Yesterday I visited with a friend for lunch and another friend for dinner. And it was a very enjoyable day/evening! I love going out with friends and just catching up. Our lives are so busy, we barely have time to connect anymore, but even an hour-long coffee date or an hours-long dinner makes such a difference. For busy moms, it's our networking. Busy professionals go to seminars and meet-ups to connect with other people in their profession. Moms do the same - only our meet-ups might be in a yoga class, or at the grocery store, or at happy hour at 9 p.m. because that's when we finally got a minute to escape. No matter what our professions - working moms, "stay-at-home" moms, part-timers, we all need to network and connect with other women, especially our friends who have been in and out of our lives for a minute or decades.
That's why I find is so hard to believe that we can't seem to find time for each other. Or we cancel at the last minute. Or we reschedule so many times it's just not worth the effort. Recently, my book club went kaput. Everyone claimed "too busy". I get it. I sometimes have days where literally ALL of my time not spent sleeping is dedicated to someone else - a child, work, a husband, volunteering. But the truth is, not EVERY day is like that. It might seem like it, when days in a row, I have absolutely no discretionary time, but the truth is, if you're so busy you can't spare an hour to connect with your "network" then something is seriously out of whack.
I get it if you belong to a Bunco group, a book club, a church bible study, and also volunteer at your kids' school, while holding down a full-time job. You're busy! But what about YOU? What about the things that feed your soul and recharge you. My husband is fond of the saying "sharpen the saw". This means if you don't sharpen your saw blade (the things that make you happy), the saw will get dull and not be of much use anymore. Same with us - if we don't recharge from time to time, we get dull and boring. Your kids know it, your husband knows it, and your friends wonder where you've been all this time.
I wonder if our "too busy" is not just that we, as moms, wives, mothers, don't just sacrifice all of our personal joys in order to serve someone else. I know I do. I've never gone on a mom's only weekend save for one time spent overnight at a hotel 20 minutes from my house with good friends. I know plenty of moms who regularly indulge in Vegas weekends or a trip to wine country with a group of girlfriends. Lack of money to indulge in trips that involve airfare has kept me from considering that, and many may share my concern, but there are plenty of other ways to connect with other women that don't involve an overnight stay or matching luggage.
Take book club, for example. Once a month meetings. Read a book in between. Sounds pretty simple, right? Well, I guess not. I only missed book club when I was out of town. I always read the book, save for one or two over several years. But more often than not, several members would be missing at each meeting and half of those there had never read the book. Sure, some were just there to socialize and that's fine. So, why not call it a girls' night and skip the book and discussion? That's ok, too. We often seem to need some "justification" for getting together with other women. An organized event seems to need to be taking place for it to seem legit. Why? Remember knocking on the neighbor's door and asking "can you play?" Why can't we just do that now? Just ask our friends over to "play"? We're so worried about hosting events that we simply don't have them. I don't get that. I'm fine if you want to come to my house and just hang out. Bring some food and drink and we'll have a grand old time just talking and laughing it up.
I guess I just find it hard to believe that once every thirty days or so, we cannot seem to find time to connect with our friends. I recently went out on a Thursday night to dinner with two friends. We met at 7 at a restaurant close to our homes. We were out of there before 9 because "Gray's Anatomy" was coming on. Even though I wasn't watching the show, I appreciated that 1. We got together...and 2. That my friends were smart enough to carve out two hours for dinner and still go home to watch their favorite show in their jammies. It was easy and we connected. We had a good time and no one had to miss their favorite show.
In my family, we tend to be the do-ers, the organizers, the inviters. Everyone comes to our house for events and non-events alike. I'm happy that my house is a gathering place and that people feel comfortable here. But I'm always amazed at how, year after year, we seem to do all the inviting, hosting and organizing and rarely does anyone reciprocate. I can't remember the last time we were invited to dinner or a party at someone's house. We always have a large turnout whether it's a teens' movie night or a Halloween party or birthday. But out of all those people who have enjoyed our home and hospitality, it's rarely reciprocated.
I don't blame or resent. I won't change the way we do things because we all love to connect with friends and have a good time. But I wonder.....why do people shy away from getting together? We're so cocooned in our own lives that we often seem to live in separate little cells protected from the world - together, yet separate. We might live in a neighborhood but not know the neighbors. Or we might never get to know our work colleagues. Why?
I used to belong to a Bunco group that fizzled out. I was ok with that because I felt I'd "done" the Bunco thing. I tried to join a new group a few years later, but it just didn't spark me. It didn't fuel me and make me want to get together with those women so I quit. And that's just fine. We can't be friends with everyone. My best friend refers to her friend circle as her "bus". When asked if she wanted to make new friends she said "no, my bus is full!" I've often used the bus analogy over the years. When I got divorced, and my friendships inevitably changed, I joked once that I drove my bus up a hill with emergency doors open and several former friends fell out. Because that's what it was like - people I had been close to just inexplicably dropped out of my life. At first it's a little alarming. But after a while, you realize it's ok. Because some friendships wax and wane and others are rock-solid for decades. Still others come and go and you pick up where you left off. Sometimes, you are left bewildered and hurt after a friend drops out of your life. But that's the way it is with friendships. They are dynamic things.
We all make excuses for why we're too busy or don't have enough time. But the truth is, we often have only one person to blame - and she's looking back at you from the mirror! My kids will tell me they didn't have time to finish their homework and I'll say "Well, you had the whole day to lay in front of the TV!". It's all about how you choose to spend your time. I figure if I have an hour to spend on Facebook, that's an hour I could have been working out, or completing a chore, or doing something else. But I don't feel guilty about it. Facebook is one of the ways I connect with friends and family. So, I'm ok with allowing myself my FB time. But not at the expense of never getting together with my girlfriends or planning a party or making food for a pack of hungry teenagers at my house.
I get that not everyone is fueled by being around people. We all like our alone time, too. Or our uninterrupted family time. I love those things as well! I'm ecstatic when I have a rare night (or weekend!) alone and I love nothing more than dinner time with the whole family. But I need my girlfriends too. The ones who have known me since I had my firstborn and the ones I've only just met. I'm always so recharged after going out with my girlfriends, even if it's just a short coffee visit or a bigger event. Talking, venting, commiserating, getting advice and a sympathetic ear - all of those things are so vital to busy women.
So, if you find yourself in the midst of a "friend drought" ask yourself if you can carve out time, even once a month, to connect. Book club, Bunco, drinks, dinner, movies, whatever it is that gives you some time to connect with your friends is vital. If you feel guilty about missing family dinners, go after dinner. Go after the kids are in bed! One late night with friends won't kill you. You'll be happy you did it. And if you find yourself "quitting" all the things you once enjoyed because you're too busy for yourself, then reevaluate. Your time is important, too. Use it wisely!