As parents, and specifically as moms, our relationships change when children become a permanent part of our lives. Some things suddenly do not seem nearly as important as they used to be and others seem critical to the development of our children and our lives as growing families. We may find ourselves disconnected from friends who don’t have kids, friends who keep late nights and late mornings, friends or family who are completely spontaneous and cannot empathize with the nature of feeding, nursing, or naps schedules. We likely find ourselves drawn to other parents at play groups or preschool, Little League and dance class, school fundraisers or college financial aid seminars. Yet it is important to keep our lives rich with a variety of relationships.
It may take work and a lot of advance planning to set up a dinner out with a friend, but it’s important to maintain relationships that do not always involve our children. As long as we are devoting love and time to our kids, let us work at keeping ourselves complete as human beings, a part of which (and a very large part at that) consists of being parents.
Spending time with friends or perhaps our own brother or sister allows us to unload some of our woes and hear some of their challenges or joys of life. In the process, we gain perspective!
Let’s face it though; we may not be able to surround ourselves with people from our pre-parenting life or lifestyle. (And we may not always want to, either.) That being the case, there is a world full of people who inhabit our lives – our common denominator is children. These are people who led — and may still lead — interesting lives. Find out about them and what makes them who they are.
When I stopped my full-time paid employment, something that helped me grow relationally beyond my nuclear family was getting involved with groups of other moms. Find neighborhood groups, parents you meet at the playground, church groups and MOPS groups (Mothers of Pre-Schoolers – see mops.org for more information about this international organization). These groups can all be integral to helping you recognize in yourself and in others who you are in addition to being a parent. Leading a discussion group, preparing coffee for meetings, or being on the board or steering committee of something your child is involved in allows you to build relationship with other parents. At the same time, you exercise a skill set you forgot you had and you build relationships that you would not have otherwise experienced.
I encourage you not to overextend yourself but to consider pitching in somewhere. Volunteering is not an instant cure for friendship voids and the idea is to truly give of yourself and your time to make an event successful, but more often than not, a fringe benefit that results from your efforts is a new network of acquaintances.
If you are feeling like the only topic you discuss is children or school, set aside fifteen minutes to educate yourself on a local political issue (read the Northwest Connection, for example!). Set up a date with a friend or acquaintance – a walk or coffee – perhaps with someone whose kids are grown. Ask questions and listen.
I have written before on similar topics aimed at moms to show the best of ourselves to our children because we are, indeed, multi-faceted individuals. Along this vein I encourage you to expand and develop relationships that enrich you and thus your family. Good luck in this challenge to diversify; keep yourself interested and keep yourself interesting.