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When Mom Friendships Are Hard

Original Air Date 04/25/2016

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Authors Jill Savage and Anne McClane offer advice on overcoming common challenges that moms often face in their relationships with other moms.

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Episode Transcript


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John: Today on "Focus on the Family" with Jim Daly we're gonna examine friendship among moms and why those relationships can be difficult sometimes. I'm John Fuller and it may be that you or a mom you know has experienced a challenge like this.


Woman #1: We're so busy. I'm working full time. My kids have all of their activities and fitting in a mom's group just feels like one more thing to add to my schedule.

Woman #2: We've been friends on Facebook for years, but we've never actually talked face to face.

Woman #3: I feel intimidated. All the other moms at church have these perfect well-behaved children and my family is a wreck. I don't think I'd fit in with them.

End of Teaser

Jim Daly: Boy, I know many people can resonate with those statements and you know, John, we've had several programs in the past about women and friendship and we have urged married women and moms and single women to be proactive about getting together to support and encourage one another and that's because families tend to be so isolated today. We don't know our neighbors well and it's not uncommon for a young family to be far away from parents and extended family members and for that matter, just the network of friendship.

Moms in particular, don't get together as much as they should and we hear from moms all the time here at Focus on the Family who do feel isolated and alone. And they wished they could find some good friends and today we're gonna talk to two wonderful people who have put a book together to address this issue and it's Jill Savage and her grown daughter, Anne McClane and they wrote a book called Better Together Because We're Not Meant to Mom Alone.

John: And we'll have more information about the book and our guests at And if you're a mom, we'll have many other resources there for you and your family, as well.


Jim: Today we want to provide a kind of sequel to a conversation with Jill and Anne. We talked a couple of months back on this topic, but we emphasized more the positive attributes. Today we're gonna do some of the challenging stuff that was in their book that we didn't get to last time. So, if you want to and I would encourage you, download that other program and this really makes a great compendium for your benefit. And I'm so glad to finally welcome Jill and Anne back to the program.

Jill Savage and Anne McClane: Thank you.

Jim: Good to have you with us. Let's examine some of the reasons why moms don't connect well with other moms. We touched on it a little bit when we did this a few weeks ago, but let's delve into that a bit more. What are those problems that women face where they're not connecting?

Jill: Well, part of it is that we are extremely busy as I think society has so many options available for our kids to do, for us to do, that we're going, going, going, going. And sometimes we don't even have enough margin in our lives for building those friendships.

Jim: Which is more important, finding that margin to connect or to just stay on top of the tasks?

Jill: Well, we actually believe that finding that margin to connect is the most important because you're going to burn out at some point from the going, going, going.

Jim: But if it's so obvious, the way you just responded, which is right, why do women struggle making that a priority?

Jill: I think we put ourselves last.

Jim: Uh-hm.

Jill: I think that's one bit reason, so we're trying to give our kids all the opportunities they can. I think we also have the tendency to, a lot of us like our to-do list and we're task oriented and so, we're, you know, you don't exactly think about friendship as a task to accomplish. It just kinda falls into, I don't know, a category that we don't always prioritize.

Jim: "When available."

Jill: When available (Laughter) and then we aren't.

Jim: Yeah, right. (Laughter) Yeah, I don't think moms particularly have a lot of excess time. That's been my observation. I mean, it …

Anne: I think a lot of times we are reactive instead of proactive with our friendships. Suddenly we find ourselves in a place where we need friendships and we haven't done the proactive work of maintaining those ahead of time.

Jim: Well, what … explain that to me.

Anne: So, I think proactive, being proactive with our friendships is being intentional about getting together with friends.

Jim: So, calling a girlfriend for coffee or for a little bit of time--

Anne: Exactly.

Jim: --a play date.

Jill: When life is good.

Anne: When life—

Jim: Yeah.

Anne: --is good, yes, maintaining that on a regular basis instead of suddenly finding yourself in a place of needing friendship and not having that available.

Jim: Something you mentioned in the book caught my attention and that's on this perfectionism and you know, Jean would say, she's a perfectionist and the definition being, you struggle getting things done, 'cause you know in your heart of hearts you can't do it perfectly, so it just kinda idles and then the closet builds up. The drawers build up and you know, often people think of those perfectionists as someone who actually does it to perfection, but that's not always the case. How does perfectionism with that kind of definition enter into the relational obstacles and create a problem in relationship with other women?

Jill: Uh-hm. I think it definitely causes us to compare ourselves to others and when we compare ourselves, we don't feel like we measure up.

