As busy parents, some weeks it seems like finding time for everything in the schedule can be a challenge - fitting in exercise, grocery shopping, laundry, or just having some "down time" can feel like a struggle at times. We all want the best for our children and that means spending quality time together. But we also know that when we are well-rounded individuals, we are models for our children to live a good, full life.
One important component of this is making and maintaining friendships. Friends fill out our lives and give us a place to share secrets and joys and to offer and receive support. Friendships are where we can play and eat together and enjoy time with people we care about. The best friendships stay with us throughout our lives and are at the core of what it means to be uniquely human.
And yet, as busy parents, it is often tough to prioritize our own friendships. We deftly juggle scheduling play dates for our children with making sure they get to parties and practices with their friends, leaving our own friendships out of the equation. Many working parents decide that our children are the priority right now and we neglect our friendships with the hope that we can pick them back up when our children are older. For some of us, that may be the best solution, but for others, a few tips follow on how to make friendships a priority.
How Busy Parents Can Maintain Friendships
1. As parents, our children’s activities and friendships can consume our time. We spend hours in the stands during soccer practice or waiting during ballet class. Take advantage of this time to make friends with fellow parents or nurture existing friendships with other moms and dads. These friendships can be beneficial and convenient for both you and your children.
2. If you have a parenting partner, negotiate who is "off duty" when. There should be an even split of time off. Use your respective time however you want, but be sure to include time for hanging out with friends. If you don’t have a partner, try some of the other ideas below.
3. Find activities that multiple families can do together. Invite another family to join yours in an activity such as a visit to the local park, a trip to the amusement park, or an overnight under the stars. Start with short activities and build up to devote time to maintain friendships.
4. A key to friendship for busy parents is using your time away efficiently. Block off an extra 30 minutes of exercise time and grab a fruit smoothie with a friend after your workouts.
5. If you are a working parent with a job outside the home, take advantage of the time you already have child care scheduled and invite a work friend out to lunch or meet a friend who works nearby.
Being a good friend may present some challenges, but you’ll reap the rewards in the long run. Remember that as your children get older, your friendships may change as they go off to new schools and develop new friends. Branching out beyond just the other soccer parents and developing our own independent friendships can help to build a lifelong support system and model good relationships for our children. And ultimately, striking a balance between the time we spend with our children and our adult friends contributes to full, healthy lives.