Growing up seems to come at the expense of losing social ties, especially when kids enter the picture. Back in college, every day was a social life; you lived, ate, studied, partied, bumped into and were surrounded with friends. Then you graduate and become “adults,” and gradually the every-day-of-the-week going out turned into only-on-the-weekend hangouts, until eventually you’re just too tired to stay awake past 11pm.
Suddenly you find yourself with three kids and few chances to brush your hair, much less look presentable for a friend. How then can parents—the busy bunch with the worst hours and craziest demands—still manage to have a social life?
The trick is two-fold: 1) Accept that life—including your social one—is different from your pre-kids days, and 2) be creative with what you do instead. So yes, you can down the beers with your buddies, but maybe not every night. And you can still see your girlfriends frequently, but most likely over play dates and birthday parties.
Consider the following ideas on how to have a social life and keep those friends nearby:
Work out with a friend
“Let’s take a dance class!” I texted my friend last week. It had been too long since I last saw her, and even longer since I’ve done something I enjoy very much—dancing. Plus it’s actually exercise, so the benefits are threefold: hobby, exercise, friend. Of course most of our catching up happened over sandwiches and shakes after class, but who’s counting calories?
Invite people to your home
If you’re like me, you have a baby whom you’d really rather not tote around or wonder where he’ll sleep in people’s homes. Easy solution? Invite people to yours. Keep it simple enough not to warrant fancy menus—my husband made a quick quiche and his family brought chicken for a recent visit this past weekend. This way, your kids are comfortable at home, can nap if need be, and you can enjoy the company of others.
Commit to regular, scheduled outings
Sometimes accountability is the best way to meet your goals, including maintaining a social life. Meet with friends to try one new restaurant every month. I had siblings-only monthly get-togethers where each person was tasked with choosing the event (comedy clubs, bowling, Brazilian barbecue).
Socialize at kids’ birthday parties
If your kids are in school, chances are, you’ll receive a ton of birthday invitations from their classmates. While the primary reason to attend is for your child’s entertainment, it doesn’t hurt to chit chat with other adults at the party. Extracurricular activities like sports or art classes offer another opportunity to meet with and befriend other parents.
Join a mommy (and daddy) group
Mom groups can be a great source for frequent hangouts with kids. I know others who have found lasting friendships in doing so, and a good friend of mine is someone I met through a mom group. Meetup.com is a good site to find nearby mom groups.
Join any hobby group
My sister and her husband have been part of their church’s choir for several years now and as such, have fostered a tight-knit group with its other members. Even when they’re not practicing or singing, they take vacations, have annual dinners and bring their kids together.
As with joining mommy groups, finding the right mix of people isn’t guaranteed—you just might not have the right chemistry with a group as you had hoped. But there’s no knowing until you try. Tap into groups that get together to hike, run, knit, or read, and you just might click.
Schedule that long-overdue date night (or day)
Snag a family member or hire a babysitter to stay home with the kids while you and your partner eat at a restaurant (preferably the most non kid-friendly place you can find) and watch a movie (rated R, of course). Or drop the kids off at grandma’s for the afternoon so that you and your partner can hang out at your old haunts (yes, shopping at Bed, Bath and Beyond together like you used to do pre-kids counts!).
Have lunch with co-workers
If you’re lucky to work with people you get along with, having lunch boosts your presence at work and possibly find something in common with the people you probably spend the most time with during the week. Sometimes, parents find it hard to attend happy hours in the evenings, so grabbing lunch or taking a walk with co-workers breaks up your day and connect with others with the same interests as you.
As parents, we now have new priorities and nearly zero hours to commit to anything but our kids. Still, to be at our best, we need to take care of our needs first before we can even consider those of our kids. And one of the best ways to feel well-rounded is through our social ties with other people.
While getting together with family and friends can be difficult, keep the following tips in mind to make it less so:
- Once in a while is okay. You’re parents now, so it’s probably not a good idea to make plans every day of the week. Go out whenever you can because any break away from the kids is healthy.
- Initiate. Most of your friends—both with kids and those without—probably assume you’re too busy to hang out and don’t want to intrude on your already-packed schedule.
- Keep it small. A whole-day outing may not be feasible, but a quick lunch or coffee date can be all that you need to catch up with friends and family.
- Phone dates count! One of my friends and fellow mom just moved 45 minutes away from me and I still don’t get to see her regularly. So we catch up on the phone. Or online. Whatever we can do to stay in the loop with each other.
How important is your social life? How do you maintain ties with friends and family? Let us know in the comments below!
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