Moms Thrive in Connection: Establishing and Maintaining Friendships
- “I’m going stir crazy just home alone all day talking to a two year old!”
- “All I do is schedule the kids and then drive them around from one activity to another!”
- “Between my work and my kids I have no energy and no me time!”
- “My husband doesn’t come home ‘til after the kids are asleep, and he’s too tired to talk.”
These are a sampling of the many varieties of mom laments brought into my psychotherapy office on a weekly basis. Married, partnered or single, Moms are out there working hard--and often feeling alone and isolated.
Many mothers have little time in their busy lives to enjoy or establish the social relationships that could recharge their energy or keep morale from slipping into depression.
A body of evidence has recently emerged regarding the psychological benefits of social contact. It is now generally accepted that friendships can reduce the negative effects of stress and contribute to health. Since motherhood, despite its joy, is stress producing (big time!) it is vital for women to maintain friendships after having children.
The friends might be single, married, with kids, not with kids, pregnant or trying: it does not matter. The critical element is connection that feels genuine, caring and supportive. Women thrive in these friendship connections, and they need them.
However, locating and maintaining such relationships at a time when there are great demands on time and energy is a challenge. The task may be made even more difficult if the mother has moved to a new community after having children. She might have lost her established ties and have a more difficult job finding new people with whom she is compatible. Yet establishing and keeping friendships is not impossible, particularly in the age of technology.
Seven Tips for Establishing and Maintaining Friendships
- Believe that you deserve time with other moms, and develop the support services that will free you up to have it. Cultivate baby sitters you can trust (if budget allows.) If family is close by, muster up the confidence to ask for a little help so you can have a girls’ night out.
- Free up the time and energy to have friends in your life. It is important to trust how vital these connections are to your sense of well-being. If you believe that your stress will be reduced, your batteries will be recharged, and your morale will be higher, you will be more apt to make room in your life for friends.
- Contact women you know to form morning or afternoon playgroups. While the little ones play, the moms can talk. Some working moms might form weekend playgroups. If you live in a familiar community you might know people from pre-mom days who might want to get together. If you are new to the community you can begin by getting to know other women in your neighborhood. Take a stroll with the carriage or with the kids. Don’t be afraid to ask. You might find that you are offering some other woman just what she needs.
- Check local churches, community centers or counseling agencies to find groups for moms or groups for women. Some communities have family resource centers that offer a wide variety of programs for mothers, and activities for kids, separately or together. It is likely you can find the locations of these resources on line.
- Form or join interest groups such as garden clubs or book clubs. Joining a faith community can be a way to begin to form friendships with like-minded others who are moms or non-moms. You might choose to continue some of these contacts outside the group.
- Try the Internet. There are several good sites for Moms to make contact with other moms. “Cafemom” is one such site. Enjoying friendship on line is a modern way to stay in touch. It is worthwhile, but does not fully replace the refreshing value of in-person give and take. Consider asking on-line about moms in your geographic area who share similar interests. You can meet for coffee with or without kids, form groups, and develop support networks.
- Remember that old-fashioned method called the phone. This is still a tried and true way to share, offer support, have a cry, have a laugh, give some advice, and keep the connections alive when time is short and energy low.
Try a few of these ideas. Most importantly know how crucial friendships are for your health and happiness. You will be a more peaceful person and a better Mom.
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Bette J. Freedson, LICSW, LCSW, CGP is the author of the "Relax and Learn Seminars: Skills For All Seasons,” a repertoire of workshops based on the principles of effective stress management. In her work Ms. Freedson emphasizes the power of the mind/body connection to improve decision-making, increase effective coping, reduce time wasted in conflict, boost morale and productivity at work, and create greater harmony in relationships. Ms. Freedson practices clinical social work at The Listening Place in Lynn, Massachusetts. Besides maintaining an additional private practice in South Berwick, Maine, Bette is Social Work consultant to Maine School Administrative District #35.
Reprinted with the permission of the National Association of Social Workers.
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