Saturday, March 17, 2007

Take Time for Friendships

© Copyright 2007 Hueina Su, Beyond Horizon Coaching

I remember reading a story about a mom telling her soon-to-be-married daughter to never let go of her girlfriends. At first the daughter thought she wouldn't need her girlfriends any more, since she was going to become a wife, and have her own family very soon. She did, however, heed her mom's advice. She kept in touch with her girlfriends over the years, and as she grew older (and wiser), she became more and more appreciative of her mom's advice and her girlfriends.

I, for one, can totally relate to that story.

My own mother, who loves me dearly, gave me a very different advice, though, before I became a mom myself. She told me, "Be prepared to sacrifice at least 10 years of your life for this baby". Yes, sacrifice. That's the exact word she used. I looked at her and nodded, like a good girl I've always been, but, the "rebelling" part of me was like "Sacrifice? 10 years? No way! What about me? What about my life???"

I know that "self-sacrifice" is a virtue in my culture (I wrote an article about this before), and my parents totally subscribe to that value. My mother basically cut off her ties with all her friends when she got married, partially because she thought that was "the right thing" to do, and partially because she was too busy helping my father's practice and raising the three of us. She took pride in being a "good mother" (she is a great mother, in fact), but, even as a young child, I could see her lonliness. There's a void in her heart that even her picture-perfect family couldn't fill.

So, on that day when my mother offered her motherly advice, I nodded in appreciation for her love, but knew that that's one advice I would not take. I knew deep in my heart of hearts that, I will love my children like no one else will love them, but, there's some part of me and my life I will not "sacrifice". My friendship with my friends is one of those things.

Over the years, I've made many dear friends, in school, at work, and through my children's friends. Some of my oldest friends have gone through the same life transitions as I did: college, graduate school, career, marriage, kids, 2nd career, etc. We've been through a lot together and separately. The guys who used to play tennis with me till sundown every weekend, are now playing a bigger game in the business world. The girls who used to play dress up with dreamy eyes, have since put on career suits or are busy dressing up their lovely kids. We used to travel to scenic spots and pose for each other's photographic "masterpiece"; now most pictures we take are about our own kids (most of my friends even leave themselves out of the holiday photo greeting cards).

We don't always keep in touch very often (you know how busy motherhood/fatherhood can be), and some of us don't even live on the same continent any more, but we've somehow managed to still keep each other "around" in our lives. You know the kind of friends who you can pick up the phone to talk to, after not hearing from each other for years, and still feel like you've never been apart? I was overjoyed when one of my best friends in high school got in touch with me (thank goodness for Internet), after we'd lost touch for more than 10 years!! It was such a precious gift to have her back in my life. We've got a lot of catching up to do, needless to say.

Last month, I was invited to speak at a local MOMS Club. This brought back SO many memories! There was a time when my husband and I moved a lot due to his job. We'd lived in 4 different states in 6 calendar years. When we made the move from Maryland to Delaware, I had to give up my career as a counselor, and we both made the decision that I would stay home for a while to take care of our 8-month old baby girl. When we moved, we only knew one couple in the state of Delaware, who lived half an hour away from us. I was totally unprepared for the transition from full-time working mom to full-time stay-at-home mom with my first baby, in a new city where we knew nobody, and our families hundreds of miles away. I missed my own office, my lunch break, my colleagues & friends, my paycheck, but most of all, my freedom. I was lonely and exhausted. Then one day I saw a flyer in the grocery store about MOMS Club, and that changed my life. I was so fortunate to have found a small group of moms with similar education & background (we were all professional women who decided to stay home for our first baby), and our babies were only a month or two apart. The weekly playgroup and the friendship I formed with these moms became my life-savor. We all went on to have our second (some of us had the third) child, and although most of us moved away after a couple years, most of us kept in touch and remained good friends till today (my daughter is 11 years old this year).

It's a rare gift in life to have good friends like that. I'm very blessed and grateful to have many in my life. How about you? Do you have friends you can lean on? Do you stay in touch with your dearest friends? Do you have some long lost friends that you would like to re-connect? Or, would you like to make some new friends who share your life experiences, passion or values? What are you waiting for? Life is too short.

"We will meet again my friend,
A hundred years from today
Far away from where we lived
And where we used to play.
We will know each others' eyes
And wonder where we met
Your laugh will sound familiar
Your heart, I won't forget.
We will meet,
I'm sure of this,
But let's not wait till then...
Let's take a walk beneath the stars
And share this world again."
-- Ron Atchison

Don't wait any longer. We're all extremely busy. When do you think you will actually have "free time" to connect with your friends? You've got to "make time" for friendships -- nurture the old ones and cultivate the new ones.

When you think of a friend, pick up the phone or drop him/her a quick note. It doesn't have to be elaborate, either. While a handmade card will be treasured for a long time, a quick email to say "hello, I miss you" would be appreciated as well.

Make a point to make a coffee or lunch date with your good friends. I usually try to have at least one of these dates a month. Just seeing them on my calendar makes me so happy. Occasionally I go out for a Girls Night Out. Since my kids were very little, they knew that Mommy needed her "playdate" just as much as they needed theirs. I always come home energized and happier, and the good mood could last for days or even weeks.

If you've ever gone out with your girlfriends, I'm sure your husband noticed the difference when you came home. That's a good reason to convince him that you should take turns to go out with your own friends, on a somewhat regular basis. It's good for your mental well-being as well as your relationship at home. If you don't have a partner to watch your kids, try to hire a sitter or team up with another mom, so you can spend some quality time with your friends sans your kids. Even though you and your friends might still spend your time talking about your kids, spending time with your friends alone will definitely lift your spirit.

It takes efforts to maintain friendships, of course. It's not always easy, especially when you've got a full plate already, but the investment in friendship is well worth it in the long run.

Be the one to reach out to your friends. Make a small (or grand) gesture to show that you are thinking of them today. Both you and your friends will thank you for that.

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