I was just talking with a young mom the other day and she was talking about, "I can't stay on top of the dishes. I can't stay on top of the house and I've got this friend. And when I go over to her house she, you know, her house is always neat and clean and she's got dinner in the over. And I just can't measure up." And I encouraged her. My exact words to her were, "You've got to recognize that for most of us, it's all smoke and mirrors, girl. It's all smoke and mirrors because what she excels at you may not. But there are things in her life that you're not seeing that she struggles in." And so, we have to recognize that we're often comparing ourselves to only what other people will let us see.

Jim: Right.

Jill: And that's an unfair comparison. So, we need to be honest with one another. We need to be careful about comparing ourselves and stopping short of saying she also has a back story. She has things I can't see. And when we actually can say those kind of things in our head, it puts us on even ground. And we realize, oh, you know what? Maybe we do have something in common and maybe we can benefit from one another. Oftentimes we say no for other people in pursuing friendship. We say no for them because we disqualify ourselves because we don't feel like we measure up.

Jim: Sure. Anne, you're a young mom. You've got younger kids at home, single-digits. (Laughter)

Anne: Yes!

Jim: So, I don't know how you found the time to be here. (Laughter)

Jill: This is a vacation. What are you talking about? (Laughter)

John: Who's got the kids? Who knows? Who cares?

Anne: As long as they survive the weekend. (Laughter)

Jim: But in that context, you know, times are changing and even, you know, here at Focus, we'll often be scolded for thinking of traditional roles and all that.But we have dear friends, supporters, board members, women who have vocational careers and they constantly rightfully remind me that not every mom is a stay-at-home mom, a work-at-home mom.

So, talk about that environment, where it's the mom who's actually working outside of the home and working inside the home and her and her husband are tryin' to, you know, juggle all of those demands. Speak to that woman particularly, who has that professional environment and might derive some benefit out of that. And then she still has all the issues of other relationships that deal with her kids and that. Is it a different world for the vocationally—

Jill: Well, you know—

Jim: --engaged mom?

Jill: --I probably could speak to that, because I'm now working full-time and you know, I spent 20 years as a stay-at home mom and I spent the last 10 working at least part-time and now full-time.

And I will say I get home and I'm tired. I don't, you know, I don't want to necessarily put myself out there. I'm exhausted. I've had two dear friends who have moved away in the past and I'm an introvert, so I only have a small group of friends, so if I have three friends and two of them moved away, I'm down to one (Laughing).

Jim: That's trauma.

Jill: Well, it is. It is.

Jim: I can see it in your face.

Jill: And so, I now need to be building some new friendships. I know that and I battle the being tired part and so, I find that I often have to push through that. I often have to build in some places where I, like for instance, on a Saturday, a lot of times the last thing I want to do is maybe do lunch with a friend. And yet, I tell myself, I need to do that. And as soon as I do it, I come home and go, oh! I just feel so refreshed. I'm so glad I did. So, I do it because I know I need it, but not because I want to and I feel like doing it, because I'm tired. I want to just be home, put my feet up, get my laundry done.

So, I think oftentimes we are gonna feel like I don't have the time. I don't have the energy, but we have to be intentional about that. And I'll tell you, I went through cancer two years ago and I went through chemo, radiation. I was sick for six months. And as Anne says earlier, I think we have to be proactive and I'm so glad I was because I did have a community around me that loved me during that season, that cooked my meals, that went to the doctor with me when my husband couldn't. And I'm grateful that in that particular season, I already had that in place, 'cause nobody expects to get a cancer diagnosis.

Jim: Sure. Well, and I think it's important that, that loneliness that you would feel in that environment when you get that kind of a diagnosis, if you've not done anything to build a network of friendships—

Jill: It would be huge.

Jim: --what else are you going to be by lonely, because there's no human connection.

Jill: And at that time, you don't have the energy to build friendships.

Jim: Right, yeah, it's too late at that point--

Jill: Yeah.

Jim: --and to get through it together.

Jill: You get through it together and a lot of times our community does come around us, but at the same time, I'm grateful I already had many of those relationships and I made some relationships. I have new friends that I met sitting next to each other in a chemo chair. And--

Jim: Right.

Jill: --you know, so, I'm glad that I had both.

Jim: In fact, posted a Facebook a question about why moms don't help each other and either they were afraid to ask for help or afraid to offer it. That's a dilemma. That's a conundrum. I mean, why do you think women have these two feelings: I don't want to ask and others, I don't want to offer?

Anne: A lot of times we're afraid to offer help because we feel like we might either be rejected or we're stepping in on toes that …

Jim: You don't know how to tread.

