Julie and I hiking at a work retreat
In the workplace there is an important person that no self-respecting woman should be without. She is the work best friend. She’s different than your other best friend (or if you’re truly blessed, friends) because you see her in meetings, you eat lunches brought from home in each others offices, you confide in her things you could never process with anyone else because she’s in the trenches with you. She knows exactly what you’re going through because many times, she’s going through it too.
Julie and I started working together over a decade ago. I was there when she took her first maternity leave, she was there when my boys (finally) were all in full time public school. We talked (a lot!) about the frustrations of what to do with the kids in the summers, how to handle it when they were sick, and (maybe most importantly) what to do with all the guilt we were always feeling because we either weren’t giving work or our family what they needed.
Julie and I attended a conference together once with Ruth Haley Barton. Ruth wrote the book Strengthening the Soul of your Leadership and she taught us, in 5 intense days at Wheaton college, how to turn off the noise and truly listen. To ourselves, to those around us, and to our God.
It changed both of us. And we knew it. We started looking out for each other’s souls the same way we had looked out for each other’s meeting and parenting stress. We became able to work past the small talk and go straight to the hard question: how is it with your soul?
We went through a lot of challenges in our work. I won’t go into the details but there was stress. Lots and lots of stress. And because I tend to feel like any problem is my problem, it would have been very easy for me to get carried away with it all.
But I knew that when it got too bad I could walk into Julie’s office and shut the door. And that no matter what she had scheduled, she would stop and listen to me. Let me cry. Let me scream, if necessary. And I would do the same for her.
We came to some big realizations together, two working moms trying to navigate our way through leadership and parenting.
- Summers never work. You’ll think you have it all figured out, every camp penciled in, every childcare box checked. But still, at the end of every summer, you’ll find yourself saying “well, that wasn’t quite it. Let’s try something different.”
- You’ll never be able to give everybody everything they need. Try to balance out whom you’re cheating when and really keep an eye on how much you’re sacrificing for everyone else. Because if you’re not well, nobody’s well.
- Women in leadership have to present themselves differently then men. This may be a bitter pill to swallow, but we both kept each other in check and trusted the other to tell us when we were being too aggressive, shutting down the conversation, and not being heard. She always had my back.
- Some days, you just have to text “see you at IFratelli’s in 5” and you will sit over one glass of wine (only one) and a basket of bread and work it through. We may not have been invited to cigars with the guys (or wanted to go!) but these were our cigar meetings. Our lifelines. Our ports in the storm. Some of my favorite conversations with her were through tears (hers, mine or both) sitting in a booth truly hearing and truly loving. And never judging.
Julie doesn’t work with me anymore. And even now, over a year later, I sometimes gaze longingly at her old office wishing her old sectional were still there so I could plop myself down and talk it through. She works from home now and runs her own successful consulting business and I like to think she misses me sometimes, too. In fact, I know she does. Because she is still my close friend. My sister from the trenches. And the one who knows how to talk me off the work ledge like none other. So grateful God put her in my life.
Jennifer Lefforge is wife to Scott, mom to John (17), Matt (14) and Wil (14) and the Pastor of Worship Experience at Irving Bible Church. She blogs about running and life at http://www.runningpastormom.com.