Working and Friendships

Q: As a working couple, we find it difficult to cultivate friendships. We spend all our spare time with our children, who are young, and that leaves time for very little else. But I do long for the type of friendships I had before children, and wonder if that is only a fantasy or if someday I will have the time for them?

Both my husband's and my parents have died, so we have little family support.

I just wondered if it is only me or if this is fairly common?

A: You are definitely not alone. Many of us have experienced the same difficulty making the time and having the energy to pursue friendships. This seems to be particularly true when children are very young. Their schedules and the need to watch them all the time can be incompatible with maintaining old friendships, let alone making new ones.

During the week every evening is spent eating, playing and getting the kids to bed. By the time that's done (with an errand or two thrown in) it's late and you're too tired to think about going out or having company. On weekends you're reluctant to take any more time away from the kids, and there's always tons of errands, housework, projects, whatever. Before you know it the weekend is gone.

Other factors can also make it hard to maintain or establish friendships. Maybe you've just relocated and all of your old friends are hundreds or thousands of miles away, or maybe you don't have convenient access to a babysitter. Maybe you are the first of your circle of friends to have children.

Age can be another factor. Older parents of young children find that they have less in common with friends their own age who are childless or whose children are much older. Often those friends want to spend time in activities which aren't compatible with small children, so the friendships founder.

As children get older and start school or join other activities you'll probably find it easier. You'll start meeting other parents in the area (who are probably feeling exactly the same way you do) with similar interests and values, and you'll develop friendships with them.

In the meantime, you should try to make the best of the opportunities you do have. Make a point of hiring a sitter every month or 2 and going out, either alone or with other couples. If you do know other parents, meet at someone's house for potluck, pie, or a recreational afternoon including the kids. If you are religious, become as involved as you can make time for in your church. Try to make the most of your work acquaintances. Think about joining a professional organization related to your career, then make sure you MAKE the time to go to those monthly meetings.

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