Let's talk about friendships (and begin cleaning this place up).
One of the Chaws recently posted a UCLA study on friendships among women. Ironically, she posted it on the day of a board blow up, but it did still get some discussion then and has really left me thinking.
In a nutshell, the women scientists noticed that when things got stressful, they would sit down together, brew a pot of coffee, clean the lab up and talk. The men would go home early, stay secluded and not want to talk. They got to thinking that maybe there was something to that pattern and they did a study on how friendship affects the sexes biologically.
Interestingly enough, in times of stress, women gathering other women and talking/venting/enjoying each other's company actually makes their brain release Oxytocin (the same stuff I was hooked on while breastfeeding). This does not happen for men.
If you think about it, it makes sense. For who knows how long, I'm sure when the town was threatened or the men went off to battle, the women gathered together to get through it while the men went off to fight it. It's almost like a survival instinct.
So basically, we NEED friends and we need to be able to gather those friends in times of stress. Sadly, in times of stress we also tend to isolate ourselves and put our needs last, which only worsens our problems. I believe the study even found that there were actual long term health benefits to the bonds formed between women.
This got me thinking to how when I'm freaking out about shit hitting life's proverbial fan, I feel so much better after shopping with my mom or dinner out with LK or even just typing it all out for the Chaws. Even if nothing gets settled during that interaction, I just feel like things are a little more do-able. It explains why I go home from Mom's Night's Out with that warm happy glow and why my girl crushes make my heart beat a little faster (and here you all thought I was a lesbo).
It also explains the surge of popularity of internet communities and the whole phenomenon of online best friends. Where else could you quickly gather support? Where else could you immediately go to vent? People are there, all the time, no matter what, and a lot of them know exactly what you're going through in any given situation.
I guess this goes back to the Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus deal, but it also says a lot about our relationships with our men. We NEED to talk. We can feel lonely even if they're in the same room some days. Most of us want to discuss, discuss, discuss and most of them want to drink beer and watch Deadliest Catch and pretend nothing is going on at all. They really biologically don't get us. Making us need other women even more.
I also know how hard it can be to make friends, especially when you are already in a stressful spot in life and need them desperately. I was so lonely after I had Big Kid. The My Gym moms just didn't get me, or my kid who was unable to follow directions and insisted on dancing inside of the big red circle instead of around it like the other kids (shocker, I know).
Then I joined a playgroup...BITCHES. Man, I felt like the last kid picked for dodge ball that day. I really put myself out there too, sweet, friendly, helpful, funny...they were just mean girls.
It was hard to get back on the horse after that one, but one of the Chaws (isn't it always the Chaws solving my life problems?) told me about www.meetup.com. I looked for a playgroup in my town and I found one that sounded pretty cool. I signed up and participated in their online message board and finally gathered up the courage to go to a playdate. They were nice. They were normal. They were down to earth, funny and welcoming. There were lots of them to choose from.
I started meeting them at parks and had the kids as an excuse to get through those awkward moments while we were getting to know each other. I went to a Pleasure Party one of them hosted and had a blast. In no time I was hamming it up at the Mom's Nights Outs and exchanging emails with a few favorites.
I don't hang with them much anymore, but I've got the 4 that I clicked with the most and that's all I really need. At this stage in my life, I feel blessed with as many other women as I know. I feel bad because I can't even keep up with some of the real life friendships as much as I'd like(the online friendships add to that problem) but I think I'm at a stage in life where my friends understand me enough to be okay with that.
I really want that same kind of happiness and those kind of friendships for all of the women out there that are feeling isolated, ready to pull their hair out, thinking no one gets them and feeling mad at the world because it really IS necessary in order to maintain our sanity.
So go find some friends! It won't be easy. You'll have to get out of your pjs. Your kids can and will embarrass you. There will be awkward moments. But you NEED them. Biologically, chemically, emotionally, you NEED other women that get you and who you can gather when times get tough. Every friendship doesn't have to be a BFF and it may take you a while to find "The One" (or hopefully OneS), but they are out there.
And when you meet them, know that they have their demons too. They have that wall up that us women build, the "I'm a perfect wife and mother" wall. Their house is a mess, their finances scare them, their marriage is crumbling, they're addicted to something...everyone has their issues. Even if it is something that doesn't look like much of an issue to you, they have things about themselves they wish they could improve on. So don't be intimidated.
Also, you have to put it out there. Even once you get yourself physically there, people probably won't be getting in line to be your buddy. Smile, talk, ask questions, tell people their kids are cute, ask where they got their bag. WHATEVER. Show them what you have to offer, even if you think it isn't much. Eventually something will stick.
Those of you who have friends, remember how important they are and seek them out when you need them, even if that means putting yourself first for once. In the long run, it is the best thing for everyone. You're worth it and you deserve it. That and a spa day.
Preferably with friends.