Let's Get Together
Busy moms find creative ways to connect and reconnect. It keeps them sane!
Once a month, I get together with a group of women that I met through my daughter’s daycare. Usually, one of us can’t make it, but we keep this night on our calendars because when we do come together, we laugh in that let-your-guard-down-and-snort sort of way that you can’t at work or with new friends. These are the women I’ve relied on since my daughter—now 5—was just a baby. We’ve watched each other deal with parenting, marriage and relationship issues, deaths in the family, moving, career challenges, and troubles with in-laws. We’ve taken turns being the one to cry and the one to comfort, and when one of us sobs, the rest of us gather around like puppies to console her with our presence as much as our words.
Our closest friends are nothing short of family, and their presence in our everyday lives inspires, motivates, and relaxes us. To that point, an Australian study conducted over a 10-year period found that people with a strong network of friends were likely to live longer than those with fewer close friendships. Other studies in the past five years have linked tight friendships to everything from breast cancer survival rates to a significantly positive perception of life’s challenges.
Technology today is supposed to make keeping up with our friends relatively easy. And yet, our overloaded schedules, exhaustion, and let’s face it, occasional laziness sometimes cause us to drop the ball. How can you connect and reconnect? Where there’s a will, there are plenty of ways.
Share a journal
My sister and I haven’t lived in the same city since college. Years ago (we were more than 1,000 miles apart at the time), she sent me a Circle Journey journal. It’s a diary you write in and then send to a loved one so she can record an entry and send it back to you. At that time, we had totally different schedules and priorities: She was busy building an editorial career and staying up late with her rock-star boyfriend, and I had a husband and a new house. She started with photos of us as kids and wrote what she wouldn’t have said in person. We sent it back and forth for two years, filling two books. Writing in a journal seemed less daunting than a letter and more personal than an e-mail. The mixed-media aspect forced creativity, as well—we took turns trying to out-cool each other with cocktail napkins and matchbook covers stuck between the pages.
Make a dinner date
They make it look so easy on Sex and the City—a group of girlfriends meeting here and there for coffee, shopping, a walk in the park. Going out for brunch with your gal pals is a great idea in theory, but in practice, planning a girls’ gathering can be tough if a) there are more than two of you involved, and b) one or more of you are moms. Solve your scheduling troubles in one shot with a standing dinner date.
A standing date with friends is the social equivalent of paying yourself first when budgeting. If you reserve the third Wednesday of every month for your book club, you can work kids’ soccer practices, your haircut, and your work schedule around it. It becomes the sacred time it needs to be in order to preserve your relationships, lending your friendships the weight—and the permanence—they deserve.
Have phone cocktails
If you can’t get a sitter for the evening or it’s too cold to think about opening your front door, let alone walking through it, consider a get-together via the phone or video chat. It’s like a conference call for pleasure instead of for business. Once the kids are in bed, use your speakerphone or your computer’s webcam, and lean back with a glass of wine. You’ll be glad to hear each other’s voices whether you have the visuals or not. And the best part? You can wear anything you want.
Start a new tradition
Have you ever forgotten a pal’s birthday only to remember it the next morning? You may have immediately sent a sheepish e-card full of perky kittens dancing around a cake. I sure have. It happens. Birthdays are certainly important, but unless you’re a human calendar, a few might slip through the cracks here and there. You can avoid that riddled-with-guilt feeling with this new tradition: The birthday girl does the phone calling. It may sound a little unconventional, but that’s the point. It’s unique, and it’s easier. New traditions like this keep friendships alive. With this one, you can call at your leisure—it’s your big day, after all. And it takes the pressure off everyone else. All you need to do is shout a quick, “Hi! It’s my birthday. I’m calling to share my celebration.” Then let things flow from there.
Go for yoga
Exercise makes a great excuse for getting together—men have been doing it for centuries. Think Roman baths or your husband’s softball team. You probably have at least one or two girlfriends who work out regularly, so take a weekly yoga class together or line up for the stroller derby. It’s the classic killing-two-birds-with-one-stone technique, and a little health-related motivation can help you stay in touch even when you’re feeling lazy.
Keep Me Company
Partner with a pal and errands and chores aren’t so bad after all:
Lug your large linens to the laundromat and use that long spin cycle as a chance to chat.
Schedule your kids’ haircuts for the same place and time. Afterward, head to lunch at a family-friendly spot.
Make dinner at a commercial kitchen without having to do shopping or clean-up. Check out Dream Dinners for locations near you.
Get department-store makeovers together when makeup shopping. Then you can talk each other into (or out of) buying the products.
Clean her basement, then yours. The time will go more quickly.
Rita Arens, editor of Sleep Is for the Weak and author of the blog Surrender, Dorothy, lives in Kansas City, MO, with her daughter and husband. Visit her at surrenderdorothyblog.com.