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A Lifeline of Support: The 6 Types of Friends Every Mother Needs

Updated: May 21

If motherhood has taught me anything, it's solidified a belief in the African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child.” A few years ago, both my young sons received an autism diagnosis within months of each other. It didn’t take long for me to relinquish the need and desire to try to do it all—and still be present for everyone. I also quickly realized that my kids were not the only ones who needed a village; I needed one, too. 

Motherhood is not for the faint of heart, and parenting kids with disabilities come with unique complexities. It makes unparalleled and unexpected demands on our time and energy. It's a journey filled with joy, struggles and a lot of learning. I have found that having a solid support system has been crucial, and my girlfriends play an irreplaceable role in providing the understanding and encouragement I need. 

So, it should not surprise anyone to know that I love celebrating February 13, also known as Galentine's Day. You may have noticed that this day celebrates female friendship and is gaining prominence and momentum in our society. Did you know Galentine's Day originated from an episode of the popular comedy "Parks & Recreation?" Some might think of it as another day fueled by capitalism, but I prefer to think of it as a day for women to gather with their besties to celebrate each other by getting together and doing fun things in the name of sisterhood and female empowerment. 

My girlfriends are some of the relationships I cherish the most. It does not take a holiday for me to celebrate my girlfriends, but it does make for a great excuse to gather with my gals for a good laugh and break from the beautiful chaos of motherhood. In the spirit of Galentine’s Day, I am breaking down the five types of girlfriends I have in my tribe that have helped me on the hardest of days, and I encourage you to also celebrate your tribe in not just the days to come but throughout the year.  Celebrate and appreciate the women in your life who help you during the highs and lows of parenting. These are the type of friends every mother needs — because women can form a lifeline of support.

The Empathetic Listener 

The journey of parenting a child with disabilities or health conditions is filled with a myriad of emotions. An empathetic listener is an invaluable friend who provides a safe space for sharing thoughts, fears, and triumphs without judgment. They listen compassionately, offering understanding and comfort during challenging and celebratory moments. This friend's ability to lend a compassionate ear becomes a lifeline when the weight of responsibilities feels overwhelming.

The Advocate Ally 

Navigating the complexities of the healthcare and educational systems can be a daunting task for us. The advocate ally is the friend who stands beside you, ready to lend a voice when needed. Whether attending meetings, deciphering paperwork, or being a source of strength during advocacy efforts, this friend becomes a vital ally in ensuring that a child's unique needs are met with understanding and support.

I am lucky because I have two girlfriends who serve as my advocates and allies, who also happen to be clinical pediatric psychologists working within school systems. They are the first ones I call when I need to prepare for an IEP, review my kid's assessment scores, etc. They are my regular go-to as they help me navigate and learn the most productive ways to advocate for my boys educationally. While their psychology backgrounds are helpful, their caring nature and brave spirits offer me incredible support.

The Respite Provider

Every mother deserves moments of rest. The respite provider is the friend who understands the challenges and offers to step in with no questions or explanations necessary. It is simply the ability to say, "...I need a moment." It can also be a  catchphrase that only the two of you share. When my friends hear my personal catchphrase, "Jesus, take the wheel!" they know to spring into action and be there for me and my children. This allows me time for self-care or simply a break. This friend's willingness to provide support through childcare or a friendly visit is a testament to the importance of nurturing your well-being.

The Inclusive Friend 

Just like our children, we sometimes face the challenge of social isolation. Initially, I felt so alone and thought no one could relate or understand my feelings. It wasn't until I started opening up and sharing more about my kids that I began to find my tribe of mothers who either could understand or relate. These relationships led to playdates and opportunities for my sons to form their tribe. The inclusive friend actively seeks to bridge this gap, ensuring that social gatherings and activities are accessible and welcoming. This friend understands the importance of creating environments where adult caregivers and their children feel embraced, valued, and included. 

The Resilience Builder

Life as a special needs mother requires a veritable toughness, and the resilience builder is the friend who inspires strength during tough times. This friend brings positivity, reminding the special needs mother of her resilience and her child's incredible progress. Celebrating small victories together, they turn challenges into opportunities for growth and learning.

The Comedian

Laughter serves as a form of medicine for stress relief and creates a shared language of joy and durability. As moms with children who have disabilities or healthcare needs navigate the unique challenges of parenthood, having a friend who can lighten the load with humor becomes an essential aspect of our support system, enriching our journey with moments of genuine laughter and heartfelt connection.

These are the girlfriends I call once the dust settles because we can laugh about whatever crazy situation just occurred. This friend who can make a joke out of practically anything and whose comedic timing is perfect! Their adlibs and witty one-lines further personify the story and always help me dry my tears and reflect on what happened, sometimes even allowing me to gain a different perspective. James Preston is my child who typically provides us with a good dose of comic relief with his shenanigans. I am routinely asked, "What funny story do you have today about James Preston?" 

To all the mothers navigating the complexities of parenthood, building a network of supportive friends is not just a luxury; it's a necessity. Together, these friends, no matter the type, form a lifeline of support that makes the journey more manageable, joyous, and fulfilling. Let's celebrate and cherish these friendships, recognizing their immense value in creating a community where every mother and child can thrive.

A group of three adult friends embrace in the park

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