One evening last week, I went out with a friend after work. I hardly ever do this (maybe 3-4 times a year, max) because I am so extremely protective of the couple hours I have with Kate between the time I get home from work and her bedtime. But occasionally, I make an exception.
My friend and I had a nice time, and I was on the road heading home by 6:30. "Great!" I thought, "I may even get home before bedtime!"It takes me about 50 minutes if there is no traffic, and with rush hour pretty much over by then, things were looking good. Then, suddenly--just after passing the exit that would have been my escape--traffic came to an absolute standstill. There was obviously a wreck somewhere ahead as my fellow travelers and I alternated between sitting idle and rolling along at about 3 mph. It became obvious as 30, then 60, then 90 minutes ticked by that I would not get to see Kate awake.
Aside from the general frustration of the situation and the physiological panic of a really, really full bladder, the *obvious* thought that came to mind was, "I'm being punished for not going straight home after work."
Obviously, I don't really think that God made that trucker sail into the median just to teach me (or the trucker, or any of the other drivers stranded with me) a lesson. But that irrational conclusion was inevitable, due to the mommy-guilt that tiptoed gently behind me at happy hour and stayed out of sight until she caught up with me amidst the brake lights at mile marker 39. I know that I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time, but when I finally walked through the door at 9:30, I nonetheless felt like a delinquent mother who selfishly chose grown-up socialization over storytime.
So how does a busy mom find time for friends? If the spouse doesn't mind and there are no unforseeable traffic jams, the occasional after-work watering hole would be fine, but I imagine more creative solutions are in order.
Short, during-the-workday excursions work best for me, I've found. My most regular friend-date is a biweekly coffee break during the work day. That works well, since I'm still getting home at the same time, and I usually eat lunch at my desk, so a long lunch every so often is no big deal. A couple ladies from work who also have babies and toddlers are trying to make a monthly lunch date, but so far we've only done it once! We also ran out to a kids' clothing warehouse sale together one day. Our company is fairly big, so while we may know there are others in our life-stage, we don't see each other a lot without a definite plan.
I've heard of moms meeting up after their kids' bedtime, and some groups of friends have an intentional ladies' night out once a month or so. I imagine stay-at-home moms have the same dilemma, but many have embraced the wonderful notion of the play date, through which moms can get together and socialize while the kids play. (I totally romanticize the play date. I wrote about our first rare experience of one last January.)
As it is with so many other things in life, it seems that intentionality is the key.
How do you make time to socialize as a busy mom?