I’m in the thick of it. After raising my first daughter to adulthood, I am back to raising two school-aged children. My baby boy just started kindergarten this year and my middle girl is in in fifth grade. My husband and I are teachers so our summers are treasured time for family bonding, working a bit, relaxing, and catching up on the overwhelming surplus of tasks left undone during the hectic school year. As summers do, this one has slipped away.
As a result, my already lackluster social life began dissipating into oblivion once I hit the classroom again. The importance of friendship cannot be overstated. A little effort to seek time with friends can help connect and ground us, allowing the world to slow down just a little. As with anything else, what you feed will grow. If we don’t feed our friendships, they will stagnate and possibly disappear.
What I have found is that most people I know are also in the throes of busyness that comes with having kids, jobs and adult responsibilities. Despite deliberately carving out margin in my life lately, this means it is easy to go FAR TOO LONG without seeing my girls. In fact, a few of you who know me may be reading this with furrowed brows, trying to reach back in your memory and figure out the last time we’ve seen each other. Good news! I’ve been intentionally focusing on not allowing my friendships to completely crash and burn because I’m busy with adulting. While I am not perfect, and still haven’t caught up with everyone I would like to, I am taking small steps to maintain my friendships and get a little bit of respite when I can. We ladies need our lady time, to talk about lady things and encourage one another.
As with anything else, what you feed will grow. If we don’t feed our friendships, they will stagnate and possibly disappear.
I have two main approaches to connecting with friends that are economical and actually pretty beneficial to my health. They are the Coffee Date and the Exercise Date. Both are easy on the waistline and the wallet and don’t require a whole lot more than an hour or so. If you are really pressed for time and just can’t steal away, shimmy into your jammies and have a Facetime date after the kiddos are in bed or while they are happily playing. I’ve been able to meet up with several different friends in these ways and have felt more connected and social. I’m hoping to continue the practice into this busy school year by planning ahead. My tips below are things that I have found work for me. You may find another way to arrange things, but making the effort is key.
#1 – GET IT ON THE CALENDAR
It seems that saying “We should get together” or “It’s been too long” to a friend doesn’t magically make it happen. Just ask my childhood friend, who I spoke to by phone this past weekend after not talking to her in nearly a month. I don’t think I’ve seen her in two months…maybe more. Scheduling friend time like I would schedule a trip to the dentist is the best way. At one point, it took almost two months to get a double date together with friends of ours when we looked at our calendars. Another friend and I took about six weeks to nail down a coffee date and make it happen. That’s just how it is sometimes. Put it in writing on the calendar and then firm up a few days prior to meeting. I had several coffee dates this summer and they were all planned well in advance. How wonderful it was to catch up and give and receive undivided attention with friends. Don’t sit around waiting to be asked – reach out and contact your friend. Chances are she is busy like you are. I don’t know many folks who aren’t.
#2 – MULTI-TASK
Sometimes, these meetings take on multi-purpose status. For example, I chatted and hoofed it around town this summer with a group of ladies I know. Early in the mornings, whoever could meet would show up. We talked about travel, our kids, school, town happenings and plenty of other things. Chewing the fat is no problem for me or for those dear ladies so our walking didn’t seem like a chore. Other friends I met with for coffee discussed spiritual issues, blogging, parenting and teaching. The uninterrupted discourse was a refreshing change from trying to talk on the phone in between shouting at my children and doing laundry. I’m sure you are all far more civilized than I am and would never do that.
# 3 – KEEP IT SIMPLE
Don’t drive yourself crazy when getting together. If you have someone over, just have coffee or tea and maybe some cookies. You don’t need to cook a 3 course meal after scouring the whole house from top to bottom. Luckily for me, my friends will come over and push the clutter aside without batting an eye. If you can’t get out and are home with kiddos, sitting at your kitchen table and keeping a watchful eye/ear on them is certainly good enough. However, if you can meet someplace where someone else prepares the food and cleans up, all the better! I’m a Starbucks fan because everyone can find something there and it is not super-expensive.
#4 – LOOK AHEAD
Akin to getting it on the calendar is to look ahead. Just like your dentist wants to get you on the calendar after you’ve had your teeth cleaned, treat your friends the same way. While you have your friend in front of you during your hang-out time, try to narrow down a time frame or book a date for your next meeting. Even if you set it up for a couple of months down the line, it is nice to know you can expect to meet up again and catch up on life. I have a some people in mind that I know I need to touch base with, and I hope to do this and then set up our next “date” when I see them. If you haven’t heard from me girls, I will be texting you soon!
# 5 – STAY CONNECTED
If you’re like me, a good bit of time may go by before you get a chance to reconnect after seeing a friend. In the interim, I like to shoot a text message or Facebook post to my friends, just checking in to see how they are. Maybe I share a funny story or follow up on something we discussed previously. Once in a while I will drop a pretty card in the mail because getting a handwritten note is a nice treat. It only takes a few minutes but it lets people know you care and are thinking of them. Who doesn’t love knowing someone is thinking of them?
Don’t misunderstand dear readers – I don’t have it all figured out. These are some things I am learning and just beginning to implement. I’m imperfect, but I believe that small progress will help build my friendships and encourage others to do the same. You know what they say – “A good friend is like a good bra…hard to find, supportive, and always close to your heart.” Now go dash off a text to that friend that was on your mind today.