Authors Jill Savage and Anne McClane discuss the need for moms to have good friends who will encourage and support them in the challenges of parenting.
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Jill Savage: We have women that tell us when they come to our Hearts at Home conferences they ... I've gotten dozens of letters over the years where they say, "I was crying within the first three minutes of the conference." Well, there's nothing to be crying about, okay? At that point we didn't do some, you know--
Jim Daly: But they're feeling something.
Jill: They're feeling it.
Jim: And what is it?
Jill: They're feeling that they are not alone.
Jim: Huh. And they're connected.
Jill: Uh huh. And it's just powerful to be with thousands of other women that understand your life.
End of Teaser
John Fuller: That's Jill Savage describing how moms can encourage and support and help one another in simple ways that can have a profound impact, and you'll hear a lot more about the power of moms in community on today's "Focus on the Family" with Focus president and author Jim Daly and I'm John Fuller.
Jim: John, right from the beginning we've gotta acknowledge that we're not women.
John: Thank you, Jim. (Laughter) I appreciate that!
Jim: And we're going to talk about a woman's issue today that is so critical. And you know, I think it's great when women can come together, helping each other be stronger, healthier, and happier in their roles as moms.
I so appreciate that when I see Jean connect with somebody, and I think it helps stabilize her in so many great ways. Unfortunately, we know not all women experience that kind of community, and for many, motherhood feels like one of the loneliest jobs on this planet—especially for young moms who live far away from family who aren't there to help her and to just be there for her. And sometimes there's this weird kind of competition among moms, too, that tends to drive a wedge between them; doesn't bring them together. These are kind of all the normal things of relationship between women.
And you know what? We recognize that maybe there is a crisis in your own marriage or with your own children, and I want to make sure you know we're here for you. Make sure you call us or get ahold of us and John, you'll have all those details. We want to be here for you, and if you're just hanging on, we want to give you some tools to make it a better day.
John: Well yeah, and help is actually just a phone call away. 1-800-A-FAMILY is our number. Or stop by www.focusonthefamily.com/radio.
Now we've got some great guests here, and I mentioned Jill Savage. She is a well-known author and speaker on parenting issues and relationships, and she's been with us many, many times, and she's the founder and CEO of a ministry called Hearts at Home, which serves more than 10,000 moms every year. And then we also have the eldest daughter of Jill, and her husband, Anne McClane. Anne is a mommy blogger in her own right and a pastor's wife and has two young children of her own.
Jim: And I'd only add an author as well. Jill and Anne, welcome to Focus.
Jill: Thank you, it's great to be here.
Anne McClane: Thank you.
Jim: You've written this book, Better Together: Because We're Not Meant to Mom Alone. I love that. I mean it's a great play on words. Why is connectivity so important for women?
Jill: Well, I think that we naturally are relational; we've got that nurturing side to us and we've got that relational side, and so we really kind of crave it deep down. And I think that most women also long to know that they're not alone. In fact, well, one of the things we talk about in the book is that there are the four most powerful words for a mom is [sic] "You are not alone."
And so, I think that that's what drives us, to know that we're not alone, that what we're experiencing is normal. I think that's very powerful. And we have women that tell us when they come to our Hearts at Home conferences, I've gotten dozens of letters over the years where they say, "I was crying within the first three minutes of the conference." Well, there's nothing to be crying about, okay? At that point we didn't do some, you know--
Jim: But they're feeling something.
Jill: --they're feeling it.
Jim: And what is it?
Jill: They're feeling that they are not alone.
Jim: And they're connected.
Jill: Uh huh and it's just powerful to be with thousands of other women that understand your life.
Jim: Anne, you're the young mom. You have kids 3 and 5?
Jim: When you look at technology, does that provide the sustenance for togetherness when you're Facebooking and doing all the things on your phone?
Anne: Well, I think it can provide a little bit of not feeling like you're alone in that moment, but I also think that it has the ability for us to compare to one another, and I think that is a negative.
Jim: Give me an example of what that looks like.
Anne: Well, let's say I'm having a really rough day with my daughter, and she's pretty stubborn and precocious as a first-born child, and you know we get to nap time and I'm just barely hanging on and I jump on Facebook and I see a friend post on Facebook that they've done crafts together all morning and I see the highlight reels that she's posting and I start comparing that to my behind-the-scene reels, and that can be a dangerous place.
Jim: Well, and what does that make you feel as a mom, that you're not adequate? You're not measuring up?
Anne: I'm not measuring up. Yes, exactly, that it can make me feel like I'm not doing what I'm supposed to do as a mom or I'm not being the mom that I'm supposed to be.
