Friday, February 10, 2012

Something to hold on to

43/365 Friends
Friends by Vinni123 on Flickr
I've been thinking about friendship lately.  I'm very lucky to have developed friendships recently with other Caltech alums (mostly women) over Facebook and email - folks I knew in school and may have been friendly with, but didn't know well.  I love that, but also hate that NONE of them live in my city.   We have awesome deep "conversations" via email or IM and keep up with each others' lives on Facebook, but I crave that in-person connection, too.

What I really want is a close group of friends to hang out with on a regular basis.  I don't know how to get that without unleashing my inner cruise director and driving myself (and everyone else) crazy in the process.

What is it about our lives (especially with kids) that makes us so busy that scheduling a Girls' Night Out takes a level of planning ahead and coordination that is so complex I'm tempted to draw up a schedule in MS Project?  I've had several occasions in the past few months where getting together with good friends took 3-4 weeks to finally come together, after rescheduling on both sides.  I'm blaming my own life as much as everyone else.

I find this really depressing.  It's just SO MUCH WORK.  I want to be able to call or text someone and see if they can grab dinner or coffee.  And believe me, I've tried.  But no one can ever make it on short notice.

So I've resorted to setting up "events" a few weeks in advance - booking something on a calendar and sending around an invite.  The sort-of-monthly Crafty Nights I've been holding at our house since last year.  A monthly-ish night out with some of the mamas from T's toddler group. 

But I want both more and less.  I want to see my friends more often, dammit.  I want to just grab coffee or drinks and chat.  I don't want it to be a THING.  Which is how I feel when I send out invites.  It makes me so tired to do all this planning.

I know we need to coordinate with our partners, find childcare, and schedule around our work, gym time, toddler naps, and the other 9000 things we cram into our days.  But really, is it supposed to be this hard? 

I know some folks who are actually friends with their neighbors.  So popping over for coffee or an unscheduled  (gasp!) playdate is not unheard of.  But we don't have that in our neighborhood.

I've met several women locally who seem like they could be friends, but I just don't have the energy to do all the planning it requires for us to get together regularly enough to actually *become* friends.

I feel really disconnected and overscheduled lately.  I want laid-back, fun time with friends without complex strategic planning.  How do I get that? 

What do you do to "feed your soul" with friend time?  Is it enough?  How can you avoid making it just another appointment on an already packed calendar?


  1. I think its the curse of an planner. I too find with many of my friends, and even my very close friends, that I need to be the one to plan in order to get things going. I've tried no planning, and not reaching out, but I end up sitting at home doing nothing.

    As a single girl, trying to get together with friends with families is a complicated mess. It frustrates me from the other angle probably as much as it frustrates you from your angle. In fact, I never thought about a mom feeling this way. In my mind, you have your built in friends because your a mom and surely all moms do mom things together. It never crossed my mind, much anyhow, that moms may want to do non-mom things.

    And I'm glad I can usually be a spur of the moment call for you.

    How you fix it? Not sure. I think until your kids are old enough to stay home by themselves or graduate.

    I've always wondered how, as a planner, I ended up with friends who aren't. And somewhere deep inside I think i secretly like being the planner. Maybe. But sometimes it would be nice to have things planned.

  2. Proximity definitely helps. I have standing lunches with my good friend who is also a co-worker. No need to plan since we know every Friday (and now Wednesday, too) is lunch together. But other get-together are very difficult to plan - like seeing you! Working full-time with two kids leaves little room for spontaneity. That said-I'm back to teaching just three mornings in March, so let's grab lunch or a coffee!

  3. @Jenn - i *so* hear you about the curse of the planner. I like planning stuff. I find if I want to go out and do something, I just want to do it, not wait for someone else to get it together and plan it. So I plan it. I often volunteer to set up the invite, pick the restaurant, blah blah blah, but I'm consciously stepping back from that so I don't feel like it's a ton of work.

    ITA about getting together with families - it's a complicated mess for us too :) There's naptime, all the "enrichment" activities the kids go to, daycare pickup, coordination with partner, etc etc. It's horrible.

    Maybe @Jasmine's idea of a standing lunch is something that could work. And yes! I want to see you too, @Jasmine. More than 2-3 times a year, even :)

  4. @Jasmine, I think you have a point about proximity. Somehow the distance/trek across the lake seems so hard, esp during rush hour. And the toll doesn't help either :)

    @Jenn - moms don't do a ton of mom things together, surprisingly! I wish I had a rollicking social life during the day when I'm home with T, but it's maybe once every other week I manage to get together with another mom friend.

