In the April 2017 Northeast Ohio Parent Magazine issue, I wrote Top 5 Tips to Get More Family Time in Your Schedule…and Some “Me Time,” too.
It’s often thought, once you become a mom, you need to say goodbye to your friends because you dedicate every moment to your children. I disagree with mommy martyrdom whole-heartedly, and here’s how I schedule time with my friends.
First, to give you some background, I work full-time outside of the home (average 40 hours/week), I have three little kids (ages 5 and 2 year old twins), and my husband works full-time too. I imagine my situation is very similar to a lot of moms – two working parents with small children who depend on them for everything.
- Look for natural pockets of time to double-up quality time with my friends and my kids simultaneously
My kids are small, so play dates are not really about my kids’ friends. We are really scheduling time with someone I enjoy spending time with, my friends! We just happen to have our kids with us too. Nowadays, my playdates usually involve going to a friend’s house or having them come to my house with the kids and they all run around and play with “new” toys while we chat in the next room. Kid time and friend time, talk about multi-tasking mamas!
- Use online planning tools to figure out the best date/time to get together with friends
I am the first person to say I wish we lived in simpler times. I am a technology laggard, but I see great value in free online scheduling tools like Doodle Poll. I have a group of about 8-10 women I love to hang out with, but finding a date is challenging. I create a Doodle Poll with dates I know I am free, and then send the link to them to find the night the majority of the group can meet for dinner, drinks, or get together at someone’s house (after the kids are in bed). This makes locking in a date and time very easy!
- Limit extra-curricular activities in favor of sanity/quality time with friends
I cannot tell you how many times I hear a mom bemoan yet another soccer practice, dance class, gymnastics class, or swim lesson they need to dash off to. I have made the conscious decision not to sign my kids up for activities unless they genuinely express an interest themselves (Sunday school excluded, I’m forcing them to go to it)! Oftentimes, when I get my kid to a class, it was a battle to get there and they don’t want to go. This is precious time and energy wasted for my entire family.
Alternatively, I get home from work, spend quality time with my kids until bedtime, then go out and grab a drink or late dinner with a friend. The opposite would be running home to get my kid in whatever spandex/athletic outfit they need and rush them to practice. Stress about what to make for dinner, homework and then getting them to bed right away. Finally, I would need the rest of the night to recover to do it all over again the next day. No thanks.
Let’s plan a relaxing evening followed by seeing a friend. I suppose another option is seeing my friends at practice because our kids are on the same team or in the same class, but this feels like a distant second to really recharging and spending time with friends in an adult-setting. I know it’s easy to get swept up in the “everyone signed up for this activity” wave, but I’m resisting.
- Be flexible, honest, and prioritize what is important to you. Become an understanding friend and you will find the same in your friendships.
You may feel pressure to totally rearrange your schedule to keep the date/time you agreed upon to see a friend, but I prefer to be honest and share, “I have a conflict” or “I really need some quiet time at home to recharge, could we reschedule for [insert date/time]?” No one wins when you are grouchy and feel like you over-extended yourself because you felt like you had to. To what end? To say you kept your plans? It’s not worth it.
My schedule is always in flux because that’s life with two working parents and small children. Also, it’s just life. Recently, I had a last minute road trip come on my calendar. As it was, I would be driving the same day I planned to see a good friend in the afternoon. If I kept the time we talked about, I would start the drive hours later than I had hoped and would not reach my destination until well past midnight (not ideal when traveling solo with three little kids). If I kept our friend date, I would be anxious and stressed the whole time thinking about hitting the road ASAP. Instead of stewing, I asked if we could reschedule and gave three new options for dates/times. It worked out. New date planned and I hit the road at a really reasonable hour.
I’m not offended when someone needs to reschedule with me (it’s not about disrespect, it’s about being realistic and understanding). Friends who are worth the time and effort will understand and know you would do the same for them.