Jim: When you talk about that, I totally understand that. But the mom who is posting that, I'm sure, is not doing it with the intention--
Anne: No, not at all.
Jim: -- to be above everybody. She's just kind of sharing her day. The question is, does that same mom share the down days?
Anne: Yes. (Laughter) And I think that's one thing that we've really come around is that, it's important that we share the real-life stuff that is happening because those are the opportunities that we can have to build bridges and not walls.
Jill: Right, because that's one of the things that we talk about, is that when we only share our successes we build walls, but when we also share our failures, we build bridges.
Jim: That's true of our Christian walk and the culture.
Jill: It is.
Jim: I mean, what you just said applies to everybody.
Jill: It does.
Jim: If we're only sharing our successes—look at us, we don't do this thing that others do—it builds walls.
Jill: It does.
Jim: And that's true for "mommyhood" as well.
John: So, how do you use social media, blogging, you know, the outward sort of relationship tools to bring that level of candidness into potential relationships?
Jill: Well, I think you have to be willing to be vulnerable. And of course there's, you know, there's always the fine line between your vulnerability then outing another family member, so you have to be somewhat careful with that.
But I'll give you an example, and maybe Annie can add to this. But she just recently did a blog post on her blog where she talked about what they had thought their family size would look like, and her and her husband's realization that it wasn't going to look the way that her dream had looked, and maybe coming to grips with a dream that won't come to fruition. And boy, it got a lot of traction with women going, "Oh my goodness, that's me. You know my husband and I thought our life would look this way, but now it looks this way, and I've had to grieve the loss of a dream." So, she shared very openly about that.
Anne: Yeah, and I think it gave a lot of people the opportunity, like when I'm open and candid about our journey, it gives other moms the opportunity to say, "Me, too. I'm not alone in this journey. That's part of my story, as well" and kind of give that deep breath of like, okay, I'm not alone.
You know, Jill, watching Jean, and our kids are now—we have two teens and we do foster respite and do other foster work, so we do have usually young children in the home, as well. It's that busyness factor. I mean one of the things I think that weighs on Jean is she'd love to do the arts and crafts and do all those things, but when you look at the end of the day, I mean the laundry had to get done; she had four errands to run and shopping.
And you know, even for the woman who works outside the home, she still has a lot of these same responsibilities, even though the husband may share in some of those. So, it looks like the day is just too busy to connect with other people. How do I find time in my schedule to connect with somebody that I'd like to get to know because there is no time to have coffee, chit chat. I don't see it?
Anne: I think that's like Mom shared how she had the freezer meal party. I think you have to start thinking about those things that you already are doing that she's already doing or that your friends are already doing and start doing them together as a group.
Jill: Yeah. One of the things, when my kids were little, I had a friend, and we were laundry partners. And so, every Tuesday and every Thursday, now we were stay-at-home moms, so we would have, I'd go to her house on Tuesday and we'd do laundry all day and we'd just sit and talk and fold her laundry all day.
Jill: And feed the kids in the midst of there. Sometimes make cookies. So, we were doing things we were already going to be doing, but instead of doing them isolated, we chose to do them together.
Jim: Yeah. Let me ask you this. A lot of women today, I think, struggle, but I need to ask you 'cause you're living it, in their marriage with their husband they're needing, perhaps, more from their husband than husbands can deliver, back to expectations, Jill, that you mentioned a moment ago. Husbands don't tend to make very good girlfriends.
Anne: Not at all.
Jim: How do we illuminate that and identify that, and encourage women that community with other women is where they're gonna find that need being met? Don't change your husband into your best girlfriend.
Jill: Uh-hm, exactly. I think we have to be really understanding that [with] the gender differences, you're going to sense the difference. I need my husband. I need him to--
Jim: Well, he can be a good friend.
Jill: Absolutely, but it's not the same as painting pottery together or even shopping—although in my case, honestly my husband likes to shop better than I do. (Laughter)
Jim: I kind of like to shop. I like grocery shopping.
Jill: Do you?
Jim: I think it's the get it, bag it, see how fast you can get out competition. It's true. I do. I like getting in there. You get the milk, you get the eggs, on one. Ready? Go! (Laughter) But yeah, it's funny. But we do, I think, as couples today, it's probably one of the great pains in marriages and it works both directions. The husband can rely on wives for things that really their guy buddies might provide. But it's a good reminder for women to not expect too much in this area from their husbands. I think husbands are getting better at it, but it's not natural. We have to be trained.
Jill: Well, and a husband needs male friends and a wife needs female friends.
John: And how does that work for you, Anne? Do you have a chance to get away and have that community because your husband, you've talked about it and you recognize this?
