I recently spent a long weekend at a lake house with ten friends celebrating my friend Nola’s birthday. No husbands. No kids. No cell phones (we were off the grid!). Just ten 40+ moms spending time together.
This wasn’t how it was supposed to be. Nola was originally planning to celebrate her birthday by taking a trip with her family. But as the economy got worse, she decided to organize a low-cost weekend away with friends. And thank goodness she did! Because as much as it was a celebration of her big milestone, it was an important reminder that friends are important.
What did we do? Not much, but that was the point. We watched a movie together, ate more food than any ten humans should eat, laughed while playing games, and sat around the fire talking. And to think I almost didn’t go because of other “commitments” I thought I couldn’t change on such short notice.
Last week I appeared on career coach Maggie Mistal’s radio show on the Martha Stewart Network on Sirius/XM. We discussed tips for starting off right in 2009 (click here for highlights). One of the tips we talked about was keeping a work+life fit calendar where all of your work and personal responsibilities and goals are in one place. Planned time with friends needs to be one of the priorities on your calendar. It doesn’t have to be a weekend away, although I highly recommend it. A cup of coffee or a phone call is enough. But it needs to be there.
Why? Because you can no longer afford to just let work and life “happen,” especially in today’s economy. There are simply too many often stressful demands on your time and energy. You can’t be reactive. You need to take control of as many of your work+life fit choices as you can, especially if work is requiring more of your attention. Because if you don’t, parts of your life outside of work will begin to disappear in the following order:
- Caring for yourself
- Connecting with friends
- Spending time with your partner/spouse
- And, last, caring for kids/aging parents
A lot has been written about the need to take better care of ourselves. But not enough has been written about the importance of friends to our well-being and peace of mind, although that seems to be changing. The recently published The Lonely American: Drifting Apart in the Twenty-First Century by Jacqueline Olds and Richard S. Schwartz talks about how isolated we’ve become as a society.
From my 48 hours at the lake house I gained insights about what it’s like to have kids entering their “tween” years. I helped friends who currently don’t work think about what they may want to do as they consider getting back into the workforce. I was inspired by my friends who love the snow to appreciate snow shoeing and building snow forts. If I hadn’t spent time with these wonderful women I wouldn’t know all the ways that a 10 year old can get in trouble using the internet (scary!). I wouldn’t have heard about the interesting ambitions of my stay-at-home mom friends, and I would still really dislike everything about snow! I’m a better person because of that weekend. That’s what friends do.
What do you think? Do you spend enough time with your friends? What small step could you take to make friends a bigger part of your work+life fit this year?