Parenting, Self-care, and Friendships
Despite, and because of the demands of parenthood, self-care is essential for all parents. If you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t have much to give to your children or others. As hard as it may be to find time, we all need to get good sleep and food, exercise, have quiet time, or, if we are in a relationship, spend time with a partner or spouse.
We also need time with friends, maybe even more so than we did before we became parents. Social connections make a big difference in your resilience as a parent and often provide a much needed fresh perspective. Parenting brings a lot of joy, but it also brings stress and challenges. Having friends to talk with, play with, cry and laugh with is an essential part of self-care.
Despite having less time since becoming a parent, you do have some opportunities for creating new friendships.
Parenting groups are a great place to create new friendships with other parents, often with children in the same age range as your child. Who better to be absolutely enthralled by your baby’s teething toys or your toddler’s laugh then other parents? Some parents from Parenting Now! groups have continued meeting for over 30 years after their formal groups have ended. Some are now sharing stories about their grandchildren!
You may also meet potential new friends when you bring your child to the park, their preschool class, or story time at the library.
- Hang out a bit before or after a storytime or class.
- Sit on the park bench at a similar time each day and see who regularly comes.
- Take opportunities to say hello and strike up a conversation with other parents.
Time for Old Friends
Many friends who have children at about the same time have a whole new way to connect. But parents can also feel it’s hard to connect with long time friends who aren’t parenting (and non-parents can feel similarly about new parents!).
Even though you and your friends might have had busy schedules before you became a parent, there were still probably times you could easily say – hey, let’s go have a coffee after work or talk late into the night.
That might happen occasionally now, but casual and spur of the moment activities with friends are probably not happening a lot, especially when you have an infant. When your baby is sleeping, if you are not getting a little shut-eye yourself, likely you are catching up with laundry, dishes, or getting precious alone time.
Friends without children may be talking about the latest movies they saw — when you don’t have time for any of them. Friends without children may not be as fascinated as you are about your baby rolling over for the first time. They may not want to hear again how exhausted you are because your baby has colic. You may feel left out!
- While some friends may grow distant, others know we all go through many life changes, including major changes like having a child. Friends can continue to be there for each other through those life changes even if it means relationships may change some.
You may not be able to spend the same amount of time as you used to, but be creative.
- A quick text here or there can keep you connected.
- Put your phone on speaker or ear buds and chat as you do household chores – you’ll get some friend-time in and laundry folding will go faster too.
Your child is a focal point of your life right now, but even the most devoted parent needs an occasional respite.
- Maybe you didn’t see that latest movie, but it might be nice to hear about it from someone who did.
Long time friends who don’t have children can sometimes be the perfect people to talk to. They may not know the ins-and-outs of parenthood, but they have known you before and after parenthood and are not as enmeshed in that world as you are.
- They can provide an “outside of parenthood” perspective.
- They know you well and can have good ideas about what might be helpful when you are stressed.
- They can remind you that while you have had major changes in your life, you are still you.
- Some friends who don’t have children of their own may be really excited about having non-parental relationships with children. What better child than yours! They can make great aunts and uncles and not only be great role models but also provide a break for you when they hang out with your child.
As your children grow, their needs will change and your responsibilities will change. They will start school and have their own friends and activities. You’ll have opportunities to spend time with friends.
- You’ll be able to go see that new movie when your child has a playdate at a friend’s house.
- You might even get enough rest for a “spontaneous” extended night chat with a friend.
- Your “new” friendships with other parents will grow as you share the joys and challenges of your child’s ages and stages.
- Your “old friendships” will strengthen as you help each other through life changes, big and small.
- Some friends may at some point choose to have children of their own. You can be the wise voice of experience.
Friends, Friends, Friends
Friendships are an essential part of self-care for all parents. As the old song goes, “make new friends and keep the old, one is silver and the other gold.” You will be glad you did, and you will be a better parent for it.
This article is brought to you by Parenting Now! Parenting Educators and authors, Tova Stabin, Claire Davis and Lynne Swartz and consultant Jay Thompson (andupdatemywebsite.com). Parenting Now! is passionate about happy, healthy families. For more information about Parenting Now! contact us here.
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