Anne: Right, exactly and so, I think a lot of times we don't want to step in on something that … or we don't want them to perceive us as someone who is being a know-it-all or offering—

Jim: Overreaching.

Anne: --overreaching, exactly.

Jim: Typically have you found that to be a risk? Does a woman who obviously needs help and that's why you'd be offering it, is it pretty normal for a woman to say, "Wait a minute; you're overreaching?" Or is it generally embraced with a welcome, thank you?

Jill: I would say most of the time we are imposing what our fear will be and that people don't think that way. At the same time, there are people that do think that if, you know, if I offered to help, then I'm saying that they're failing.

But I would say that is less often than when I offer to help somebody that's going, "Thank you." Now what I will say is, a lot of times those offers of help are simply rebuffed because if that person accepted help, it'll feel like they are failing. I mean, we just run this thing around. (Laughter) It is crazy the cycle we go through in our brain. And we need to just simply encourage one another, help one another, not be offended by an offer of help.

And I think that what often happens is that fear creeps in there and we're fearful that we don't help the right way, so then we don't offer help. We're fearful that if we accept the help, it'll mean that we don't have it together. Women deal with a lot of fears that are inside of our heads.

Jim: It's funny that cycle you talked about. I think if I said to John, "John, I want to come over this summer and cut your lawn every day," what would you say?

John: Great.

Jim: Yeah. (Laughter) You wouldn't give that second thought, would you?

John: I know you will do an excellent job and I appreciate that, Jim.

Jim: But I totally understand what you're saying, Jill. Women—

Jill: Yeah.

Jim: --I mean, it's amazing. You guys, you chew on something for a long time and in a deeper way--

Anne: Yeah.

Jill: We do.

Jim: --especially if it reflects on your ability. It's just something that you have that is probably both a good thing and a difficult thing.

Jill: Well, and one of the things that we talk about and I think it's so important is, that when you accept help or you receive help, you are blessing the person that is helping, because you are giving them an opportunity to serve.

Jim: Well, now you're raising the question though, what is this rooted in? It's this defiance, this inability. Is it pride?

Jill: It is.

Jim: I mean, if we get right down to it.

Jill: Oh, and we talked about that in the book (Laughing). It is pride. It gets in the way and then it keeps us at arms' length from each other. And the very thing that we long for, we actually with our own responses, sabotage.

Jim: Interesting.

Jill: And so, we have to be able to receive. So, I tell the story in the book about a time when it was during my chemo and people were bringing me meals. And I had a deal friend who was also going through a health crisis. And she and I were doing a lot of texting and prayer, praying for one another. And at one point, now when I was going through chemo, I would have one bad week, two good weeks, 'cause mine was every three weeks apart. And so, on one of my good weeks, I knew she was havin' a bad week and so, I said to her, "Is anybody bringing a meal over tonight?" And she said, "No, nobody's bringing one tonight." And I said, "All right, well, I am." She's like, "No, you're not." And I'm like, "Yes, I am."

You have no idea how much I need to be able to serve, because I'd been on the receiving side now for months. And so, she had to be willing to let me bring and give to her, so that I could have the joy of serving and giving.And I think sometimes we don't realize how important that is, to just simply say, "Thank you—"

Jim: Yeah.

Jill: --and to be a part of allowing someone to experience the selflessness of serving.

Jim: Well, and the way that happens is, you have to develop friendship in order to feel comfortable enough. I mean, it's just [that] that's part of human experience.

Anne, you talked about a story with a friend that had three young children who seemed unable to unwilling to get babysitting help and that's something you do. You have—

Anne: Yes.

Jim: --you have a daycare—

Anne: Yes.

Jim: --in your own home, I think. And it was even affecting her marriage, if I know the story well enough. But what—

Anne: Yes.

Jim: --happened?

Anne: Well, I had a friend that, they didn't have family living nearby and they had three young children, who were in the single digits (Laughter). And it's very active and she was just exhausted. And she was telling me one day that she and her husband just had not had an opportunity to go on a date, hadn't had that time together and it was really affecting their marriage.

And I offered to watch her kids for her and she kinda gave me the, "Oh, no, it's fine" and never took me up on it and I think there were a couple things that I think were playing into that, the trust. I think she didn't trust that somebody else could care for her child like she could, which nobody can. But in a few moments or in a small amount of time, they will survive.(Laughter)But also I think she just didn't want to bother me and she had in her mind that it would be affecting me instead of allowing me the opportunity to serve her.

