Do you realize that 70 percent of the human food supply depends on a bunch of women dancing?
This is my interpretation of what my beekeeper friend, Nicole, taught me about how honey bees do their job. It inspired the most important advice I’ll ever give about Daughterhood — and explains a big initiative we’re launching to help you.
Let me explain how these dots connect.
First, we all know that if bees don’t help boy and girl flowers share pollen with each other, they can’t make the vegetables, nuts, fruits, berries, and wheat that we eat, or the plant food that cows and chickens eat before they become burgers and nuggets.
But, it’s not just any bee that moves the pollen all around and helps plants procreate. It’s the worker bee. And, guess what? The worker bees are all female. Yep – all of them.
But it even gets more amazing. What Nicole helped me understand is that one female worker bee can’t do anything by herself. The hive has to be large enough so that the bees can share information and tasks. In fact, if the number of female worker bees gets too low, the hive can’t survive.
And, best of all, this information is communicated through what looks like dancing. So, dancing is how the lady worker bees share information with each other.
This is so interesting and inspiring to me because it supports what I’ve always known. Doing hard things alone never works very well for anyone.
Even with an activity that appears solitary — like writing, I still need my friends to help. For example, my friend Susan reads my blogs and gives me suggestions that always make them so much better. She also cheers me on through the inevitable wrestling match I have with each one.
Unfortunately, if there’s one thing I’ve noticed in talking to women who are caring for their parents, it’s that they feel like they are doing everything alone. And, it’s this isolation that takes something that’s already VERY HARD – caring for parents – and makes it feel soul crushing.
As the writer Glennon Doyle Melton likes to say, “We can do hard things.” But she’s clear that doing hard things “together is better.”
So here’s the most important tip I’ll ever share about caregiving:
Hang onto your girlfriends, and don’t try to walk this path alone.
Sadly, friendships are often one of the first things that suffer when you get busy with caregiving, but friends are essential if you’re going to get through this with your emotional health intact.
This is why the bees excite me so much! We’re just like them! We need each other – our female friends especially — to show us the way, to help us dance and to collectively kick our anxiety and loneliness to the curb.
So whether you’re trying to hang onto your old friends or cultivating new ones, here are four truths that will keep you sane — that only friends can tell you.
Truth 1: Life is Filled with Possibilities
A good girlfriend provides oxygen to your little flame of a dream – whatever it may be. She listens to you, encourages you, and provides a space where you can still believe in the possibility of an exciting future.
When you’re unsure how you’ll get through the day with a parent who doesn’t even recognize you anymore, it’s so easy to lose hope in the possibility of a saner, more peaceful life.
Good girlfriends help you hold on to that possibility. Because they believe in you and always remind you that even this too shall pass.
Truth 2: Who You Are is Enough
Many years ago my friend Allison met me for dinner right after I had squeezed my 2 year-old son’s arm just a little too hard during a temper tantrum. I remember how gently she pointed out that there were 10 other times that same day when I patiently dealt with his frustrations without losing it. No judgment.
This is the best thing about true friends. Whatever that awful thing is that you need to say, you can go ahead and say it, it’s okay. It’s okay that you aren’t the perfect daughter, it’s okay that you lost patience with your mom today, and it’s okay that you might need to put her in a facility. It’s all okay.
With your friends, you can say what you need to say, do what you need to do.
What they love about you is not the sum of your efforts, but the sum of your parts.
Truth 3: It’s All Normal
A good girlfriend reassures you that you are.not.crazy. That you’re not incompetent. That the way you’re handling your situation, your feelings and your response to all of it – is SO NORMAL. She points out: it’s your situation that is bad, NOT YOU.
THEN, she tells you her story with all the horrifying details, and, in so doing, she provides perspective and perspective makes us so much saner. It’s like a big ol’ “PHEW.”
To paraphrase the Sufi poet Baba Farid, “I thought I was alone who suffered but when I went on top of the house, I found every house on fire.”
You’re not alone.
Truth 4: Laughter and Joy Are Always Possible
Friends laugh about anything and everything. At any time and under any circumstances. Laughter is essential juice for your soul and there’s always a very good possibility of laughter when good friends get together.
My friend Carol is especially hilarious and she’s so good at reminding me that the world doesn’t revolve around my drama — but she always does it in a way that’s really funny.
One of the greatest joys of being a mother to a 15-year-old girl is watching her form genuine loving friendships. One day she got home from a get together with a group of girlfriends at Panera down the street.
“How was it hon?” I asked.
“It was so much fun Mom. We laughed and laughed.”
Launching Daughterhood Hang-Outs
So let’s go out and wrap our current and new friends around us like a big, soft blanket. And let’s do a better job of rallying around each other in this phase of life called daughterhood. Let’s share information, advice, encouragement, and laughter.
After all, you had your childhood friends and you had your motherhood friends, now’s the time for daughterhood friends.
I get that it’s not always easy to find women who are in the same boat as you, or who really understand what you are going through. So, to remedy this, we are officially launching daughterhood hang-outs! The first will be this week in San Diego on September 24th. We’re hoping these groups will catch on and we’ll build vibrant communities all over the country where daughters can put up their feet and rest their souls.
My greatest hope is that daughterhood hang-outs will someday be the place where you’ll find new, lifelong friends to remind you of what’s true about you — that you’re perfect just the way you are.
Meanwhile, this text exchange just came in:
Me: “I’m so tired of being a single parent”
Nicole: “I know. I know. Hang in there. It WILL get easier.”