Last Friday, we spent the evening with two other families with young children at the supermarket. We have the routine down to a science. After having dinner together, we'll head to the shops, cram all the little kids into a couple of shopping carts, and while the dads push them through the aisles, the mums will do some grocery shopping.
Photo: Juhan Sonin/Flickr
Sometimes, we'll switch off. It works. The kids have fun, giggling and singing throughout the ride (the place is always nearly empty -- did I mention it's Friday night?), and we get to have sustenance for the week. As I stand in the checkout lane, I'll think to myself in bewilderment and awe: This is what friendship looks like when you're a parent.
I used to get bummed that my friendships look nothing like they did in university and in my 20s, when I could lay on the couch and just talk on the phone for hours. How?! But life changes (whether or not you have kids), and relationships shift and settle into something different. You fuse your life with others when possible, and declare those quick moments of connection as good, or good enough. I always loved this piece by Ada Calhoun in New York Magazine titled "The Secret to Staying Friends in Your 30s." She sums it up beautifully:
Twentysomething friendships involve long, late nights, all-day walks, and hours-long phone conversations. But having friends in your 30s is functionally impossible. There is no good time to see people, no friend equivalent of the candlelit dinner and rose-strewn canopy bed. To stay friends is to make do with the social equivalent of a taco truck and bathroom quickie. As the opposite of a sensualist, I actually prefer this. There's something both efficient and exciting about having friends woven into the texture of daily life. It feels almost illicit when we manage to steal time together, like we are cheating on our grown-up lives.
Anyway, enough musing about the evolution of friendship -- I have to tackle today's to-do list already. While it isn't always logistically possible, it's nice to be able to do chores and errands with nearby friends in the same life stage (if you find these people, hang on to them for dear life). You're turning have-tos into something enjoyable, and building that village.
Along with grocery shopping, here are some tasks you can do with friends:
I'll admit that it's a big enough challenge to squeeze in a workout for myself, let alone schedule it with another person. But with some determination, you can make it work. If you have a baby, strap her into the carrier and go for a hike with a friend. Or do an exercise video together. Or go to the park with another family, and run laps and do star jumps while the kids play.
Have a Laundry-Folding Party
Yes, you will need to have reached a certain level of comfort (and shamelessness) with your friends to do this, but I'm intrigued by the idea. Invite them to come over with their baskets of clean laundry, lay out a big blanket on the floor, and start folding. Drink if you'd like to. Just don't accidentally grab someone else's undies.
Make Freezer Meals
Be a next-level village builder and have a freezer meal party with friends, say on a Sunday morning. Lifehacker writer Patrick Allan explains how in this post: "Gather some friends and either shop for the week's meals together (and split the cost), or have each person bring specific ingredients. Once you're all together, have each person take on a job and make enough portions of each meal for everyone to meet their quota for freezing. Now you don't have to do it all by yourself and you get to have a good time with your friends too."