John: Well, today on "Focus on the Family," we're talking with Jill Savage and Anne McClane about women and friendships, relationships. They've written a book called Better Together Because We're Not Meant to Mom Alone. It's obviously intended especially for mothers and we've got the book and a CD of our conversation. We'll also link over to our previous discussion about some of the other aspects of this book. All of that at or give us a call and we'd be happy to tell you more, 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY.

Jim: You mentioned shame. We talked a little bit about pride. The other big negative that you talk about in the book is shame. And you know, people hear that and they go right to their shame closet and I think all human beings probably have little goodies in that closet, whatever they might be. Women particularly though, maybe it's a shame garage, I don't know. (Laughter) They tend to throw, you know, we have little custodial closets, 'cause we just aren't that great identifying all our shame. I think it's the gift of men to hide out shame well. But you guys seem to identify it and then you put it in a big holding area. (Laughing)

Jill: Uh-hm and it disqualifies us.

Jim: How is that?

Jill: Because we know our own secrets. We know our own struggles. We know our own failures and we don't tend to share those openly with others, so therefore, it appears that either we put a mask on and we're perpetuating what I call, the "perfection infection." I wrote a book several years ago, No More Perfect Moms, where we talked about our tendency to put on these masks and present an image of perfection.And so, that's one of the things that we really call women to in Better Together is we call them to share their stories.

Jim: To be real.

Jill: To be real and to share their stories and they don't have to do it like I do, where I stand on a stage many times or in front of an audience. Oftentimes it just needs to be sitting across from another mom with coffee, where you share the good, but you share the hard. And when we share our stories, that gives moms the "me, too" moment.

Jim: Yeah.

Jill: And it also begins to peel away shame, because we don't feel so bad. So, I remember one particular time. I was with a group of moms. My son had just gotten a detention at school.

Jim: (Laughing) Duh, dah, dah, dah.

Jill: Yeah, not exactly what you want to announce (Laughter) on Facebook, you know. And I was meeting these moms. We were working on a column we write for our local newspaper and we were brainstorming. And so, we met and one of the moms, one was in the same season of life I was. One was ahead of me and one was younger. And so, we were just catching up with other. What's goin' on? What's goin' on? And I thought, oh, I'm not gonna say anything, but I'd just been dealing with it that day, you know.

Jim: Sure.

Jill: And so, finally I was like, well, we have our first detention in the Savage household. And immediately, you know, they were all, "Oh, what happened?" And I shared and then the older mom said, "Oh, well, we had a detention when this child," blah, blah. And then the other one said, "We had a detention." And all of a sudden, I was like, "Oh, okay!" No shame anymore. I mean, seriously just putting that out there and then there was no more shame on it. It was a gift to me for them to be honest and I'm glad that I took the risk and put that out there.

Jim: Well, and that "fill in the blank," whatever that—

Jill: Sure!

Jim: --detention or whatever it might be.Anne, in fact, you have a heart-wrenching story about your son, Landon, that kind of fits in this category. Share it with us.

Anne: Yeah, when my son, Landon was born, I really, the hormones of pregnancy really took their toll on me and dealt with the "baby blues" for sure. And then, we just had some problems. Landon had a hard time nursing and when he was 4-months old, he fell below his birth weight and was labeled "failure to thrive," which as a new mom, that's a horrible thing to hear and you struggle with the shame of that and—

Jim: It's your fault--

Anne: --it's my fault, yep. I couldn't—

Jim: --and how you felt, yeah.

Anne:--exactly. That's the way that instantly I felt and the doctors even kind of made me feel that way and so it was a very lonely place in my motherhood journey. And it took about two years for me to finally pull out of the depression after some medication changes and whatnot.

But it wasn't until I started sharing my story that all of a sudden I heard, "Me, too." Like I wasn't the only one who struggled with the mommy blues. And I wasn't the only one who struggled with "failure to thrive," and that there were other moms out there who had dealt with the same thing. And so, suddenly, I wasn't [in] a lonely place anymore.

Jim: Let me ask you about this though. Conflict is inevitable and that's true of any relationship between two imperfect human beings. And I think it's why God puts us on this earth, is to learn these things. But explain (Chuckling) your analogy of "put on your big girl panties," (Laughter) when it comes to dealing with the challenging parts of friendship. Now I did not want to say that. I just want the audience to know. Don't send me an e-mail. This is their thing, not my thing.

John: You're blushing right now. (Laughter)

Jim: I know, it's not very—

John: --even bringing it up.

Jim: --comfortable.

John: You better explain ladies. (Laughter) Get Jim off the hook here.

Jim: Thanks for savin' me, John. (Laughter)

Jill: Oh, that's great. Well—

Jim: Keep movin'.

