I do think that it is important for us to have friends. It is all too easy to slip into the complete serving mode as a mother and forget that we too are whole people. We have emotional and social needs that aren’t always, completely met by the family. That isn’t because the family isn’t doing the right thing but rather that our needs are broader than the people in our family. And that is okay!
There are different seasons in our life and each season brings its own focus, demands, challenges and time limits but if we are to look after our emotional and social well-being then we will find some friend time some how, some place.
- Use the telephone. When my kids were little I would talk on the phone often. In fact one friend said to me once – Pete is away isn’t he? Yes he was and I asked her how did she know. She commented that I had phoned her every day at 5.00pm for a week! Apparently I only did that when Pete was away! She was okay with that – we just laughed at my consistency. The phone is great because you don’t have to dress up, clean your teeth and you can keep your hands busy too. I have had a headset for many years and this keeps my hands free – to fold the washing, sweep the floor, dust, iron, chop the salad… (Skype is a similar type of opportunity)
- My place or yours. I have organised many play dates for my kids simply because I needed time with my friend! I have found that the more times you have a family over the simpler a visit becomes because the kids (from both your family and your friend’s) get used to what goes on during such a visit. My friend has no eating in the lounge room, I have no drinks in the family room. We have also worked out together the issue of technology during a playdate (namely, the wii). Generally speaking if our purpose of the playdate is for the kids to catch up then no technology. If the purpose is for us to catchup then yay for the wii! It will keep them occupied for hours!!
- Let’s do lunch. Now that my children are older I can leave the house without them all in tow. I have a handful of friends who work and one time that is convenient for them and me is to catch up for lunch. I have also had lunch either at my place or at my friends.
- Coffee and Dessert. My friends with little kids like to go out for coffee and dessert occasionally. This works because we can leave it a little later and the mums with little kids can tuck them into bed before they go out. We’ve also had coffee and dessert nights at someone’s house so it doesn’t have to be expensive.
- A play in the park. The park is a great place to visit with your friends especially if you have young children with you. You’ll only see them when they are hungry!
- Catch up for Breakfast. I have packed a picnic breakfast and caught up with a friend early in the morning at a local beauty spot – we need to do that again! We’ve also gone out for breakfast which works too.
- Celebrate birthdays. This is a great habit to get into. Birthdays give us a reminder that it is time to get together with some friends.
One thing that I remember having to do is explain to my kids that I needed time with my friend. As kids are selfish, they only considered themselves during a playdate – they would interrupt or hang around and my friend would interact with them (not me!!) On paper that sounds selfish on my behalf but the reality is that I needed time with my friend just like they enjoyed time with theirs. I painted the picture to them – imagine you are so excited about seeing your friend and yet I kept coming and talking to your friend, we went off and looked at a few things, and then all of a sudden it was time to go home. How would you feel? They would feel ripped off! So that is how I feel! From that time I we talked honestly – this is mummy’s conversation, mummy’s visit, mummy’s time and I warned them of that beforehand. Sure, they got time to interact with my friends (afterall I’m all about socialising with all people!!) but my children needed to know that all play dates didn’t evolve around them. They would visit with my friend and then go off and play. Though it sounds selfish it actually teaches the kids to be aware of mum and her needs and I think that is a good thing.
When my kids were little I would always take food and an activity (or two) for them to do while I visited with my friend. Now that they are older, they pack their own backpack to keep themselves occupied – generally a book and possibly a card or board game to play together. We have a saying in our house – never leave home without a book! I think to be fair to our children if we want them to respect our time then we need to help them occupy their time.
The other thing that often gets discussed when we talk about mum going out with her friends is dad’s babysitting. Right from the outset I told Pete that I never expected him to babysit. This was a concept that just didn’t exist in our thinking. He is their dad. Mum’s don’t babysit their own kids – they look after them. Dad’s don’t babysit their own kids – they look after them! When my kids were little I always checked if Pete was available to be with the kids but he didn’t babysit. This may sound pedantic but I believe that our words set the stage for our responses to things and I think it is important that Dads are involved in the caring of their kids. They are responsible for their kids they aren’t just doing their wife a favour.
So if it has been awhile since you’ve had any time with a friend can I encourage you to think about what would work for you in your circumstances, in the stage of life happening in your family right now and make a date with your friends some how, some place.