What memories do you have of your mom doing things with her friends?
Years ago, in a specific friendship workshop I used to lead, I would ask adult women to write down everything they could remember about their moms and the topic of friendship:
- Who did she hang out with, that you remember? Did she have her own friends or was it more about getting together with other families?
- Do you remember her going away for weekends with friends? If so, what did she say to you about those weekends away? Do you remember seeing photos?
- Do you remember her going out for girls nights often? What would they go do? Who went with her?
- Can you remember any advice or comments she ever made about friendships? Hers? Or yours? Or just in general?
I was somewhat shocked the first couple of times when I gave that exercise as more women in the room, than not, would shake their heads, wrinkle their foreheads, and murmur something along the lines of, "I don't really remember my mom doing stuff with her friends," or "I'm sure she had friends, but I couldn't name any of them," or "She would talk to her sister a lot but that was about it."
At first I was alarmed that so many moms didn't have good friends, but the more I talked about it with other women, we started wondering if, in fact, the bigger issue was simply that the mothers tried to do friendships when their kids wouldn't notice. In other words, were the moms more likely to hang out with their friends when the kids were in school or soccer practice, thinking it was best to spend time with their friends when it wouldn't "take away" time from their kids?
It makes sense on some levels, doesn't it? Whether it's guilt from not spending enough quality time with your kids, frustration from the spouse at having to parent on their own while you're off "playing," or crying from the kids who insist you're the only one who can put them to bed-- it can be hard to schedule time with friends in the evenings and weekends.
And yet... it's imperative that we do. Our daughters, and sons, need to see how much friendships are valued. For their health and happiness, they need to see us put into action the values of being connected to others. They need to be able to one day answer the question "What kind of friendships did your mom have?" with a list of memories and details.
Inspiring Ways Some Moms Still Prioritize Friendship
I want to shout-out to some of the amazing moms who I am lucky enough to call my friends, with hopes that perhaps one of the ideas inspires your own path to prioritizing friends:
- For over 10 years, Sherilyn and I have talked on the phone every single Wednesday for almost an hour. She has three kids who are frequently told, "You'll have to wait... I'm on the phone with Shasta" and she often has to say to me, "Will you hang on just a second? Sorry." She juggles all of us, no matter the ages of her kids over the years. They will one day be able to say "My mom had a best friend she talked to all the time."
- My friend Daneen, who at one point was the only mom in a weekly small group of us who got together every Tuesday evening, had two babies and both times showed back up for weekly girls night as soon as she could get them to take a bottle of her breast milk. Was it stressful on her husband? Oh yes! But Tuesdays became Daddy and Daughter night and they figured it out. Her daughters will definitely remember that mommy went out with friends often.
- A few of my dearest far-flung friends-- Karen, J'Leen, Valerie, and Krista-- have had 6 kids (and added 2 step-kids) over the years and not a one of them has ever missed our annual girls weekend. Never once. That means they've missed a soccer game here-and-there, left Dad with sick kids, and had to pump up a storm before boarding the plane. Their kids will long remember that their moms come back smiling and happy and excited for the next girls weekend.
- One of my friends Kat is busy cooking her oldest son's favorite dishes every Sunday and planning awesome family vacations this year as she prepares for him to go off to college in the fall. She knows her time with him is precious and she wants to soak up every second she can as a family. And yet, not only does she drive over an hour to come into the city for a monthly women's group at my house, she also is going to turn it into a slumber party so she doesn't have to drive home so late. She won't be there for dinner or breakfast, but in her absence she's teaching them just how important friendship is.
I could go on and on. My friends are kick-ass women who feel like there are never enough hours in the day to be the rock stars that they are in their careers, spend as much time with their husbands as they would ideally want, and be the kind of mom that their inner critic tells them they need to be.... but they don't let those become reasons to not keep up their friendships.
If you're reading those examples and thinking they're crazy-- then you haven't yet heard or absorbed just how important friendships are to your health. All healthy relationships--including the ones with our parents, our spouses/romantic partners, and children-- add value to our lives. But it's primarily with our friends can we get the benefits of love without as much arguing about money, negotiating chores, scheduling their doctors appointments, or feeling like there is a never-ending to-do list attached with them.
But hopefully you're reading those and thinking "okay how can I start saying to my kids something like 'Just as you played with your friends at school today, now Mommy is going to go play with her friends because we all need good friends!'" Your kids will benefit, you will benefit, and your friends will benefit!
To all the mama's out there-- we love you and consider ourselves lucky to call you our friends! xoxo
Do you have a friend whose a mom that you want to give a shout-out or thank you to? Go for it! We'll love her up with you! What do you appreciate about her? Or, if you're a mom-- share with us something you've done to prioritize friendships and let us give you virtual high fives!