  5. Yep, you are not alone :). You know, I love to plan too, but I wonder if the planning is part of the problem here. When I treat it as another activity to schedule on my busy calendar it does feel like work.

    Here is what works for me:
    1. Closeness is HUGE. I am incredibly blessed with awesome neighbors and we get together a lot. We get to chat on nice days while the kids ride bikes out front. We have "GNI's" where when someone's husband is out of town, the others all come over after the kids are in bed and bring wine. It's no stress - you send an email invite and whoever can come comes. I hosted one just this week and had 7 women show up - we stayed up chatting til 11:15 and polished off several bottles of wine :). I know this doesn't help if you don't have neighbors like that but I do think the spontaneity almost makes it more appealing.

    2. Find someone you can do shared interests with and on the same schedule. I was always a solo runner but met someone to train with last fall when I was doing 2-3+ hour long runs for the marathon. We still get together at least once a week for a long run and chat the whole time. She's become a great friend. So the key here is it's something you've already built into your life/schedule, and then finding someone who wants to do the same thing.

    3. Really get away. Plan an overnight - you'd be surprised how many people might be able to do it (me!!). My neighborhood moms all did our first "GNA" (girls night away) last fall where we spent a Sat night in Yakima wine tasting.

    4. Book club - attendance is spotty but we always get a few people out to chat.

    Speaking of all this, let's do lunch next week for sure - let me know if Th or Fri works! :)

  6. I struggle with the same kinds of things. I have a hard enough time trying to keep our family on a schedule--there are always things I wish I could have more permanently in our routine, like having a time when we exercise together or a set time for Adam to practice the piano every day or a particular day that I routinely do the laundry--but so much goes on that it's hard just to hold it together. Plus, little kid schedules are such a pain. They have activities and naptimes, and it takes forever to get them ready to go anywhere, and if they're with you, you have to pay constant attention to them, and so on. Even getting together with my mom friends regularly at the zoo or for playdates is hard for me to pull off, much less getting several of us together to do something non-kid-related. I wish I could be more persistent about scheduling adult social time.

  7. I felt very much the same way when my kids were about the age as T. I decided to start a weekly showing with cocktails and dessert of So You Think You Can Dance. 3 years later, we're still going strong, although we meet every other week. It grew them from kind of friends into my closest friends.

    It's hard to be spontaneous when there is SO MUCH to do!

  8. I liked @Jenn from WA's term "the curse of the planner." Me, too. Local friendships are very, very important to me. I've blogged about making friends in a small town, and how long it takes.

    I really like having a few different groups to be able to reach out to when I need some friendship. There are the groups that have regular meetings (I'm in 2 book clubs, a wine group, and a dinner group) and I also have various mom friends who'll meet us to play every now and again. But I always have to give a few days notice or no one can make it. There's the rub. I find it hard to be spontaneous and just do things at the last minute. Usually when I have random time to myself and no one available to meet me, I just go see a movie (which I also Iove to do).

  9. I think (hope?) this is one of those "for everything there is a season" things and I'll find it easier when my kids are older. In some ways homeschooling makes it easier - I have a weekly group at my house where the kids come to play and I hang with the moms (I've done it for 4 years and have about 2 good friends from it, with new potential friends showing up at regular intervals.)

    I like the "standing lunch" and the "fun TV with dessert and drinks" that I've seen above - I'm thinking about how to implement these (though sadly, in Utah, I'd probably need to skip the cocktails with most friends). I have friends (who are just a bit too far away) who have regular potluck barbecues in the summer - you know you can show up at their house on Friday with some food and find people and more food - family friendly and fun. I want a fire pit.

    Another thought from homeschooling - "socialization" is not any kind of problem (there are zillions of homeschooling activities going on all the time), but it is a bit of a challenge getting the kids regular contact with the same kids. To solve that, I've got the group at my house, but also as the kids get older, I'm trying to find activities (like FIRST LEGO League and skiing) that they like and other kids will also be committed to. That way the *activity* is the draw and the friendship is just a byproduct - there's less worry about people dropping the group just because they're busy. I think we could apply the same idea to moms - kind of like the running buddy. You just have to figure out what you do already or really want to do that could involve more people.

  10. Reading this post, I could well be reading my own thoughts. I know how MANY times I've craved the company of a good friend for coffee, dinner, shopping, just hanging out / in ...... I just conceived my next post Ha! Ha!

  11. When DC was 2 we got a neighborhood "just drop by" friend by stalking the neighborhood playground.

    Sadly, as with all our friends in town, eventually the mom graduated and moved to a faculty position in another city.

  12. I love @Dre's suggestions! A weekend away would be so cool.

    I'm just whining because *I* don't want to be the one who always plans it. Sigh...


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