Podcast discussion thread: Make new friends, but keep the old…

There are several versions of a “dilemma” circulating in social media: Work, family, friends — pick two! Or sometimes we get work, family, friends, exercise, sleep — pick three!

The idea is that during the busy years when you are building a career and raising children, many other parts of life can fall by the wayside. What these “dilemmas” are highlighting is that it is not possible to do absolutely everything in life.

However, I do believe it is possible to do a lot in life — including all the activities listed in the dilemmas. There is definitely time in the 168 hours we all have each week to throw yourself whole-heartedly into your life’s work, nurture your family, take care of yourself and yes, enjoy friendships too. It’s just about figuring out the logistics.

In this week’s episode of Best of Both Worlds, Sarah and I tackle the topic of friendships. How do you make time to nurture the friendships you had before kids (or before work became really intense)? How do you make friends as an adult? Are there ways to build relationship time — structurally — into your life? And what sorts of friendships are not worth putting the time into?

Among the highlights: Sarah has been off Facebook for a year. She said this has helped her make her peace with the idea that certain chapters of her life are done. She can enjoy seeing people at (for instance) high school reunions, and enjoy conversing, but that can be the extent of it. I thought this was a fascinating point that one of the big appeals of social media is leading us to believe that we don’t have to close certain chapters of life. But time keeps marching on. The existence of Facebook doesn’t change that.

Sarah makes the case for taking the initiative in inviting families over for playdates. It keeps the kids entertained, and then you can evaluate if the other parent(s) might make good adult friends too. Given that these are people you will see a lot at school and activities, this can be a great investment of time. It won’t always work — some people might stay playdate friends, or you might even decide you want to minimize the playdates! — but this is a numbers game. And proximity breeds familiarity. Familiarity breeds closeness over time.

She also talks about maintaining her group of friends from Williams. She was part of a group of 6 housemates, and they have gotten together once a year since graduation. (They even have a funny name for their group — which was not shared on the air, and will not be shared here either!) Often this has been at weddings and the like, but they’ve done other get-togethers too. One long weekend a year isn’t too big an ask, and yet these weekends can often wind up being the highlight of the year for the people involved. Good friendships are like wines that get better with age. They take on new nuances, and shared histories create their own subjects for conversation.

Now a bit about practicality, and getting together with local friends. One thing I’ve realized from studying time logs is that one-off events take a lot of effort to plan. They’re fun, but the sheer effort involved in getting multiple people together tends to depress the number of such occurrences. The people who manage to see their friends a lot have built in regular events to their schedules. This could be a book club that always meets on the first Thursday of the month, or a Tuesday night bowling league, or a group of friends who always have breakfast on Fridays. Because the events are recurring, no one has to do a lot of planning. People know to keep the time clear. And because it’s on the schedule, it happens. The regularity can also change your perception of yourself. When things don’t happen at certain times, it can be easy to think things like “oh, I never see my friends,” even though it does happen occasionally. Knowing you will definitely have a pot-luck dinner one Sunday night a month with a group of couples turns you, in your mind, into the kind of person who does get together with friends. It makes life feel more doable.

A final idea: when time is tight, try to involve friends in things you were going to do anyway. Running buddies make the miles go faster. Signing your kids up for the same activities means you have people to chat with on the sidelines. Carpool together.

Do you have any standing get-togethers with friends? (Like book clubs, monthly pot-lucks, etc.) How did they come to be, and how long have they been going on?

18 thoughts on “Podcast discussion thread: Make new friends, but keep the old…

  1. I’m a big fan of planned phone calls with old friends and family. My sister and I talk on my way home from work once a week– I choose my longer commute day and we can talk for almost 30 minutes. I do the same with an old friend from college who lives far away. I get a lot of happiness out of those phone calls! (I use my hands-free set, of course.)

  2. One of my closest newer friends and I run together early on weekend mornings. We were acquaintances until 2 years ago. When I was on maternity leave she saw me running after school drop off. She asked if I would mind company. After two years of running twice a week we are really close.

    1. @SHU – two years! I stand corrected. Good for you. I find myself spending more time on Instagram and less on FB – I think Instagram is the good parts of FB, minus the less-cool parts.

      1. I ADORE Instagram. I (sort of) have to keep FB for our school parents’ group, the kids’ Girl Scout troop, and my crafty chat group, but found a Chrome plug in to block the ‘News Feed’ so I don’t get sucked into the personal stuff. And I don’t miss it AT ALL!

  3. I’m all about making workout time double as social time. I also have a standing every-other-Wednesday get together with 5 other families from our church. Ostensibly this is a bible study for the adults, but it’s also just a great time to catch up with close friends. We’ve been meeting regularly for 7 years! I think the keys have been having a consistent schedule and hiring a babysitter to corral the hordes of children.

  4. I’ve been reading Sarah’s blog for awhile, and just started listening to the podcast – really enjoying it so far! Loved this episode – through the time of raising little kids, my friends have been my lifeline.

    I’m a connector and the initiator in basically all of my friend groups, so I think that really makes a huge difference in how many friendships I’ve been able to maintain. I DO have a lot of “group” friendships and I’m lucky in that most of my group friendships – which in my case include a group of high school friends, college roommates, and then my friend-group that lives within about 5 miles of me now, we ALL have kids similar ages. That is a huge reason we’ve been able to maintain those friendships!

