Female connections are essential for women’s health and wellbeing. The research about how men and women respond differently to stress reminds us of this fact:
“Although “fight-or-flight” may characterize the primary physiological response to stress for both
males and females…behaviourally, females' responses are more marked by a pattern of
"tend-and-befriend." Tending involves nurturant activities designed to protect the self and
offspring that promote safety and reduce distress; befriending is the creation and maintenance
of social networks that may aid in this process."
Female friends provide comfort and support, prevent loneliness and help us face life's inevitable stressors. This article is about how female friendships have enriched my life and invites you to reflect on that as well.
I come from a large, close knit family of eight children. My parents had four boys and four girls over a 23-year period. My oldest brother and his wife had produced two babies before I was born. My younger sister and I were a couple of little after thoughts. The story told in the family was that I was a mistake, so Mom decided to get pregnant with my sister Helen to provide a playmate. Living on a farm and then in a tiny hamlet with a population of some 40 people and a few dogs, Helen and I were very grateful to have each other as playmates and friends.
We are quite different but really compatible. I am extraverted and was bossy as a kid, according to older siblings. Helen on the other hand is introverted and quiet. But our friendship and connection has remained strong throughout our lives. Our sister Karen, 9+ years older, was our main caregiver when we were kids and remains a beloved friend and mentor. Our oldest sister Shirley (deceased in 2004) was married when I was five. My fondest memories of her, in addition to teaching me the "facts of life," are superb baking skills, especially her glazed doughnuts.
Close female friends, including sisters, positively influence our day to day lives in so many ways. I have been fortunate to develop numerous deep and lasting female friendships over my lifetime. Many of those relationships began as work colleagues, later becoming cherished friends, and fortunately for me, remain in my life today.
Good friends empathetically support our experiences. They act as sounding boards for our ideas and opinions. They offer advice, even when we may not want to hear it but need to just the same. They tolerate our rants and validate our reasoning. In short, their acceptance and love are unconditional.
There are so many ways that women have been a support system for me that it would take more than this short article to describe how much they have enriched my life. I am truly grateful. There is something extraordinarily comforting about having a history with the special women in your life. There’s mutual trust and respect, non-judgment, and a strong sense of acceptance for who you are at your core, warts and all.
A feeling of being truly known by another is hard to describe, however its’ absence is profound and immediate.
As we celebrate International Women’s Day, March 8, 2021, I encourage you to reflect on your most cherished female friendships and the joy they have brought to your life.
Blessings and good health to each of you.