Sometimes, we need to think about us. Sometimes, parenting is about the parents, and not the kids. In order to parent better, we also need to feed ourselves (yes, literally, but also figuratively, to help build our mental and emotional energy). A key component in mental well-being for most people is the quality of our social interactions: having more positive social interactions helps to feed our mental well-being; on the other hand, being with individuals who are negative or extra needy becomes a drain. Ah, the glories of friendships. ..let’s delve in deeper, shall we?
We’re all about setting up playdates with our kid’s friends, helping them to have a healthy and eclectic social life. Did you ever stop and think about the people you hang out with? As parents, we often meet and expand our social circle in kids’ school; oftentimes, the people we see the most often are parents of our kids, and they become a main part of our social circle. Sure, you meet people in other places, too: work, gym, or perhaps other participants in your interest groups. To be simplistic, these people all fall into two general categories: Those we like and enjoy and those we don’t. Unfortunately, not all members of your social circle are really your FRIENDS, the people you rely on, depend on, and call when you need a chat or a hug. Friends bring a luster to our lives, making things shine, and matter more. Our time spent with these dear people builds us up, helps us to feel more invigorated and at peace. These are our ‘yeses’.
Why we love our Yeses:
Three words: positive energy balance. These people feed us, give us energy and mental strength. When we have a problem, we can turn to them for help or guidance. We can rely on them. We give, and they give; it’s an equal relationship. Benefits come to all involved. They respect our choices and our other relationships. They see who we really are; there is no façade necessary. They’ve seen us with bedhead, flu nose, stinky bar breath, and with baby spit-up on our clothes.
It behooves me to mention that some of the people you will be (forced to be) around are not positive additions to your lives. Some of these people will become a drain and, though you may make nice and answer their call or sit and chat, the time spent with these folks is not going to bring any sort of boon to your well-being. If anything, you may feel weary after some time with them.
Noes are a source of negative energy. It takes energy from you to spend time with them. You feel tired, drained, or sapped after being with them. They may be critical of your choices, your relationships, or of your family. They take away energy instead of bring it. With these people, you may feel like you can’t be your real self because it will not be acceptable for them.
I’ve met a few people in this category. I remember one such woman, who was just a lovely person but had more issues than any other I’ve met before or since. At the time I was friendly with her, my hubby was off doing an unaccompanied tour, and I was solo-parenting. (I grew to admire what single parents do every day because that year taught me how much I love and depend on my partner in parenthood, and ill-equipped I am/was for single parenthood.) We were in a new place, too, so I had to go through the just-got-to-here-making-friends stage. After every interaction I had with this woman, I felt a little more tired. Finally, after one such afternoon, my eldest asked me what was wrong, and I told him I was just tired from spending time with my friend. He looked at me oddly, and said that didn’t sound like a good friend to him. I should say goodbye, he said, because a friend was supposed to be a good thing, not a work thing. So right, these wise words from my then 6 year old.
Friends, it is important that you see these relationships for what they are. This is a invaluable life skill to develop for yourself. And (because it always comes back to this) as you use this skill and your kids watch you, they will see how to do this for themselves. There are Noes of all ages; I promise you your kids will run into one or two of them. Watching you skillfully master maneuvering in this social relationship minefield will help your kids learn from what you are doing right (and maybe not-so-right) and start honing their social skills as well.