Anne: Yeah. One of the places that I've found that is through a MOPS group that I joined. That's one place that naturally I found some other mom friends. And it took me three years to find my friends there.
Jim: That's a bit shocking, Anne. Three years at MOPS to find a good friend.
Anne: Yeah. Find a good friend. And I attended for that time and still gleaned a lot of great things.
Jim: What was happening? What was taking so long in your assessment?
Anne: Well, I think it took some time to get to the right group of friends. However, I think also my attitude changed as well. I think I approached it—we talk about in the book that you need to be a "there you are" person instead of a "here I am" person. There are two types of people: one that walks into a room and says, "Oh, there you are! You look interesting. I want to get to know you." And there is one that walks into a room and says, "Here I am. Make me feel comfortable." And so, I think I was approaching MOPS as a "here I am" person.
Jim: And MOPS is Mothers of Preschoolers.
Anne: Mothers of Preschoolers. And so, I walked in hoping somebody would make me feel better as a mom, and--
Jim: Wow, that's interesting.
Anne: --and so, then I had to walk in with a different attitude of getting to know other people and putting myself out there.
Jim: Well and again that can seem fatiguing when you're already tired, to think, "Okay, I have to come out of my skin and engage somebody else."
Anne: And I'm an introvert by nature, so--
Jim: Well, that doubles down the issue.
Anne: --even doubles, yes, exactly.
Jim: Well now, that's good, though; it's good to think of that. I mean all of us again, these are great principles that apply to every one of us as Christians. How do we come out of ourselves in order to get to know others and that's what Jesus did all the time, isn't it?
Jill: He did. He was very much a "there you are" person.
Jim: Very much so. Explain how having those mommy friends can increase your emotional and physical health. You mention that in the book. I mean we're finding a lot of spiritual truth is actually beneficial to emotional and physical health.
Jim: The sciences are proving that. What did you see when you looked at this connection?
Jill: Well, it was really interesting because there was actually a study done where it identified, that women who had friends actually lived longer. Not only that, that women when they tend to be in a crisis, they actually their bodies release Oxytocin, which is a hormone that causes them to tend and befriend. And so, in the midst of real life, messy real life, we as women tend to be drawn to one another to tend.
Jim: A bonding kind of thing.
Jill: It is. It is. So, we really need that, you know, physically. And then emotionally just knowing that you're not alone is huge. Just knowing that people care about you, that they are thinking of you; that's really important to us as women who are very connected and tend to be emotional beings.
John: Yeah, and I think that my wife Dena does far better when she's connected to some women. She's had a Bible study for a number of years, and I'm very grateful for that because there is, I think, a healthy outcome from her time with them.
Jim: But do you feel better because it's not on your shoulders, too?
John: I do. Actually I do. I feel like there is some relief here because I don't have to try to supply that gal time that she so desperately needs.
John: Yeah.We're talking today on "Focus on the Family" with Jill Savage and Anne McClane, and their book, Better Together: Because We're Not Meant to Mom Alone is all about community and moms and you can find out more about it and a CD or download of this program at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio.
Jim: Hey, you used some acronyms in the book. I thought I was pretty good (Laughter) because I knew BFF (Laughter)—Best Friends Forever. I'm tech-savvy here.
John: Can I be your BFF? (Laughter)
Jim: Well, I don't know. But then you use MBF and TBF and GGF. (Laughter) Let's go through those and kind of unpack those.
Jill: Right, well, we really wanted to help women to think about, you know, we all want a BFF, but you can't just jump into a BFF relationship--
Jim: Best Friends Forever.
Jill: Right, Best Friends Forever. And so, you're going to have to take some steps towards actually initiative friendships. So, MBF is a Might Be Friends. Might Be Friends.
Jim: So, that's a big bucket, hopefully.
Jill: It is. It's a big bucket. You're just kind of looking for someone that maybe you're curious about or you know, oh, that person looks like an interesting person to get to know.And so, that's gonna—that's kind of fishing pond.
Jill: And then once you identify someone that maybe you would like to reach out to and you would like to step in and take a step towards friendship, you move into what we call TBF, which is Trying to be Friends. And that usually means you are getting to know each other. Maybe you go for coffee; maybe you just intentionally have conversations in the lobby at church; you know, those kinds of things. Maybe you ask to do some play dates. Those, you know, probably maybe five to seven times you're gonna do a TBF before somebody becomes a GGF, which is a Good Girlfriend. (Laughter) Now in the midst of that, you may--
Jim: Are you tired yet, John? (Laughter)
Jill: But in the midst of that, you may decide that it's not a good fit; it's not a good fit, and you know maybe you thought you had more in common and it's not; and that's okay, as well. Just helping women to know that it's okay that you, you know, put your toe in the water and you try. Because sometimes we label that, as women, we label that as rejection or failure, and what we want women to know is forging friendships is a very fluid process.
