Having friends could save your life!

The New York Times published an article this week (July 2010) about the importance of having a social network http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/07/28/a-new-risk-factor-your-social-life/ Apparently, the study shows that having strong social ties decreases your risk of dying by 50%!  Researches concluded that not having a social network can be as dangerous to your health as smoking a pack a day or being an alcoholic.

In the study, strong family ties counted as a social network, but I suspect that the social experiences we get to have with our peers and elders are hugely important.  So, if your only family ties are with your partner and kids, take a moment this week to consider how you can expand your social network to include some fun peer connections.   According to this study, it really could be a matter of life and death.

In my parenting coaching practice, I often work with moms who tell me they just don’t have time to connect with their friends anymore.  They struggle to get in some alone time or a workout here and there or a date with their husband, but they seem to forget that having a conversation with a girlfriend or going to lunch with an old college buddy can be just as important.

I know it’s not easy to connect with friends when your kids are around, but as a nanny, I managed to meet up with a girlfriend who also had a charge a couple of times a week.  We would chat at the park while we watched the kids play, or meet up for lunch and have a very disjointed, many times interrupted, conversation while we somehow got ourselves and the kids fed.  Or we’d walk to the library together and have a whispered adult conversation during toddler story time.

There really are ways to get your social needs met, even with young children.  And yes, it’s much different from the one on one social time you spent with your friends before there were kids in the picture.  You will get interrupted.  You may not get to finish your thought, or remember where you left off before that last diaper change, but you can still connect with an understanding friend, get some nourishing eye contact and a good hug and maybe even a thoughtful reflection or a tip or suggestion.  At the very least, you can remember that you’re not alone.

And then again, you may even be able to create opportunities to connect with friends WITHOUT your kids!  You can hire a babysitter or do a childcare trade with a trusted friend.  Or if you’re lucky, you can drop the kids off at Grandma and Grandpa’s for an afternoon or evening.  If your kids are older, you can schedule sleepovers at friend’s houses and actually have a night out on the town!

What are your favorite activities to do with your friends?  And when was the last time you actually made an effort to do those things together?!   I found the New York Times article sobering to say the least, and it reminds me that even as I welcome my first child into the world, I MUST prioritize my own health and wellbeing so that I can be the mom I want to be.  And I’m re-committed to staying in contact with my friends and family, even after becoming a parent.  I hope you’ll take on the challenge too.

So, this will be my last blog for a couple of months.  And  you get a treat!  I’ve collected guest blogs from some friends and conscious parents, so you’ll get some new ideas and perspectives while I’m on maternity leave.  And don’t worry, I’ll be back at the end of September or early October so regale you with my newest insights.  Have a fantastic week and stick around for some really fun and interesting guest blogs in the coming weeks.  Warm hugs, Shelly

4 comments
Andrea
Andrea

After my first one was born I was part of a larger mommy group initiated by moms from my prenatal yoga class. It was wonderful to exchange experiences and knowledge about babies and it was great to make some new friends. After a while I got tired of being so focused on mommy & baby themes so I founded a women circle.

The focus of this circle was and still is what is going on for us as women. We all have kids and it's important to us to talk about how they touch our lives, but the main focus stays on us...and I love it! This circle of women is like a chosen family to me and I can highly recommend to everyone out there to create something like that for themselves. We circle once a month...that's not very often...so I make sure not to miss a circle, because it's kind of sacred to meet in that way instead of at the playground.

Jill, cofounder of Awakeparent.com
Jill, cofounder of Awakeparent.com

I'm so lucky to have been able to keep up my friendships. I think I'm a better parent because of it, too. You have so many friends who love you--we will make sure you don't forget us! Lots of love, Jill
.-= Jill, cofounder of Awakeparent.com´s last blog ..New iPhone App Features Less Family Time for 50-000 Users =-.

Christee
Christee

Shelly,
This is an important topic for parents (and even non-parents) at every age. While it's important to set aside time for friends, it's also important to keep making new friends as well. Whether from the necessities of moving or attrition over time, the ability to connect and continue making friends is crucial to our well-being. I admit, I find it challenging after a recent move. But, I plan to join a couple of organizations, volunteer some time, and simply ask acquaintances to join us for dinner, in an effort to make new friends in a new environment. Enjoy your time off. You'll be missed here!