“When was the last time you grabbed a cup of coffee with a friend? When did you last make a new friend? Chances are, that if you are a mother, the answer is ‘a long time ago.’ Research shows that women with children spend an average of five hours per week with friends, whereas before having children women spend an average of fourteen hours with friends. This would not be an issue if friendships were not so vital to our health and happiness.” Rifka Schonfeld (June 20, 2013), Why Friends Matter
My wife and I have a lot of wonderful friends in our lives. Unfortunately our crazy schedules and work-life balance attempts don’t always allow us much time with our friends. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that I can’t always make time for everyone and that some friends I may be able to see more than others based on where we are in our lives with kids, location, schedule, etc. while I may miss out on seeing others for the same reason.
My focus this week on friends is because I think sometimes we need to remind ourselves how important friends are. As a parent, we need to be able to share, laugh and communicate with more often than we might think. When my wife was home more at night (and not working night shifts), we had friends over for dinner very frequently. I think that having people in the house, experiencing stories and laughter, kindness and genuine friendship is great for the parents AND for the kids to see, share and experience.
I believe that moms NEED friends – we need to surround ourselves with a compassionate and loving community – and I’m not alone. I believe that we can’t let our busy lives be excuses for neglecting our time with some friends. Sometimes, as a busy working mom, it’s not as easy to find, make and foster friendships as we’d like it to be. There’s this thing called time which is sometimes the biggest challenge. But, I worry that we use time as the excuse sometimes when we really do need those moments with friends. Therefore, here are some of my thoughts:
To have good friends, you need to be a good friend. Be giving of yourself and your friends will be giving to you. But make sure you’re not doing ALL the giving!
Let go of guilt. Sometimes you have to find time to see a friend, but I don’t think you can force things too much. If you just can’t make the time happen, your friend will understand. Making time for friends sometimes means letting some of the balls you have in the air hit the ground. Sometimes, you’ll really need to let the balls fall to spend that time with your friend. However, there may be plenty of times when you really, truly can’t let the balls fall – your friend will understand.
Authentic, genuine friends are the best ones. Negative, drama-fueling friends may need to take up less of your time (I’ve been slowly working on this one).
Benefits of friendship. I’m not making this stuff up completely. Smart people who do their researchy thing agree that spending time with friends can boost our energy, decrease some stress and depression and even help our immune system.
Embrace friends from all different circles. A friend of mine has told me on multiple occasions that she believes in close, authentic friendships AND that you should try to have friends from not only different walks of life, but different ages: have friends in their 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, etc. This isn’t about checking off a bucket list of who to have as friends, but to consider being open to friendships beyond your normal circle because friends can provide more support, wisdom and laughter than you may have thought.
Have work friends. Camaraderie at work can help with job happiness and a sense of purpose. Or you can just kvetch together.
Meet in person. Not on Facebook. Have coffee. Sit on a bench together while watching your kids play.
Have mom friends. You may find yourself with different mom friends throughout your child’s development. We spent considerable time with moms that we went through pregnancy and childbirth with back in the beginning. Then, we hung out with preschool moms. Right now, we have neighborhood moms and baseball moms. Every mom needs friends who are moms, right? http://www.scarymommy.com/mom-friends-every-mom-needs/ We still see those pregnancy buddies and preschool mommies but maybe less frequently than we’d thought back then.
Don’t give up on friends who aren’t there right now. I definitely have some lifelong friends. I can always meet up for coffee or call on the phone, but our paths may be different at this moment. There are no hard feelings or guilt at all. When that friend calls, I’ll definitely meet up for coffee and vice versa.
My advice for this week: Don’t make excuses. Call a friend and meet up for coffee. Have a few friends over for dinner more often – let your kids be part of the meet up! Let your kids see how spending time with friends makes a difference.