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Mid-life mom life can be strangely lonely. I think for most families, it is a very busy time with kids school and activities but it can be difficult to forage deeper friendships in the school pickup line or on the sideline of sports games. We are around people a lot - but those people are mostly our children or other parents also standing around at practices or dance competitions. I feel like real conversations more often happen in a more dedicated social hangout time but the busyness in this stage of life can make "going out" a hard sell. I'm often tired especially on weeknights after work, sports practices, dinner, homework, etc.
The social gatherings that are saving my life right now are two low maintenance monthly meetups with friends that don't really require special planning or a lot of prep. I am in a monthly book club, and a monthly bunco group. It has been said that you need at least 50 hours with someone to move from acquaintance to friend, and over 200 hours to consider someone a close friend. I think we feel lonely because who has 200 hours to develop friendships in mid-life? In college we reached those 200 hours within the first semester. If you still feel closer to your college friends than you do to your mom friends this might be why. I feel like in my current life stage I have a couple hours a month to meet someone for coffee or a glass of wine. The consistency of these social groups is key. If we are ever going to get past 50 hours we need a monthly meetup.
The Book Club
There are 8 women in this group. We all live in the same neighborhood and for the most part, have our kids in the same schools. Each person hosts 1-2 times per year. We do it on a pretty consistent weeknight, Tuesday or Wednesday nights. We meet after dinner in a come as you are style and everyone brings their own drink. The host usually provides a snack - like a cheese board or an appetizer or dessert but not dinner. The host usually opens a bottle of wine, but everyone who doesn't drink wine just brings whatever they want. I like this because it is not too stressful to host. You aren't providing a full bar or a meal and you don't really need specific RSVP's. If someone's kid gets sick last minute and they can't come, it doesn't put anyone out. This is a closed group, meaning we don't invite guests and that makes it a little easier to get the conversation going as we have been meeting for 4-5 years. The host chooses the book and we usually talk about personal stuff for a while, and then talk about the book at some point, but if you didn't read it or you didn't finish, there is no judgement. Most of us try to attend either way. I love this group because I have read a lot of books I wouldn't have read otherwise, and books foster deeper connections and conversations beyond suburban mom-life typical topics like discussing school drama or whatever. Sometimes we sit outside in people's backyards or meet at a park or the beach so it is even easier - no wiping down your kitchen counters.
The Bunco Group
This group has 12 women, all moms from our same elementary school (now some of our kids are at the middle school or high school). We meet one Saturday night per month at 6:30pm. You host one bunco per year, and as the host you provide the food - mostly appetizers, finger foods, and desserts. Everyone else brings whatever they want to bring to drink. You bring $10 to play bunco. We usually socialize and eat for the first hour or so - bunco begins at about 8pm. You need 12 people to play, so if anyone can't make it, we have a list of subs, or the host finds subs. We play about 2 rounds of bunco and end usually by 10pm.
What I like about this group - is that bunco allows for more mixing and mingling because each round you have to get up and switch tables and you are with new people. So you usually get to catch up with almost everyone. With a couple of subs each month you meet new people, but it is still the same core group most of the time. When you host, it is a bit of work, but the other 11 months of the year, you grab a bottle of wine and $10 and show up. I feel like the consistency of the meet-up, the clear boundaries on who does what, and the mostly regular group of friends create the magic here. If I had to throw a unique party, I wouldn't do it very often, but hosting my friends for bunco is easy because I have a formula I use for the food. This year I'm hosting in February, so here is my Galentines inspired menu. If I had to pick my last meal it would probably be wine and cheese and baguette.
Cheese Board with at least 3-4 cheeses, olives, fruit or jam with crackers or baguette slices
Some type of chip and dip - I like a spinach artichoke with blue corn chips
A few pre-made flatbreads that I throw into the oven when people arrive or any other pre-made hot hors d'overes - usually from Trader Joe's
A salad (if I do flatbread) or a veggie tray with hummus
A couple of desserts like a cookie or brownie or some decadent chocolates
We put a couple of bowls of candies on each bunco table
And that's it! This usually costs less than $100 for one time per year that I host and it takes me just a few minutes to set all this out before everyone arrives. We sometimes do little themes for the season with decor and food - like Galentines in February, or Cinco de Bunco in May but it is not necessary to have a theme each time.
A few last thoughts
I really love that both these groups are neighborhood centric groups. These are the women that I see in the school pickup line, walking the dog, at kids birthday parties, etc. Without this dedicated social time each month, we never would have gotten past small talk. When I do see them at the grocery store, I feel like I've seen a friend, not just an acquaintance. I also love that these meetups are casual, and that we don't have to reinvent the wheel each gathering. There is no - "what should I bring?" because everyone knows what they are supposed to bring. People wear whatever they want. With the rotating hosts, most of the time you just show up and you don't do anything. At this stage of my life I need social gatherings to be this low-maintenance and simple. I'm sure I'll go back to elaborate dinner parties at some point, but right now it feels like too much work. I also love that these meetups are inexpensive. I love meeting a friend at a restaurant but knowing my book club costs me nothing, means I'm more likely to go, even just for an hour. I love that these gatherings are close by - for the most part in my own neighborhood so I can walk or drive 5 minutes. All these factors make it more likely that friends can actually go. High maintenance parties are fun in theory but after I've been at a gymnastics meet all day if I have to bake an elaborate dish, come up with a costume, or drive somewhere with a parking "situation" it all becomes an excuse to not go. Show up at a neighbor's house with a bottle of wine in hand where they are providing the cheese? Count me in. I'll be there in 5.
So I encourage you to throw your own Galentines Day celebration this year and start a group. If you don't like bunco or books, it could be a wine tasting group, or a cooking club. Decide your parameters for the group, and set a date because aren't our friendships also the loves of our lifes?