    A BIG way that my friend-groups are maintained is because of group texts – and that’s not for everyone, but it’s huge for these groups. Especially my main group that lives near me, our group text got so out of hand we created our own Slack group. We share recommendations, propose meet-ups, and just in general chat with each other throughout the day but people can come and go as they are able throughout the day and still catch up even after weeks out of it. There are 8 of us and we’re super close as a result. A few of the group have known each other since their youth but most of us met as adults, AFTER our kids were born so it is an adult friend group not formed in college which seems rarer.

    I have a REALLY hard time letting go of friendships, but I’m getting much better at it as I age and realize the limitations on my time. Former coworkers are friendships that in general seem to fade after the work relationship is over, and I’m learning to be okay with that!

    Great episode – thanks for this topic!

    1. @Erin – thanks for your comment, and so glad you enjoyed the episode. A lot of people have mentioned group texts to me as a way to get a virtual cheering squad (or commiseration squad) in real time. As for former co-workers, it might be wise to keep in touch 2-3 times per year just from a networking perspective (they’re in your industry, and can vouch for you) but yes, sometimes friendships are friendships of convenience, and working in the same building as someone 40 hours a week is very convenient for seeing each other.

    2. Yes to group texts! I am *not* a connector, but I have a WhatsApp group text with four far flung college friends and it’s a great way to keep in touch. I also have a Facebook messenger chat group with a group of about eight local parent-friends and it’s be a great way of both getting to know them and make plans.

  5. When I started part-time work I created a standing weekly play date with 3 other moms. It was awesome. We got off track due to the holiday, but thanks for the reminder! I just emailed to get us started up again!

    Where I really struggle is scheduling in ‘me time.’ I need to think of a few ways to do this better. Particularly if they are fitness related!

  6. Ugh, I hate that “pick three” dilemma. You can maintain friendships without seeing people every single day!

    I’ve been ignoring Facebook for a while, but one good use for it is creating events and just inviting people. They can respond right on the event page if that date or time won’t work for them and RSVP through the site so you know what the attendance will be. It does require that everyone in the group is on FB and paying attention to it, but it can work really well and avoid the back-and-forth emails that can get stuck when no one wants to propose an actual time.

    That being said, my friends and I all live within an hour of each other, which is local-ish but still requires planning (especially as half of the group are mothers of small children). Someone emails the group suggesting a couple of things to do, usually just getting together at a restaurant, and several dates that work for them, and the rest of us respond. With the last email we set up two dates so we’re good through March. We also have a group Snapchat set up that we use sometimes in lieu of a group text. It keeps us connected in between get-togethers. Not including weddings and showers and birthday parties, we see each other 6-10 times per year. Not everyone can make it every time but usually we get the whole group.

    I think the key for setting things up via email is to clearly state when you’re available and when you’re not to avoid getting stuck in “whatever day works for you” land.

    I’m also a big fan of the monthly setup–it’s frequent enough to be comfortable but not quite as constraining as weekly. I have a monthly dinner date with one friend and we meet halfway from where we live.

  7. Church, Sunday School and other church-related activities often provide built-in chances to get together with friends in that community. My kids have spent time with their cousin an hour before hymns class while my sister-in-law and I catch up before and during. Sundays after church often end up with informal gatherings with friends and their families. When we moved into our house, I re-kindled a childhood friendship with a mom with two kids that live a few minutes drive from us – we often end up at each other’s houses after church. It’s easier to build in friend time before and after events that we already go to. At my gym, friends and I have dropped off our kids at childcare and chatted on bikes, in the sauna, or just over coffee (our gym has a cafe). Now that my kids are in scouts, I have met some neighborhood families that I hope to build relationships with as well.

  8. This is such a great topic! Like Sarah, I have a group of friends from college who I have consistently gotten together with at least once a year since we graduated 15 years ago. Three of the five of us have kids (all toddlers) but we value our time together so much that growing families haven’t gotten in the way of our gatherings.

    I so agree that one-off events, like the occasional play date, are harder to organize than recurring events. My kids are getting more social and I’m trying to make an effort to get regular social events on our calendar, but it can be kind of draining. Friendship is reciprocal, though, and the more we make an effort to invite people to do things, the more people invite us. One thing that’s working for us right now is signing up for things like swimming lessons and tumbling class at times that other families we know are also signing up. I like the idea of getting together with friends to work out, too…

  9. I can’t wait to listen to this one. Having just moved from a place we lived for 15 years (both pre and post kids), we had to start almost completely from scratch in a new town/state. I had one friend from college here, who sadly, moved away last week for a job, but didn’t know anyone else. What helped immensely for me was having a serious hobby (scrapbooking). There is a podcast for it and one of the listeners set up a meetup at a local restaurant for others in the area, and I met a lot of great women there, and we’ve been meeting at least monthly since August. One of the women has a delightful 20-something daughter who is our favorite babysitter now, too 😀

    I’ve met a few mom friends through school and done a few playdates at a park or our house. It’s such slow going, making new friends, but it’s working out better than I expected 🙂

    1. @ARC – it is slow going (though you sound pretty advanced). With moving to a new place it helps to take the long term view. If you make a new friend you really like every 4 months, that’s 6 in 2 years. And having 6 close friends is probably enough.

  10. I have moved around a LOT as an adult, most of it single/without children. Have been in one place the last 15 years, now with husband and child. A few thoughts. When I travel for work, I do my best to connect with a friend who is local to my destination. Those dinners have kept up many friendships. Now that kids are older/gone, discretionary income has increased, etc., I am finding that re-connecting with friends far away is a reward of growing old, and having kept up via occasional visit and holiday cards. With some friends (e.g., graduate school friends) it is possible to pick up as if years and years have not gone by. And FB has been a way to reconnect with some people as well.

    I like the idea of standing events, as the time to plan something does become a challenge.

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