Jill: --well, what we were talking about with that is that in the same way, when a child is potty training and they are, you know, beginning to move to a new level of maturity, that's actually kind of a common phrase that many women use, you know. We'll even be having a conversation and it'll be like, "All right, girls, we gotta put on our big-girl panties." (Laughter) So, that may feel uncomfortable for you.

Jim: Totally! (Laughter)

Jill: It does happen in friendship circles. But what we are talking about is that some of us still navigate friendships like we were in grade school and junior high. And it's time for us to put on our big-girl panties. It's time for us to respond to one another in a more mature way. And so, maybe that means, you know, when you have conflict, our tendency is to talk to a girlfriend, not the person that you're having conflict with.

All right, that's junior-high stuff. It's time for us to step up and to be more responsible and more mature in our relationships. Sometimes we have to ask ourselves, am I making this situation about me when it's really about her? So, sometimes we have to do some self-evaluation because we can very easily maybe become defensive or step into shame when there's some sort of a conflict that's happening.

So, that's just a phrase that we use to help women slow down and stop and think about, all right, we're having some conflict. We're having some friendship frustrations. How can I handle this in a Christ-honoring way?

Jim: You know what this whole conversation, I've so enjoyed it as a man, just in a husband and a father listening to this time and the time a while back when we talked about the topic, because it shows me what women are great at is relationship. Yet at the same time, there's a vulnerability in it that's unique to women. It's like, what I'm envisioning is this road called "relationship" and then there are all these pot holes for women.

Jill: Uh-hm.

Jim: And you gotta step so gently around all of it or you get sucked into the things that you're talking about, this negativity—

Anne: Right.

Jim: --and the downward spiral, as opposed to maximizing the relationships to honor the Lord and to honor each other as friends in the walk of life. And you have brought such terrific advice and I hope people pick up the book, Better Together, Because We're Not Meant to Mom Alone.

Jim: You have so many good tools in there, the profile and the lists of things that you can do, places where you can go to meet other moms, which again, it's that perfunctory. I mean, sometimes you just gotta say, "Where can I go? I'm not meeting anybody."

Jill: Uh-hm.

Jim: And I need somebody desperately. And you talk about it in your book. So, thank you for doing it. Thank you for being here and I know every mom is gonna benefit from this great book. Thanks.

Jill: Thank you—

Anne: Thank you.

Jill: --for having us.


Jim: And John, let me just add a word here to our friends who have financially partnered with us to help families like the one we just heard from today. Parenting is a tough job and I think we all know that, those of us who are parents. And we need all the support we can get to do the best job that we can do, especially spiritually, to raise those kids in a way that they'll serve the Lord.

That's why I appreciate the encouragement that Jill and Ann have offered today, but there are many, many more families who need this support, as well and they need to hear programs like this one and get the tools like Jill and Anne's book and the counseling that Focus can provide and so much more.

And that's why I'm inviting you again to help meet this ongoing need. Your financial support enables Focus on the Family to be there when these families contact us. Maybe they're dealing with some conflict in their marriage or perhaps they're on their way to divorce. They have a prodigal child perhaps or whatever the challenge may be. We can be there for 'em together. You're an integral part of the ministry to these families, helping them be stronger and healthier in the days and years ahead. And I hope we can found on your support today.

John: You can contribute to the ongoing work of Focus on the Family by calling 800- A -FAMILY or donate at And when you get in touch, be sure to ask about Jill and Anne's book, Better Together, as well as a CD or a download of our entire conversation with them. And as I mentioned, we'll link over to our previous interview with them, where we talked about the power of moms in community. By the way, if you're able to help out with a financial gift to support the work here at Focus on the Family today, a gift of any amount, we'll send a complimentary copy of Better Together by our guests as our way of saying thank you for joining our support team.

Our program was provided by Focus on the Family and on behalf of Jim Daly, I'm John Fuller, inviting you back next time, when we'll explore the exciting world of grandparenting and how a grandparent can play an intentional role within the extended family.


Jerry Schreur: We have devoted our lives to our grandkids. I mean, if I was to define who I am, a very important part, of course, the first part would be is, I am a "Christ one; I am a Christian. That's the foundation. But from there, probably the next one would be I'm a grandparent.

End of Excerpt

John: Well, that's a proud grandfather and you'll hear from him and his wife, as well as we once again, help your family thrive.

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More Episode Resources


Jill Savage

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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,


Anne McClane

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Anne McClane is a blogger and the co-author of Better Together: Because You're Not Meant to Mom Alone, along with her mother, Jill Savage. Anne and her husband, Matt, have two young children and reside in Illinois. Learn more about Anne and her blog about motherhood by visiting