Do You Have Time for Friends?

by Donne Davis on June 18, 2010

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One of the reasons I founded the GaGa Sisterhood was to create a community of like-minded women who could meet each other and make new friends. Friendship has always been an essential part of my life. I’ve  nurtured my friendships over the years and consider them the treasures of my life. But since I’ve become a grandma, I seem to have less time for my friends. Recently, one of our new members posted a question on our discussion board that generated many responses:

Are there other grandmothers who would like to expand their circle of friends? I am interested in movies, dinner, museums, walks, good conversation, and small explorations of the peninsula.

It’s Not Easy Finding Enough Time For Friends

As I followed the discussion, I wanted to join in but realized I barely have time for my old friends, let alone new ones. And my friends seem to be just as busy. Here’s an example of an email I received from a good friend. I asked her if she could talk to one of our members who’s daughter is going through a divorce.

Of course I’d be willing to talk to Linda—just not right now. Our life is CRAZY right now. Our son-in-law’s aunt and uncle are here from Sweden until Thursday. On Monday some former neighbors are coming to stay with us for two weeks. Tom’s (her husband) birthday is on the 18th and Father’s Day the 20th. AND, my favorite, of course, the kids and grandkids are on vacation for a week so we get both our granddog AND the dog they are watching for some friends, ALL WHILE THE OLD NEIGHBORS ARE HERE!!!!!

I freak out about it all every few days and Tom just shakes his head and laughs at me. I’m thinking about becoming a cloistered nun.

Another good friend I’ve known all my life wrote this email when I suggested a hike:

I will take you up on your hike offer as soon as I can…..just be patient with me as my obligations to my mother expand and I try to also be a good mother, girlfriend, sister and grandma. (And she didn’t even mention that she works full-time and does volunteer work!)

All of these exchanges got me thinking about the time we have for friendship and I discovered some discouraging statistics. A 2006 study from Duke University and the University of Arizona showed that Americans have almost one-third fewer confidants than they did in the 1980s, and that “ties are more family based.” Another disheartening statistic was that there are now twice as many people who report not having any close friends to share their problems with.

The Health Benefits of Friendships

Author and Wall Street Journal columnist Jeffrey Zaslow says, “A host of studies show that having a close group of friends helps women sleep better, improve their immune systems, stave off dementia and actually live longer.” He cites an Australian study that found women with more friends lived 22 percent longer than women with fewer friends.

Zaslow has become quite an authority on friendship. In 2003 he wrote a column on female friendship for The Wall Street Journal and knew that he’d touched a nerve when he received 300 letters and emails from women. He’d seen his daughters (now 13, 17 and 19) struggle with their friendships and knew how friendship can lead to great things. His column led to a book The Girls from Ames: A Story of Women and a Forty-Year Friendship published in 2009.

What he learned in studying these women is that people with stronger friendship networks feel like there is someone they can turn to. “Friendship is an undervalued resource. The consistent message of these studies is that friends make your life better.”

{ 3 comments }

Susan Adcox July 15, 2010 at 4:05 pm

I’m one of those solitary souls who would seldom see my friends if it were up to me to take the initiative. I always think that I have something else that I should be doing instead of spending several hours lunching or shopping. Thank goodness I have a very sociable husband who insists that we do things with our circle of friends. I’m sure I’m much healthier for it!

Irene Madrid June 21, 2010 at 8:15 pm

After 42 yrs of marriage I find myself divorcing. I have a wonderful circle of friends who helped me through the worst of it but most of them have to work more than me. I miss companionship, someone to share a meal with, conversation other than with my delightful grandchildren.

I don’t think we cultivate our women friends enough. We so need to share our happiness and sorrow with each other.

Sally Wendkos Olds June 19, 2010 at 5:09 pm

This is such an important topic. I could never have gotten through the last 8 months since my husband died if it were not for the loving help I have received from my good friends. It’s so important to make the time for friends, to strengthen the bonds, and to show each other how much you care.

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