How to Kill a Girls Night
When I changed jobs in 2009 and found myself with breathing room in my schedule, I jumped at every chance I got to see friends. Happy hours, shopping and coffee dates…you name it…I was on a mission to make-up for lost time. I relished having a social life again! So imagine how pissed at myself I was when I realized I could have easily made time for them all along, even with a jam-packed schedule.
All I needed was a system to maintain my friendships. But when I was up to my eyeballs in craziness, a few things kept me from seeing the obvious.
Waiting for a good time
Working out of town made it easy to say “life’s just crazy now, when things calm down I’ll have more time for friends.” But, seriously, when are things ever calm?! Work…house projects…weddings…sick family members…life’s always throwing something at us. When you lack discipline like me, time can get away from you fast. Once we started our dinner group, though, I had a routine that was predictable, proactive, and took no thought at all.
- Instead looking for last-minute openings in calendar, we had a month’s notice to plan things AROUND our dinners.
- Rather than negotiating schedules, we found on an off day – Mondays – when everyone’s typically free.
- We stopped waiting til the mood struck to meet up and started setting our next dinner date before we ever left the table.
- And, rather than locking ourselves into a year’s worth of dinner dates we’d have to reschedule when “can’t miss” things popped up, we left some flexibility and took it one month at a time.
While my change in schedule helped get that first dinner on the books, it’s the consistency of our routine that’s made it easy to KEEP up.
Only being home weekends meant really scrutinizing how I spent that time. Plans with friends meant time away from family and my boyfriend, Thom, which felt wrong. If you’re a mom, you get this 1000 times more! But, focusing ALL my energy on being available to those I loved, was actually hurting me – and them.
- I used to overcompensate by taking care of everything else first. Dinner in the oven? Check. Chores and errands? Check. But when I let go of that bit by bit, I saw, not only was Thom totally capable of fending for himself, I was creating lots of unnecessary work for me!
- I used to think doing things with friends meant missing time with people I loved. But once I had regular space to do something that made me feel good, the quality of time I spent with my family improved. I was more refreshed and could focus the time INSIDE my relationship on the things important to both of us and our relationship.
- I used to limit myself to “a quick drink” or “fast lunch” so I didn’t take too much time away. Once I gave myself permission to do more things outside of my family, I found it gave them freedom to do the same. Thom forged friendships with the guys in our group and did a lot more things just for him, like I was. We’re both happier, better partners to each other because of it.
Getting my own needs met has been great for my family, not just in the rewards I get, but in the example it sets for them. There’s so much more to all of us than being a daughter, wife, or mom. We all deserve to express and explore who we are beyond the roles we play.
Focusing only on the effort
“Is it worth the energy?” When your life’s overscheduled, you ask that a lot. Planning a girls night felt like too much work, especially when I struggled to put into words exactly what I got from it. But, whoa mamma, when it’s missing you feel it. Loving boyfriend and awesome family aside, I was on edge, stressed, and disconnected. As our “system” started to evolve, however, the effort faded away and I started really seeing the payoff.
- Infrequent get togethers meant “catching up” and surface conversation. But seeing each other more frequently helped the conversation quickly evolve to more meaningful things which have really deepened our friendships.
- Going out for drinks meant mustering energy to get dressed and get out the door, when all I wanted to do was veg at home after a long week. But having dinner at someone’s house is much more laid back. On the days when I just want to roll up in yoga pants and a t-shirt…I can!
- Even the times I’ve been tired and wanted to stay home, I’ve gone. It’s fascinating how a little structure gives us a level of accountability and commitment to show up for each other like never before. I’ve never regretted my decision to show up and the nights I felt like staying home were the ones I needed my friends most.
- When my schedule was constantly in flux, I hated committing to anything in case I didn’t feel like it when the time came. But having a routine shifted something. It became a special treat that helped me keep it all going day in and out and the consistency became comforting.
Time with friends, chatting for hours about something serious or nothing at all, is a kind of therapeutic exchange our other relationships simply can’t replace. It’s a place to go to cry, vent, laugh, or be heard that’s just for you. When you invest in it, you get so much back.
As the dinner dates keep adding up, we value our time together even more. The little bit of planning and effort to get our dinner group started was beyond worth it for what it’s given us in return. It’s something I could have easily put in place a long time ago, if I hadn’t let these three things stand in my way. Don’t let them stand in yours.