I remember my childhood friendships. In my case, I’ve always been a guy’s girl. Even as a little kid I hung out with the boys, and my body bears the scars of a million skinned knees, cat scratches across the face (FYI: cat’s do not like swimming pools), and busted lips and noses. Though I’m not still friends with Catfish (yes, the real nickname of the kid who lived behind us), I have developed friendships with other dudes and (GASP!) chicks over the years. But unlike back in the day when friendships could be maintained without any work at all, grown-up friendships need nurturing, which is why the friend date is a super important part of my life now.
Ever wonder why your friends seem distant, or when you finally do get together, why you feel like you spend all night with one of you monopolizing the conversation? It’s because sometimes texts, tweets and Facebook messages are not enough, especially if you want to nurture your friendship. Because friendships are just like any other relationship; you have to work a little to make sure they don’t get stagnant. You have to work so that everyone feels loved, respected and important—and that you all have fun when you’re together.
When you have friends who have children, things can get a little harder. There are schedules to be dealt with and childcare and curfews, because you have a million things to do the next day. It’s not like when you were childless and could hang out until 2 a.m., come home drunk and still make it to work a few hours later. It can get taxing figuring out all the logistics, but it’s so very worth it. Because when shit goes down your friends will be there for you—like an extended family connected through social media.
In the past, I’ve been just as guilty as anyone else of ignoring this part of my life, and things have suffered. No matter who says you can go back, when you let a friendship die, it’s never totally the same again. So how do you keep from falling in that trap when everyone leads such busy lives these days? I mean you work, you have kids, you have boring grown-up responsibilities like dishes, laundry and mowing the yard (unless you’re smart, like me, and pay people to mow the yard for you). So how do you make time for friendships when your life is so busy, and more importantly, why should you? Your friends should understand, right? They might. But they might also really need you one particular night, and when you bail on them because you didn’t put forth some effort, the might understand a little less. And if they have kids and husbands and freaking PTA meetings, but can commit to dinner, then so can you.
It might take some time to figure out all the specifics of your night out with friends, but it’s worth it. It’s a time when you can unwind and really be who you are, not someone’s mom or someone’s wife or someone’s fucking room mom, but you. And that’s so very liberating, so decadent, that it will immediately lift 20 pounds of stress from your shoulders. This doesn’t mean you don’t love your own little version of family, it means that you’re human and you’re not a machine, and sometimes you’ll be able to focus on being a better you to everyone that depends on you, if you step out for a few hours and have sushi or drinks or just get a coffee and catch up. Plus, it keeps that network of friends there for when you need them—and you will. We always do.
Am I tired sometimes when I’ve worked all day, and when I still have to give my son a bath and get him ready for bed when I get home from a dinner out with friends? Sure. But I would hate to have my life without these friends in it, so I push through my sleepiness, grab a cup of coffee, and head out for a little chow time. Or go sit at the bar, have a steak and a margarita with a girlfriend and talk trash about people. It will makes you laugh—and I am a firm believer in laughter curing many ills, from aching feet to a sleepy soul.
Whatever you choose to do, just make sure you take the time to be engaged while you do it. You’ll thank me for saving your friendships, I promise. If divorce has taught me anything, it’s taught me that nurturing relationships is important to their survival. I’m like a cuter version of Dr. Joyce—and you didn’t even have to give me your credit card!