I have tried to put some things in place to ensure that I get
* maximum friendship time
* that my house is still being managed and looked after
* that my children don't feel neglected
* that my husband doesn't feel like I am never there, that supper is never cooked or that the house is a shambles
This is quite a list to maintain just to spend time with friends but it can be done! At least most of the time. This is how I manage (and just a quick disclaimer - on any given day this might not be happening, and the day I write this someone will arrive at my house and find chaos - but I try to do this MOST of the time)
1. Cook lots of mealsI cook more meals than we eat during the week so that on the days that I am out and about with my friends, dinner is sorted. I normally do 2 easy meals on the same night, one for later and one for dinner. For example a simple leek and potato soup which, once the vegetables are peeled and prepared, can simmer on the back plate while I prepare dinner. And at the same time, I am soaking peas for a stew that I will make tomorrow. My children love cooking and so I normally give them the responsibility of preparing one of the meals which also takes the pressure off me.
2. Plan and diariseIf I am not intentional it doesn't happen. Send an email, book a day. If I say to someone "let's get together sometime" it NEVER happens. My friends reading this will most likely be nodding their heads at this point.
3. Keep it simple pimple (couldn't resist, we used to say this when we were kids)I have a friend who brings her knitting, sewing, mending to my house because she knows that I never sit still and in fact while she is visiting I am baking and cooking. We are comfortable together. She knows that I need to do things but love her company. If I tried to make sure that I never had anything to do so that she could visit, we never would.
4. Get the kids involvedMy children love play dates, and this can be a very motivating factor to get things done quickly - whether it be schoolwork, cleaning up or preparing snacks. Use the word "friends" or "play date" and you will have your house fixed and ready in no time.
5. Make sure you are not away from home all the timeMen don't like their wives MIA (missing in action) all the time or everyday. I always check with Sean if it's OK and also try not to be out so much that he feels like I am never at home.
6. Try unconventional timesI try to visit with my friends in the afternoon but sometimes because of all the activities we are involved with it can get very busy. Then it's time to do an evening - a group of friends having coffee and cake is fantastic, theatre or a movie. Or we do a family affair. A get together around a fire, coffee or the beach on the weekends.
7. Housework happens all the timeHousework cannot be an event, it has to happen all the time. When I consistently do housework all day a little at a time, I am on top of things but the moment I make it an event then that's when the paw paw hits the fan - piles of washing, ironing, dishes for three meals etc. Even in our homeschooling day, when we take breaks we are folding washing, washing a set of dishes, sweeping or putting a load in - before we have our tea, snack or lunch. If I manage my housework like this, I have lots of time to visit with my friends and they can stop by without walking into a hurricane. Of course I do have days like that when there are projects all over the tables, we have been baking and have not cleaned yet or there is washing being hung inside because it's raining - but that's life.
8. Don't waste time on friendships that aren't going anywhereI love meeting new people, I love building new friendships but sometimes we can labour in a friendship just because it seems like the right thing to do - or there is an expectation because children are friends. Then you spend precious time with someone who just is not meant to be a friend. Make peace with it. Don't close the door but realise that we are not called to be friends with everyone, not even everyone we like. Friendships are special and if you spread yourself to thin then you are not available for the people you really care about.
9. Exercise togetherSadly this has not happened for me for a while but one of my best friends and I used to run and walk together every morning before anyone in the house was up. I loved it. We talked and talked and huffed and puffed and it was brilliant. I have yet to pick this one up again but there is not a day that goes by when I don't see women walking together when I don't miss those times. The added bonus is that you get a whole bunch of talking done, AND exercise.
10. Be honestI you only have an hour, say so and make the most of it. Most friends will love to see you even if just for a short while. If you know you only have a short time with someone, you cut right through the fluff and chat about the real issues or heart issues, never mind coffee and cake.
Friendships are very special and very needed in our lives, but it takes planning, thought and a bit of creativity but it can be done! I would love to hear about how you manage your friendships and how you prioritise them so that you get time to build with those that you care the most about.