As a hip and swinging “single”, our social circle may have been much larger, our physical energy more abundant, our money more disposable and our time more flexible. Since our induction into family life, we have little to no time at all for maintaining friendships let alone spending time for yourself. With a majority of our time, energy and money spent on meeting the needs and responsibilities of our family, most parents find themselves isolated and lonely. Friendship with members of our original social circle begins to fade as our family life becomes more demanding.
Whether we work full-time, part-time or not at all, our life seems to revolve around the children. Our 24 hour day has been sliced into many more pieces with less free “me” time. A workable personal life “balance” is critical to maintaining good health and a successful formula of “balance” must include time for socializing with other adults.
Leisure-based social support and activities contribute to reducing stress and to improving one’s well being.
In fact, it’s been noted by numerous research studies that emotional support helps to buffer the negative impact of stress on our health. A major life event, such as starting a family, can affect our emotional, physical and psychological balance. In a recent study published by Stats Canada entitled “Stress, Health and the benefits of Social Support”, 43.8% of Canadians claim “trying to take on too much at once” as a source of personal stress while 31.3% claim that “too much expected of others” also ranks high as a source of stress. Both factors are realities in raising a family. A good social network is, therefore, important for a parent’s sanity and overall well being.
A good social support provides the interaction needed to avoid feelings of loneliness and isolation. For former career oriented and now full-time stay-at-home parents, the loss of a sense of belonging creates feelings of alienation and impacts self esteem. For some, it’s a difficult transition which requires a major change in lifestyle.
For single parents, financial and time constraints prevent them from building a social network and some find themselves caught in a vicious cycle of no time, money or friends.
Despite how busy our lives are, we must make time for friends and family and make the effort to nurture those relationships. But before venturing out to re-establish old friendships, to seek new ones or to reconnect with a family member, make sure you are genuinely connecting with them and not just seeking their company in order to unleash your problems.
Here are some suggestions on what you can do to keep your existing friendship alive:
1. Set aside a time once a week to have lunch with friends or loved ones.
2. Invite friends to the house for dinner or lunch.
3. Go out to a movie, go shopping or spend a day doing a favourite activity.
4. Join a program together (ie, biking, group kayaking)
5. Send an email to say “hi” weekly or bi weekly
6. Call at least once a week
7. Set aside time to call if you don’t have the time to meet.
8. Go for a nice walk in the park with a pet
Though quality of your relationships is more important than quantity, expanding your social network is an option providing positive mental, physical and emotional benefits. Here are some suggestions:
1. Attend a support group.
2. Join a club or activity at a community center to learn a new activity
3. Volunteer at a local charity or association
4. When at work, seek out new company during your lunch or coffee breaks
5. Attend a seminar offered at or near your workplace
6. Join a fitness center
7. Join a professional association or attend breakfast seminars of your profession
Don’t feel guilty about taking a little bit of time away from your domestic responsibilities to socialize. Having someone to share your experience, dreams, concerns and problems with will recharge your spirit, revitalize your energy and create a more balanced life for you making you a more effective parent.
SUGGESTED WEBSITES FOR SUPPORT PROGRAMS