Jim: You know what's interesting, and Anne, you alluded to this a moment ago, your introversion. Jean, my wife, is more introverted, and one of the things I've noticed is, as an extrovert, I don't think about this because it's almost, I think, the opposite. How can I build some walls because I've got too much friend activity! (Laughter) Everybody is a friend.
Jim: And I'm just curious from the opposite direction and I know even I have family members who have more struggles developing friendships, and they really apply a lot of emotional energy, as I've observed them to, how do I fish in these ponds? How do I create these acronyms? And you know for me, in my spot, it is fatiguing. I go, "Man, you're putting way too much effort."
And it's probably a bit short-sighted on my part to kind of undercut that emotional dilemma that they feel. But speak to that woman particularly who feels maybe she lacks the skill set, but she lays in bed at night thinking, how do I get a good friend? I'm longing for that good friend, but I can't do it. I'm not finding it. You went through that for three years.
Jim: Did you come to your wits' end, and how did you manage it?
Anne: Well, I think you just have to keep putting yourself out there, and that can be a very hard process.
Jim: What about when those girlfriends don't respond and then you start thinking, what's wrong with me?
Anne: Right, the temptation would be to see yourself as a failure or to see yourself as one who isn't able to make friends, but that's not the truth, and I think you have to remind yourself of God's truth in that we aren't meant to be alone and He hasn't created us to be alone. We are meant to be in community and to continue to pursue that.And just because one friendship doesn't work out doesn't mean that you should stop pursuing friendship or relationship.
Jill: And you know what I would add to that too, is that you have to know yourself. One of the things we talk about in the book—in fact, we offer in the back of the book—we call it "Your Mothering Personality Inventory."
Jim: Oh really?
Jill: And we really tie in personality into personality traits and how they affect your friendships.So, both Anne and I are actually introverts, and my husband is an extrovert, and many, many years ago we were navigating some of our early conflicts in our marriage. (Laughter)
Jim: I was gonna say, does he drive you crazy?
Jill: Oh yeah, of course and I drive him crazy, so it works both ways--
Jim: Isn't that fun how God does that? I think He's laughing half the time.
Jill: --because He's sharpening us through that marriage. But he used to be somewhat critical because I would only have two or three good friends. And he thought there was something wrong with me because he has lots of friends.
Jim: It's about volume.
Jim: I've got a number of those few people! (Laughter)
Jill: Yes, in fact he and I were just listening to some podcasts, it was from years ago. And they were talking about introvert/extrovert, and one of the things that they said is an introvert will have just a few deep relationships, where an extrovert will have many. And I remember looking at him and saying, "See, there's nothing wrong with me!" (Laughing) But we have to know that. We'll look at other women and we'll look at maybe an extrovert woman and she's got lots of friends, and we will feel like we don't measure up to her. And what we want women to do is to be true to themselves.
Jill: And so, we help them to understand how those differences, their personality differences, are going to kind of affect the personalities of other women around them.
Jim: That's interesting.
Jill: I think it's really important and we actually had a launch team that read the book with us before the book actually came out and began to help us as pre-readers, and that Mothering Personality Inventory was huge for them. They all of them were going, "Oh my goodness! Now I understand why this friend drives me crazy. (Laughter) And now I understand why, you know, I get frustrated here. I need to learn to let me be me and her be her."
Jill: And so, really it's helping them to have realistic expectations of themselves, but also helping them to embrace those differences in friendships and instead of feeling like they are not measuring up.
Jim: Boy, that sounds like the best reason to get the book. I mean that inventory sounds very helpful.You also mention Better Together Commitment, a Better Together Commitment. I like that. What is that, and can you give us some highlights?
Jill: Well, what we do is we just take the principles from Better Together. We take some of the principles, for instance, you can't move forward without being forward.
Jim: Huh, okay.
Jill: You have to step out there. And you have to put yourself out there. I commit to keep the circle broken. That's another thing we talk about. My friend …
John: There is a famous song and phrase about keeping the circle unbroken.
Jill: Unbroken, but my friend Sarah Horn actually wrote a great blog post, and she allowed me to share that in the book, about the importance of keeping the circle broken. And really what that is, is recognizing that as women we tend to be very cliquish. We get in our comfortable circle—
Jim: Really? (Laughter) I'm just kidding!
