As we grow older, our lives get busier. That’s just a fact. In our thirties and forties, we generally find ourselves with a lot of responsibility and a lot of demands on our time. Increased seniority at work means tighter deadlines and perhaps the responsibility of a team or direct reports. Long-term relationship and marriage commitments come into play, along with the potential birthing and raising of a child or two.
Before long, you find that your parents become older and make more demands on your time as they require increased help and support. On top of that, you’re probably a homeowner or a renter so you also have the household chores to contend with. Amongst all that responsibility, commitment and weight on your shoulders, where on earth are you supposed to fit in time for your friends, let alone yourself?
Well, in today’s blog we’re going to explore how to manage your friendship admin, set expectations with your besties and say ‘no’ without feeling guilty. We all want to make time for our friends – they’re important people in our lives after all. However, we should not be sacrificing much-needed time for ourselves just so that we can make other people happy and not feel guilty. At our age, self-care is important and if your friends don’t understand that, then maybe they are no longer the right people to have in your life.
The most common conversations we seem to have with our friends these days are about how busy we are. We talk about the pressures of life, long working hours and how we feel constantly knackered. Therefore, if a friend randomly sends us a message on Friday night to do something the following day, the likelihood is that we’re going to be busy!
For modern women like us, it’s important to set expectations with our friends. When we say we’re run ragged, they have to understand that we’re not simply blowing off steam after a long day, we really do mean it! Some of our friends don’t seem to realise this though. Their lives are somewhat different from ours. They may have younger parents, they may be single and they may not have children to look after. Their ability to socialise freely in the evenings and at the weekends has not changed but unfortunately, their opportunities to socialise with us have drastically reduced.
Now an understanding friend will realise this and adjust their strategies accordingly. They’ll message us or we’ll message them in advance to ‘get a date in the diary’ and put a plan in place to meet up at a convenient time for us both. However, others may be habitual offenders who always contact you to do something at the last minute. When you have to keep declining their invitations, they may feel slighted that you can’t just drop everything you’re doing to spend time with them. The consequence of this is that, more often than not, you’re the one who ends up feeling guilty. But this is not your fault.
You can combat this kind of behavior from your friends by communicating your schedule with them and setting clear boundaries around your time. You should have a conversation with them about the responsibilities in your life and your schedule. For instance, if you have young children, then your evenings will no doubt revolve around their routines. A phone call or a message from your friend around their bed time will likely go unanswered as the kids are your priority. Instead, you need to be open and honest about the times that you are available. That way, your friend won’t feel neglected and you won’t feel guilty for not having time for them.
Following on from the above point about sharing your schedule with your friends, we cannot highlight enough the importance of having a diary or a calendar. There are so many commitments that we need to fulfill in our lives that writing them down is the only way to stay organised. We usually carry around a pocket diary in our handbag but we know people who use the calender on their phone or add notes to paper calendars hanging around their house.
So many activities seem to come up and get mentioned in conversation that you end up agreeing to on the spur of the moment. We’ve often found that we end up double-booking ourselves if we don’t check if we’re available at the time and write them all down. Planning your time is a consequence of getting older but it does provide you with some control over how you’re spending your time.
This also gives you the opportunity to schedule in some much needed self-care and ‘downtime’ for yourself. We like to make sure that we are only busy every other weekend for example. With the pressures of work and life in general, we all need to make sure that we get enough time to rest and do the things we love.
Set Communication Goals
We’ve all been there. You’re in the middle of a meeting or out for dinner with your partner and the only thing you can focus on is the constant ping or buzz of your phone as you receive message after message from your friendship WhatsApp group. You’re itching to pick it up and catch up on whatever they are saying but your attention must be elsewhere for now…
We see this kind of friendship admin dilemma all the time. You don’t want to be the odd one out in a group chat and you don’t want to come across as though you’re in someway ‘absent’ from your friendship group. One minute, you worry that your friends will think you’re ignoring them, then the next minute you just want to put them on mute.
It’s okay, if your friends are aware of your commitments then they are not going to mind the lack of communication. You can mute the conversation and catch up with it later. Isn’t it more important to live in the ‘now’ and enjoy the conversations that you’re actually having in real life?
To avoid this dilemma and the unwarranted guilt or F.O.M.O that you may feel, put some time aside each day to catch up on your friendship admin. Even if it’s just 20 minutes, take the time to go through the texts, messages and emails that you seem to be bombarded with at the most inopportune times. You don’t have to be switched ‘on’ all the time. Your real friends won’t expect you to be.
Assess Your Friendship Circle
If you’re having issues spending time with your friends or you are feeling some ‘push-back’ from people who you just can’t work into your schedule, it may be time to reassess your friendship group and prioritise the people in your life that you enjoy spending time with the most. As we grow older, our interests and outlooks change and unfortunately, that may mean that the person we were closest to ten years ago feels like a stranger these days.
Letting go of people who have played an important part in your life is natural as we evolve and grow. Of course, you will feel sad – it’s only natural. For some excellent tips on evaluating your current friendship status, check out our previous blog on ‘The Evolution of Friendship‘ for some tips on how to handle this period in your life.
Don’t Feel Guilty
When you don’t have time for your friends and find yourself missing phone calls, events and messages, it’s natural to feel guilty. DON’T. If you have explained your situation to your friends and you have factored in regular catch-ups with them into your schedule then you have absolutely nothing to feel guilty about. ALL of our lives are busy. You are not the exception to the rule – you are the norm!
If your friends are not happy with your lack of involvement then they need to say something to you. If they disagree with the priorities that you have set in your life then maybe you need to re-evaluate your friendship. It’s your life. As long as you’re not intentionally hurting anyone, then live it your way.
Having friends is a blessing, so don’t let it become a curse! Take control of your boundaries, set expectations and you should hopefully enjoy many long and happy friendships in the years to come.