Taking Care of Your Social Needs as a Working Parent

Whether you’re new to the island, or you’ve grown up here, chances are your social life will have changed as a working parent.

Work takes up a lot of time, and with family responsibilities, it may feel like you’re spending all your energy on someone else’s agenda, passively observing friends on social media or people you admire on podcasts, you may realize when your head hits the pillow that you’re missing the live interaction you thrive in.

This was me three years ago, before I took the bold step of immigrating from the UK to Vancouver Island. It wasn’t easy to build a friendship circle here on the island and 18 months into the pandemic, I was already feeling like a passive spectator in my friends’ lives.

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Since then, I have spent two years researching the science of connection and friendship. According to Dr Robin Dunbar, our brains can maintain only a limited number of social connections—150 to be precise—but it’s our innermost circles, our closest 12 to 15 relationships that have a significant impact on our health and happiness.

What stops us from connecting?

1. Time can easily disappear if we are not intentional with it.

2. Social media can dilute the energy we have, from those important to us, to people outside our 150. Studies suggest we spend three hours a day on social media and only 27 minutes with friends. Do some platforms fill you up and others bring you down? Becoming aware can help you to understand if they are serving you.

3. Trust. Shared experiences can be a great way to cultivate trust with new friends. If you struggle to know what to say, consider relationship deepening games (e.g., 39 Questions by Arthur Aaron), which help you to share pieces of yourselves, with reciprocal vulnerability. In my experience, going to level two is typically enough with new friends.

4. Fear of rejection. Inviting old and new friends into our lives is a gift of our time, but it can feel vulnerable. We often make up stories—particularly when we see the glamorous lives they portray on social media! While this is an illusion, why not look your friend up, and/or, do something to bring your vibration up, before reaching out.

How much social time do I need?

Learning the social needs of your family can help you understand what to commit to each week, and when you need to decline invitations to keep a healthy balance. As an extrovert, living with an introvert, my social needs are greater than my fiancé’s. I have started gathering with a group of expats, digital nomads and entrepreneurs, in Langford on Friday afternoons, to get my social fix before the weekend begins. How much social time do you need? You may find it useful to test and adapt to find your sweet spot.

My children (aged five and seven) get plenty of social time at school, so in the week, I have found that one activity in the week and one at the weekend is enough for playdates, anything more can be overwhelming.

How can you find authentic connections?

1. Get to know yourself. Remember who you were, shadows and all. Remember them, and then let them go. Ask yourself the kind of questions you would want to know of others. Allow time for the answers to come–melt into the pause. Embody this authentic version of you when you meet old and new friends.

2. Remember who your people are—near or far. Who could you invite back in that may be on a similar page as you? If someone keeps coming to mind, see this as a clue, and while it may feel vulnerable, imagine yourself as the receiver. How good would it be to hear from them?

3. Imagine and visualize the kind of friend you want to call in. And when you feel the impulse to speak to someone, be courageous and spark that conversation!

4. Trust that “what you seek also seeks you” (Rumi), and if you do feel called to reach out, do so without expectation. Not everyone will have space for you in their lives, they may not even reply, and that’s okay, trust that the right people will, and your circles will evolve—as life does.

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