Last weekend, we loaded up the kids and drove for a little over an hour to get together with my husband’s family. A five minute car ride can be rife with frustration, so an hour with three kids in the backseat can be an absolute disaster. When I got out of the car, I was asked by my sister in law how my drive was. Out of habit I responded in terms of the kids. “Izzie slept most of the way. Cole and Evie fought a bit, but then played nicely the second half of the trip.” She smiled politely before saying, “That’s nice, but I want to know how the trip was for you.”
I paused for a minute, unsure how to proceed. I’ve become so accustomed to my experience being dependent on everyone else that I didn’t even hear the question in terms of me. My kids day impacts how my day was. My husbands day at work can affect my night at home. But somewhere along the lines I have my own experiences and opinions and I need to remember to honor that.
After blinking in stunned silence for a minute, I responded to her actual question. “I had a nice drive. Chad and I talked about some things and I got to read a book for a while.” The exchange was unnatural for me. I realized that it shouldn’t be unnatural to tell someone about an experience I had. I spent the rest of the day very aware of the questions I was asked, and how I answered them.
We often complain that we lose ourselves and just take on the role of “Mom” – which is true. But I find myself accepting that role and not questioning it when I could be making sure people see me as more than that. This year, I want to talk to other women. I want to talk about them. Yes, I’ll talk about them as Moms, but I want to help them find value somewhere else as well.
Here’s my plan for 2019.
Talk About Yourself
When catching up with someone I haven’t seen in a while, I’m often asked, “What’s new with you?” I tend to either answer “Not much” and turn it back on them or go through a list of my kids’ recent accomplishments. “Cole’s in the Nutcracker, Evie just turned 4 and is so sweet and helpful and Izzie – Lord, Izzie is a handful.” All true, but it’s not what’s new with me.
And sometimes it can feel that’s the real answer. But it’s not. I just finished a book that I really enjoyed called The Wife. I went to the movies and saw Aquaman. We’ve been working on growing the blog and have gotten a ton of new followers on Twitter. We even had a tweet that went viral, which was insane! So why do I not talk about those things but lean on the kids?
I suppose that the fact is that I assume that’s what people really want to know about. And maybe they do. But this year, if someone asks about me, I’m going to try my hardest to break old habits and answer about me. If I want people to see me as more than an extension of my kids, I need to start by seeing myself that way too.
Ask About Each Other
The reverse of this, of course, is that we need to ask Moms about themselves, and not just about their kids. When we ask how someone is doing and they respond with the kids updates we should listen politely, nod, interact, and then ask again. “That’s great about the kids, but what’s new with you?” I admit, the question overwhelmed me at first, so you should feel free to help.
- Have you seen any good movies?
- Are there any good books you’ve read?
- Have you listened to any cool podcasts?
- Have you been on any recent vacations or are you planning any?
Choose something you can offer to help prompt her to talk about herself. If she’s still stumbling, explain your reasoning. It will give her extra time and let her know where you’re coming from with your newfound interest in her. Because the funny thing is, this extremely normal conversation can feel so incredibly awkward – because we’re just not used to having it.
Dig Deeper for the Real Answer
“Fine” and “tired” are classic stock-answers for Moms when asked how they are, but they don’t tell us anything. Personally, I think I assume people are asking how I am as a formality or out of politeness. I give the short answer, because who really wants to know about how I’m doing? My friends do. And I genuinely want to know how my friends are doing. But we all default to short rehearsed answers that are easier than the truth.
Saying we’re fine is an easy way to put on a brave face and not share our reality. Sometimes just letting our friends know that it’s okay not to be fine, will open the door to more genuine communication. I’ve told close friends I’m fine when they know I’m in the middle of some crazy life experiences. When my kids have been sick, my husband has been working long hours, and it’s clear I haven’t been taking great care of myself, I’m not fine. Even if I say I am. Thankfully, I have some great friends that are there to call me out – and support me when I share my truth.
When in doubt, “Is there anything I can do to help?” can be a lifesaver when asked genuinely.
Schedule a Follow Up Conversation
Sometimes, the time is genuinely not great for talking. I’ve had moments where someone tries to chat me up at the park and I can’t even make eye contact with them because I’m trying to track my three kids. My eyes dart from one kid on the swing, to another going down the slide, to dear-God-what-is-Izzie-climbing-now?? I can barely focus on the person or the conversation and when it’s over I realize that was meant to be my meaningful interaction for the day.
If you sense that’s the case, suggest another get together, genuinely. Not a “let’s catch up later” but a “I’d love to get coffee on Friday and chat.” Or if you’re the one distracted, say “I’m sorry I’m so frazzled, but I really would love to chat when I can focus on you more. Maybe a playdate and the kids can veg out watching a movie and we can talk for real?”
These are all such small things we can do for one another, but they can show your friends how much you truly care. And more importantly, that they have real value as an individual. So this year let’s try to lift each other up, see beyond the kids and the yoga pants and the “tired” and try to really connect with one another.
Looking for more tips to help nail your New Years’ Resolutions? Check out these motivational posts!