Jill: I know that surprises you. But we get in our comfortable circle and then it's hard for somebody to break in.
Jill: And so, the call is to keep that circle broken. And so, in the Better Together Commitment we say, "I will commit to being forward so that I can move my friendships forward. I will commit to keeping the circle broken so that I can include other women instead of exclude them."
Jim: Jill, you talked about just looking at a woman at a Wal-Mart and the way it impacted her. Tell that story. (Laughter) I mean that is a beautiful story.
Jill: Yeah, there—that happened several years ago, and I will never forget it because I just remember the look on her face. But I was at Wal-Mart doing my shopping, and my kids were older. They were all in school, so I happened to be able to go during the day. And I turned a corner and here was this woman just battling her small children, and you could just see she was exhausted. And as I turned the corner, I just smiled at her. That's all I did. Just one of those "Hang in there, girlfriend, you'll get through this," and just smiled. I didn't know her, and as far as I knew, she didn't know me. But I actually got a letter about probably three weeks later, and she did know me. She'd been to one of our Hearts at Home conferences.
Jim: Oh my.
Jill: And she wrote me and she said, "You probably don't remember this, but you passed me in the men's underwear section at Wal-Mart (Laughter) and I was battling my children. And as you came around the corner, you caught my eye and you smiled at me."
And she said, "That smile suddenly caused me to have the encouragement and strength of two moms, like I knew I was gonna be okay." She said, "Your smile was just enough to let me know that I was gonna be okay and I was doing well, and you gave me energy to get through and get home and get my kids into their nap."
Jim: You're saying something so critically important there, and I've observed that with Jean, that the power of encouragement or discouragement really weighs on the heart of a woman in a unique way, because you are so gifted at looking at yourself first, unlike men. We tend to look out there and say, "What's that guy's problem?" Women have an incredible knack to look at the log in their eye first. You know, where have I failed? Where have I let somebody down? Just part of that nurture psychology, I think. And you know, for a woman to feel encouraged is a woman who is empowered and feels good about so much.
Jill: And that's exactly what she was saying is she felt empowered. And so, we talk about the importance of smiling, giving women a high-five with your eyes.
Jill: I mean sometimes you may not even know them, but you can just give them a smile. And we tend to judge each other quickly and so, we really give a call to women—
Jim: That's a good reminder.
Jill: --to remind her to encourage one another.
Jim: Absolutely.Authors of the book Better Together: Because We're Not Meant to Mom Alone, and it has been terrific to have Jill and Anne here with us on "Focus on the Family." Thanks for being here.
Anne: Thank you.
Jill: Thank you.
John: And thanks for makin' friendships so practical and fun. I'm sure there have been a lot of moms encouraged by what you two have shared today.
Now we've just barely covered the new book by Jill Savage and her daughter, Anne McClane. And there's so much material here about moms helping one another and the importance of sharing life experiences and praying together, even learning how to forgive one another. It's great stuff for any mom that you know and you can request a copy and get a CD of the conversation, as well, when you call 800-232-6459; 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY. Or stop by www.focusonthefamily.com/radio where you'll find the audio download and our mobile app, so you can listen on the go.
You'll also find details about how you can partner with us to encourage and empower parents, as we've heard today. You know, being a mom or a dad is a challenging job. We all need support along the way. There are some days when you're not sure how you're gonna make it. That's why Focus on the Family is here and why well over half a million households in the past 12 months have said we've helped them build stronger, healthier, more God-honoring families. We just can't do this family ministry without your help though, so please consider a generous donation today so we can equip more parents in the future. Donate at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio or when you call 800-A-FAMILY. And when you do, we'll send a copy of this book, Better Together as our way of saying thanks for joining the support team.
Our program was provided by Focus on the Family and on behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for listening. I'm John Fuller, hoping that you can join us again tomorrow. We're gonna hear one woman's journey in trusting God, even when it seemed like everything in life was falling apart.
Mrs. Sara Hagerty: My life began to unravel circumstantially and the beauty of what happened in that unraveling is, God started to come and say, "Okay, now I'm gonna really whisper to you in this pain."
End of Excerpt
John: That's Sara Hagerty. You'll hear her story tomorrow, as we once again, help you and your family thrive.
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Jill SavageView Bio
Jill Savage is a popular public speaker and has written seven books including Professionalizing Motherhood, Real Moms … Real Jesus and No More Perfect Moms. She is the founder of Hearts at Home and served as the ministry's director for 24 years. Jill and her husband, Mark, reside in Illinois. They have five children and several grandchildren. Learn more about Jill by visiting her website, www.jillsavage.org.