friend (n.): one attached to another by affection or esteem
As Carole King said, you've got to have friends. We all know that having friends is important - critical even - to the survival of a stressed - out, pulled - in - every - direction, multi - tasking, about - to - pull - your - hair - out mom. A friend provides a person to lean on, a shoulder to cry on, someone to laugh with. But did you know that friendships can help keep you healthy and even extend your life? Recent studies have shown that having regular social interactions with friends can directly improve your health. In fact, one study tracked 1500 adults for ten years and found those with the strongest network of friends lived significantly longer than those with weaker networks.
Sally Guzdar, 41, a stay at home mother to three children ages 8, 6 and 3, counts on her friends to give her perspective and help her to laugh at the often crazy and busy life she - like most mothers - lives in. "Having friends keeps me grounded; when you are alone with your children it is easy to lose perspective. Sharing experiences with my friends helps me work through issues - and usually laugh at them," says Sally.
However, in the often chaotic rhythm of every day life for families, it is moms' friendships that frequently get lost in the shuffle. All the work of planning children's play dates can push grown up play dates to the back burner. Sally makes a conscious effort to schedule time with friends. "I make time for friends by scheduling a time we can do activities together like taking walks or an exercise class," she says. "When I just had one child I could count on running into other moms while pushing a stroller though the neighborhood, but now that I have three kids and life has gotten a lot busier, I can't wing it - I need to plan ahead."
If you have a hard time connecting with the friends you already have, here are some ways to work friend-time into your schedule:
Playdates! Playdates are as much for moms as for kids - this is a great way for especially moms of pre-schoolers to get some adult interaction while the kids can socialize as well.
Trade off with your spouse once a month - you get a ladies night while he stays home with the kids, and he can have a night out with the guys while you stay home. Everybody wins.
Start a club with your friends as a way to ensure regular get togethers - a book club, knitting club - even magazine or movie club. Pick a regular night to meet - like the 15th of each month - and stick to it! Write it down like an appointment and keep it.
Write it down! Make it a priority to keep in touch with friends, both in and and of town. Make a list of friends you want to connect or re-connect with and set a goal of one contact (this could be a phone call, cup of coffee or even email) per week. You can do it!
Take a minute to send a friend a thoughtful email or even - gasp - letter in the mail. Think about how good you feel when someone reaches out to you and take a minute to make the same effort.
Remember birthdays. A late card or call is better than no recognition at all. Keep a birthday calendar as a way to keep track of all of your loved ones' birthdays.
Sometimes moms find themselves in situations where it's time to make some new friends - whether it's a move to a new town or neighborhood or a decision to stay home with kids when your main social network has been coworkers. The best friendships are often made with people with common interests or circumstances - here are some ways to forge new friendships:
Head for the playground - this is a great place to meet other moms and dads of young children who live close by.
Get involved with your church group. Your church is a welcoming community where people most likely have common interests and beliefs. There are often planned activities to attend or even help organize where you can meet people.
Join a running club. If you are a runner or aspire to be one, a running buddy is the best way to stay motivated and committed. It's as easy as googling "'Your city' running club" to find one near you.
Find a mommy and me group. Again, google this to find one near you or check your local penny saver.
Get involved in a cause you believe in - join a volunteer group. This is a great way to connect with people with common interests - plus you'll be giving help to people who need it in the process.
Get involved with your kids' school - whether you work or stay home, your child's school is a great place to connect with others. Plus, you already have one thing in common and a major topic of conversation - raising children! There is no end of conversation fodder.
Be friendly and go out on a limb - some of the best friends are made in funny siutations - in the grocery store, at the park, in the waiting room of the doctor's office.
It isn't the quantity of friends you have, but the quality - and the quality of your time together - that's important. Remember - moms, sisters, cousins and grandmothers are some of the best friends out there! Even if you don't have the time to go out for weekly drinks with friends, a monthly book club or volunteer activity can be just as valuable when it comes to spending time with friends. Even a phone call or text message to an out of town friend can make you feel good. So remember, moms, stay connected with your friends and you'll be a better mom to your family!