(this is raw unedited text transcribed directly from the audio)
Dr. Kenner: Here’s a question I received from a "stay at home mom". “Dear Dr. Kenner. My name is Karen and I’m a stay at home mom. I moved to Connecticut last year and I still don’t have anyone to hang out with. My boyfriend and I fight because I don’t get a break. But when he offers to give me one from our son, I have nothing to go to. I need help. Where is a good place to make friends? Also, I find myself nit-picking at little things in our relationship and it causes more problems. How do I let the little things not be so important? How do I let those problems go? Please help me.”
Number one, Karen – you need to value yourself more. You are a stay at home mom. If you’re a stay at home mom, and I was a stay at home mom for a short period of time and I was crawling the walls, you need to make it more interesting. I decided to do that. I decided to teach my kids at home and I enjoyed that tremendously, but boy did I need those breaks. And sometimes I would hire a sitter and I would just drive up my driveway and my kids wouldn’t be able to see the car and I would sit there and read a book. I was basically at home, but it felt like I was in another world. I’d put on nice music in the car or I’d go out a little bit and I’d get a [inaudible 00:1:26] or you might call them Fraps elsewhere, but I’d get something and just treat myself. You need breaks. You need psychological breaks and there is nobody else but you, Karen, to decide how to make your own life interesting. I would take up your boyfriend and take those breaks from your son. You’ll be a much better mother.
How to make friends? Well, the first friend you want to make is with yourself, and number two, the friend you want to make is with your boyfriend. You’re nitpicking on him and that is not going to be good for a relationship. If you’re angry at yourself for not having a different life – maybe for having a child out of wedlock or a child when you weren’t ready? That may be something you need some therapy for. That’s something you want to deal with.
But let’s just take this straight. How do you make friends? There is a book I’m going to recommend. The Loneliness Book. It’s a guide to developing and maintaining lasting connections by Mary Ellen Copeland and she’s got ideas. She’s got ideas on how you make friends. The first thing is to recognize your own strengths. When you can reflect back on good friendships that you’ve had over the course of your life, and you may need to go back to childhood, what did people like about you? What did you like about you? Can you be warm and friendly? I know you’re nitpicking at your boyfriend now, but do you have that capacity? Can you support other people? Are you a good listener? Are you interesting? Can you be funny? Do you know any, I mean, I’m not good at jokes at all. My husband says, “Don’t say any on the radio because you’re not good,” but do you have any humor that you could use? Not sarcasm, that’s not good. But you can come up with some wonderful ideas to just remind yourself of your own strengths and that’s always good, no matter what you do.
Then what type of activities could you engage in? Well, there are all sorts of things. When your boyfriend tells you that he will take care of your son, take advantage of that! You don’t want to get any more resentful of him and you’re training him to have involvement with his son which is very good. So what can you do when you have that free time? You could go to a library and discover a good book or a book on tape that you would like to listen to, maybe some music or a CD or use their computer. You could do something at the library. You can look in the paper. There’s a section “what’s happening” and see if there’s anything – if you don’t have a lot of money, there may be some activities in town that you could go to. You could volunteer. Maybe you enjoy animals and you can volunteer, or maybe you can have a job pet sitting or something. You can listen to music that you like and how do you make friends?
You want to learn the skills to reach out. So you can think of who have my friends been? Can I reconnect with some of my friends? That may help you. Just saying, “It’s been a long time and I haven’t touched base and I’d like to go to coffee with you. Would you like to do that and we’ll catch up?” Some of them may work. Some of them may not work. You put out several different ways to make friends. You could join a parents group with your son and maybe make some friends there and may be able to share with babysitting which could free up your time too.
There are lots of things you can do for yourself. That’s the key. Know that you can do things for yourself to make your own life better.
Very interesting question I received from somebody – somebody was saying they went to a conference, a talk at Stanford, and they talked about how it’s so good to have girlfriends. Girlfriend time. Because women typically share emotions with each other, whereas guys typically talk about what? Sports, cars, fishing, hunting, golf, jobs. But they don’t talk about what’s most dear to them, their deepest emotions. They don’t share on that level. That’s not true of all guys, but somebody wrote to me, Ben wrote and said, “I can’t recall ever having discussed my emotions with a guy.” If you’re a guy, they’re finding out this is very healthy, that it’s very good to be able to share your emotions with friends. Whether it’s female or male, and that’s good for all of us.
I’m Dr. Ellen Kenner and the show is The Rational Basis of Happiness. That means your happiness. Are you happy? You can privately ask yourself, “Do I wake up in the morning and look forward to some things in my day?” Granted, you may need to go to the dentist and you may have some bills to pay and things you’re not looking forward to, but do you wake up in the morning and have some interest, whether it’s your kids or love relationship or something to look forward to? Your career or a job you enjoy. Do you work to make your life interesting? If you don’t, what could change? How could you change it? You don’t want to sit there, expecting the world to change it or other people to change it. Empower yourself. Think about what could I do today to make my day a little more interesting or tomorrow a little more interesting?