Becoming a parent means self-sacrifice. Often, we get so busy taking children to school and to their various activities, making sure their homework is done, and ensuring that they see their friends. Meanwhile, working, putting dinner on the table, taking care of the yard, and paying the bills tends to consume every bit of extra time we have.
If this sounds familiar, I hope that you will pause for a moment today and let yourself remember….YOU.
In the midst of all that you sacrifice and give, YOU need support, too. Having a close friend or two to lean on, or a supportive community of people who care for you, is markedly beneficial to your health. We ALL need to feel connected. We need to know we aren’t alone and have others with whom to share experiences, laughter, and conversation.
Why do we need to invest in friendships?
First, we all have one thing in common that is inherently part of how God made us. It is a need for closeness, attachment, and connection. That said, let me let you in on a few secrets that many people keep. The people you know who seem to have the most social connections are often those who share that they don’t have anyone they regularly confide in outside of a spouse or a parent. At the most recent children’s birthday party you attended, one in five parents you met had social anxiety, and two in four were struggling with feeling alone despite having family and social outings on their calendars. Over the years, when I’ve asked people why they don’t spend time seeking out or investing in close friendships, I’ve often heard statements like, “Well, I don’t like to socialize“, “I just don’t have the energy to talk a lot“, or “I am so busy that I don’t have the time for friends.” And yet, when it all comes down to it, people acknowledge feelings of loneliness and a longing for connection with a friend that is authentic and without pretense. God created us with this need.
Second, let’s look at the science. Did you know that engaging, talking, or laughing with others increases serotonin, oxytocin, and dopamine, your brain’s “happy” and “feel good” neurotransmitters? The neurobiology of friendship is now more well understood than ever and shows us that we are made for bonding socially. Bonding creates happiness, trust, and relaxation.
So, think on this…
I encourage you to find it in yourself to take the first step to connect.
Challenge yourself if you are one of those parents who seems to find reasons for not investing in friendships. Call up a friend and schedule a lunch meetup or coffee. Have another family over for dinner and spend time talking while the kids play. If you find yourself thinking that you don’t have any friends, start by attending a church group, community gathering, new class, or school outing. Find someone you enjoy talking with and schedule a get together. Take a walk with a neighbor. Start up a conversation with someone by the pool.
Challenge yourself to be mindful that we all have the tendency to stay on the surface with one another as we go about our days, maintaining our pleasantries and yet barely ever inquiring as to how someone else is doing. Going deeper takes effort.
Share something about yourself with others that is meaningful. You have the power to open doors to stronger relationships the more you share your own feelings, experiences, and emotions. Seek out ways to ask someone to share what is on their mind. Make good eye contact and take time to listen. You might find that in doing so, you feel uplifted because you took time to connect!
Then…make it a habit.
What if I already invest in my friendships and don’t struggle with this?
If you are blessed with friendships in your life already and you are investing time in them, challenge yourself to be a friend to someone you don’t know as well. We live in a world where loneliness is ever growing, and people are isolating more and more. You can be the change in someone else’s life by connecting with them in a fashion that is intentional, loving, and kind. God has blessed you. Pay it forward.
“Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart, and the pleasantness of a friend springs from their heartfelt advice.” – Proverbs 27:9