No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as any manner of thy friends or of thine own were; any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind. And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee. – John Donne
I am about as introverted as they come. I crave alone time. So much so, that I have successfully been working from home for the past 10 years. This makes it really easy for me to not cultivate the type of close friendships that we all desperately need. 3 years ago, when my son was born, I found myself completely isolated from the outside world and I made a conscious decision – No matter how painful or uncomfortable the process, I needed to make some strong authentic connections with other women.
At first, I had to take it slow. Still in the early baby phase, I was practically glued to my nursing chair with not much opportunity to get out of the house. I used this time to do some research. I read a lot of books, thought about the type of friendships that I wanted to foster, and listened to a lot of podcasts. In fact, I found that some of these podcasts felt a bit like having a chat with a group of girlfriends (without being able to talk back, of course).
A few weeks later, I was ready to take the bold step and just start asking women out on dates. This was terrifying for me, but I found a few tricks that helped:
Keep it Casual
Recovering perfectionists tend to make things more complicated and elaborate than necessary. We clean our house until it sparkles, break out the cute matching mugs, and make sure there are homemade baked goods at the ready. Not only is this a lot of work, but it can also make guests uncomfortable when things are just a little too… perfect. Meeting at a local coffee shop or just plopping down on the sofa with a bottle of wine is often just as nice. It also takes some of the sting out when a friend is unable to make it at the last minute.
Keep it Convenient
We are all so busy these days. Keep this in mind when trying to plan things with other mom friends. Keep travel time to a minimum and meet half way when meeting a friend that doesn’t live close. Also consider building relationships with neighbors. There is something magical about being able to walk a couple doors down when you need a friendly chat – bonus points if they have kids that enjoy playing with yours.
Keep it Going
Once you find a formula that works for you and your friend, keep it going. Always meeting at the same place, or the same time of day, takes a lot of the variables out of planning your next meeting and makes it more likely to occur. This may sound boring, but it works.
If you are feeling a little lonely this holiday season, I would encourage you take some small steps to becoming more connected with the women around you. I am so glad that I pushed past my comfort zone to grow in this area, and I am sure you will too. It is so rewarding to have a few close women to reach out to when things get tough, and to celebrate when things go well.
If you want to go in depth on the subject, here are some resources that I recommend:
- Friendships Don’t Just Happen!: The Guide to Creating a Meaningful Circle of GirlFriends
by Shasta Nelson
- Women are Scary: The Totally Awkward Adventure of Finding Mom Friends
by Melanie Dale
- The Art of Neighboring: Building Genuine Relationships Right Outside Your Door
by Jay Pathak et al.
And if you need a quick fix like I did, here are some podcasts that feel a bit like having a chat with some friends: