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?