You know the feeling—you chat up the door-to-door salesman, just to have a conversation. Everyone at church thinks you’re having a great spiritual moment when you burst into tears during a Relief Society lesson, but you’re actually just grateful you heard a complete sentence. You get invited to attend a neighborhood workshop on the different ways to watch paint dry, and you’ve got the date circled on your calendar.
I love the freedom of choosing my own schedule, and I chose this life for a reason—I wanted the flexibility to make extra time for my family. But the downside can be that I feel isolated sometimes. Unlike many working environments, a social life is not included as one of the automatic perks of this job.
In order to preserve my sanity, I have to work a little harder to fulfill my social needs than someone who works in, say, a corporate environment. So, in the interests of helping mama and family be happy, here are some tips for those of you, like me, who feel a little too homebound sometimes:
Volunteer. Find something you believe in and see how you can help out. Service can help you feel useful on the days when you wonder if your efforts matter, and it can also give you a chance to use your skills and to socialize with others. It may be more of a challenge if you’ve got small children, but if you can find an organization that welcomes help from families, you can teach your kids some important lessons while you’re at it.
Join a mama’s club. There are quite a few of these, such as momsclub.org and mops.org, that already exist, or you can create a more informal one of your own. I’ve also found other parents to talk to at events, classes, and children’s play places.
Find a group whose interests match yours. I belong to a writer’s group. We learn from each other and help each other, but we also enjoy talking about our lives and the world around us. If you have a particular interest, look online to see what organizations exist in your area.
Get out of your comfort zone. I personally freak out sometimes when I have to try something scary like calling people I don’t know very well, but it’s good for me. I might invite a neighbor over to chat, or call a friend from the ward on the phone. You could go get dessert or a smoothie--even if you bring the kids along.
Take classes. These could be college or university classes, or if you want something cheaper or less formal, you could try community classes, or even classes from local stores (such as craft or home improvement stores). If you’re working toward some kind of degree or certification, getting closer to a goal can boost your self-esteem. And if you’re not, it can be freeing to take classes just because you’re interesting in something and not because you have to.
Change your venue. Can you do your work from the park? The library? The bookstore? McDonald’s? What about your backyard? Sometimes a change of scenery can be enough to break the monotony. If your work allows it, you could invite another family to come with you.
Reconnect. When I get caught up in my own routine, I forget that I do actually have real-life friends. Some of them even live in the same state. It helps me every now and then to sign out of Facebook and call their actual phone numbers and ask them if they want to get together. And I have family that doesn’t live that far away, too, and it helps to remember they exist.
Take the family on activities you all enjoy. I believe kids can get stir-crazy, too, and if the only times you leave the house are to run errands, even getting out can lose its charm. If you go somewhere fun rather than somewhere household-related, it can create a bit of escape for everyone.
Read. OK, so they aren’t real people, but if you really can’t leave the house, reading can help you do so in your imagination. And then you can talk to other people about what you’ve read!
I don’t know that these techniques can solve all the world’s problems, but maybe if I tried to create new, people-centered routines instead of complaining about the old, house-centered ones, life might get a little more interesting.
How do you break out of your solitary ruts?