Not only would we be several hours from my close-knit family, but my husband would be attending school full-time during the day and working full-time in the evenings. I knew the children and I would be lonely. I had one prayer: "Lord, please bring friends into our lives."
Before long, I met a lady at the local library who invited us to a "Just Because" party. Since we had nothing else to do other than unpack a few boxes, I agreed to go, much to my children's delight. So there I sat under a shade tree, drinking punch, watching my children eat cake, play games, and meet new friends—and making a new friend of my own.
As it turned out, my new "life is perfect" friend and I both loved to walk in the mornings. We decided to meet every morning at 5:30 to walk together before our husbands left the house. During these mornings we discovered our shared love for the Lord, and our hearts knitted together as believers. Since we both had small children, it had always been nearly impossible to have an hour of uninterrupted time to talk with a friend. But here we could. In a few days, we felt like we had known each other for years. The Lord had certainly answered my prayer. And even though that was several years ago and we now live over 500 miles apart, we are still close sisters.
Friendships are very important. Not only that, but they are direct blessings from the Lord God Himself. "Ointment and perfume rejoice the heart: so doth the sweetness of a man's friend by hearty counsel" (Proverbs 27:9). I don't know what I would do without the friends I have made over the years. The value of a true friend is priceless. This is especially true for a mother who stays home all day.
For those who homeschool, being involved in a support group is a blessing. There are many mothers who would have given up that first year without the needed support and friendships made in such groups. And don't forget what a treat Moms' Night Out can be! These can be evenings set aside for mothers to come together to fellowship, encourage one another, laugh, and sometimes cry. Socialization at ladies Bible studies and retreats can be very valuable to our spiritual walk. And what mom doesn't need girlfriends to share a cup of coffee or talk with on the phone?
However, just as our kids can spend too much time socializing, mothers can fall into "too much socialization" as well. As followers of Christ, as wives and mothers, our number one priority is our home (Titus 2:4-5)! Too many times I have seen women become codependent upon their friends, neglecting their own families and in doing so, neglecting the Lord. While there is a need for fellowship, it must have its proper place in our lives. Too much of a good thing can certainly take us away from the best things.
When it comes to socialization, what does a healthy friendship look like? First and foremost, our friends must be believers."Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? (2 Corinthians 6:14-15).
While there is a place for befriending and witnessing to unbelievers, they should not be our closest friends. Everything about an unbeliever's life is in contrast to a true believer's life. The foundation upon which we build everything is different. Even though every homeschool group I have joined has been a Christian group, there are still unbelievers in the midst. For this reason, we must be careful in choosing our closest friends.
Not only should our friends be believers, but they should also be like-minded. I have often found myself among women who were not. They might have been "keepers at home," but being their husband's helpmeet was not a priority. They did not have the same parenting beliefs, or they held very different values and morals. Like-mindedness is a significant part of a healthy friendship.
Another aspect of a healthy friendship is proper priorities. In our first two years of homeschooling, my children and I met friends every Friday at 11 a.m. for lunch. We would then go to co-op classes, skating, or to the park for the children to play. Some of my favorite memories from when my children were little revolve around those Fridays. Although we met once a week, however, my friends and I had an understanding. We rarely talked to each other on the phone during the day. School had to be a priority. And we did our best not to call at night or on the weekends when our husbands were home. Family had to be a priority. If we did something in the evenings together, it usually included our entire families. There were special occasions, like birthdays, when just the ladies would get together—but those times were rare.
A friend who will continually take a wife away from her husband or a mother away from her children is no friend at all. My friends understood this. The reason my "walking friend" and I met at 5:30 was not because we were both morning people who typically got up early. It was because our children were sleeping. My husband had been working all night and was sleeping as well. Her husband was getting ready for work. We were not needed at home.
On those days when we had a sick child or were needed at home for some other reason, we did not walk together. Our homes were a priority. This did not hinder our friendship, but helped it to flourish as we encouraged each other to be what God intended us to be as wives and mothers.
All of this brings us to another, very essential element of healthy friendships. As Christians, our truest friends need to be encouraging. A woman needs encouragement in her marriage, as a mother, and in her walk with the Lord.
Years ago, a friend who was separated from her husband came to me for advice. I did my best to strengthen her in her faith and to point her to scripture. She later told me that mine was the only counsel she received that encouraged her to seek the Lord and focus on saving her marriage. "God is always for reconciliation," I told her. The saddest part of the story is that everyone else she talked to said they were Christians. Yet their advice did not line up with the Bible. How discouraging it must be for someone going through trials to have unbiblical advice given.
My friends and I have an unwritten rule: we never speak poorly of our own husbands or other women's husbands. The last thing a woman needs is to have her "friends" belittle her husband. While it might make her feel better for a time to have her friends agree with her about some flaw of his, it is really to her detriment and shame. Husband and wife are one; therefore, to tear down a husband is to tear down a wife.
Not only is marriage relentlessly under attack in our culture, but motherhood is as well. A true friend will encourage us in godly motherhood. Children are precious gifts from God, given to us for just a short amount of time. A true friend understands this and will help a mother be the best she can be.
Not only do we need our friends to encourage us as wives and mothers, but also in practical daily matters. The Lord has recently blessed me with an older friend who has much more knowledge than I do in homemaking. She has a large family and has learned to be frugal. She gardens and sews. She works hard. And while she would never admit or probably even recognize it, she is a living example of the Proverbs 31 woman. By simply and quietly living the life God has called her to, her testimony is an encouragement to me.
It is important to note that a true friendship is not one-sided. There are times when we need to talk, but other times when we just need to listen. There are times to ask advice and other times to encourage. There are times when we have a prayer request and other times when we need to be the one praying. There is give and take in a true friendship. I have heard stories of women who would only come around when they needed a babysitter, a ride, or another act of kindness. This is not a healthy friendship. Some have never seen a true friendship or been taught what one looks like, so I would encourage anyone who has a friend like this to be gentle and honest with her, "speaking the truth in love."
Finally, a true friend will encourage us to grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord. While it is a concept that has sometimes seemed lost, accountability can really make a difference in the life of a believer. A friend who points us to the Lord and His Word is a friend indeed.
One day while walking, my friend and I were sharing our burdens. "What we need to do," I said, "when we get discouraged, is to get down on our knees and go to the Lord in prayer."
"You know," my friend replied, "most people would have said, ‘When we get discouraged let's give each other a call.' But you are right, that is much better advice."
And isn't that what friends are for?
Kimberly Williams is a pastor's wife, homeschooling mother, author, and most importantly a disciple of Jesus Christ. Living in south Mississippi with her husband and three precious children, her career is her family. Kimberly enjoys reading, playing the piano, and writing poetry. She would love to hear from you on her blog at www.untilthedaydawn.wordpress.com
This article was originally published in the Jul/Aug 2010 issue of Home School Enrichment Magazine. Sign up now to receive a FREE sample copy! Just click here: http://homeschoolenrichment.com/magazine/request-sample-issue.html
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