When you’re raising a family, it can feel like there’s never enough time to do everything that needs to be done. But if there’s one thing that’s sure to keep you thriving, it’s friends.
When I was a teenager, a friend and I used to swap cassettes. The songs on the tapes were messages of love that only teenage girls can have for each other. One was Wind Beneath My Wings. Another, You Needed Me. I know. Cringe. But still. Past Shevonne was onto something.
Friendships are the bubble wrap of life. They’re soft, squishy and lots of fun. Friends make you feel human when the world has broken your heart. They make you laugh until you cry, and hold you close when tears aren’t the happy kind.
Dana Kerford is the founder of URSTRONG, an organisation that helps children build healthy relationships. Dana says, “Friendships are a unique and special type of relationship. Like romantic relationships, these are relationships we choose. However, unlike romantic relationships, friendships fulfil a primal need that we all have: to belong. It’s through friendship that we feel this sense of belonging, we feel ‘seen’, and experience deep, meaningful connections. These positive, feel-good friendships boost our mental health and wellbeing, and are a basic need like food and water.”
When you’re raising kids, you really need your friends
When my children were very small, it felt like I didn’t have time to brush my teeth, let alone see my friends. Everyone else’s needs felt urgent, and there was no time for frivolous things like seeing a friend for a drink.
Jenny Wynter is a comedian and author of Funny Mummy. In her book, she writes about a friend she made when her kids were young. It is a friend who kept her sane when times were tough. “Society always tells us you need to have date nights with your partner, but ignores the fact that friendships are such a huge part of making life better. I think combined with the massive pressures on parents to excel in all areas, friendships are one of those things that we say are important in theory, but in practice are easy to let fall through the cracks. We’ve got to keep those friendships alive, but also make sure that we harness the immense power to re-energise us.”
Maintaining friendships in a busy world
Given that friendships are so important to our wellbeing, how do we make sure they survive the frenetic parenting years when your number one priority is keeping your kids alive (closely followed by sleep)?
We now know that one of the best things you can do for your mental wellbeing is partake in consistent exercise. So why not combine two things that make you feel good at once? Grab your bestie and sign up to a regular form of exercise. And by sign up, I mean seal with a solemn pinky promise. Choose something that you both enjoy – swimming, yoga, retro aerobics classes. You’ll keep each other honest while guaranteeing that you will see each other regularly. The coffee catch up at the end of your workout is the icing on the cake.
2 REGULAR OR RANDOM EVENTS
My mum and one of her bridesmaids get seasonal tickets to the ballet. They have sat in the same seats in Sydney’s Opera House for 35 years. I also share a love of dance with my bestie, and while we don’t have seasonal tickets, we do keep an eye out for events that we know we’d both love. If we see something, we will book ahead, which is a guaranteed date we will spend together.
3 SPECIAL ‘SPOILING’ DAYS
The friend that swapped cassettes with me? Every year, for the last three years, we have booked in a day at a spa. Along with two other friends from school, we will scrimp and save and then spend hours pretending we are Carrie and her entourage from Sex and the City. We have champagne and massages, and leave floating on cloud nine. It’s something so very special that we book it months in advance.
4 MINI VACATIONS
Author, host of podcast This Glorious Mess and writer, Holly Wainwright, has been having an annual weekend away with two girlfriends now for seven years. Reminiscing about the first time she was away, she reveals, “It was like a return to self. The sensation of lying on a beach, reading a book and dozing – and not having to be constantly vigilant about which child is running out of sight or getting sunburned to a crisp – was so alien it was comical. And wonderful.”
Friendship is essential for your own self-care
There’s a lot of talk in the parenting world about having self-compassion, that you are the best parent you can be when you’ve taken care of yourself.
As much as I love my yoga, the occasional massage, quiet time reading a book and all those other gorgeous things that no parent has time to do, the one thing that is guaranteed to fill me up with happiness, love and belonging is my friends.
If you’re going to let something slip in this busy world we live in, don’t let it be your friends. They are the best self-care you can give yourself.