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You're Good Enough, and People Like You

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Remember Stuart Smalley? Maybe you don't. I do.

The "Saturday Night Live" character used his positive affirmations to remind us and himself every week of all the reasons he had for having confidence.

His catch phrase popped into my head when I was thinking about what I wanted to write about this week.

Friends.

If you're a military Must-Have Parent and a Stay-at-Home Parent, friendships can be hard. And if you have a special-needs kid on top of all that -- fuhgeddaboutit.

Making friends was easy for me when I was in school and when I worked outside of the home. Ridiculously easy when I was single and when I was married with no kids.

I'm a sociable person. I like to talk, and I can find common ground with most anyone. I sat next to people, so I talked to them. A few times doing that, and I had a friend. If the conversation was good, we might hang out after school or work. Bam. Nothing to it.

But now I stay at home with kids, so I sit next to ... kids.

(Or, more accurately, baskets of laundry and piles of Legos.)

There aren't many organic opportunities in my life for me to meet people and get to know them, and when I do have those opportunities, it's likely that I'm also busy watching, chasing and reprimanding children.

My friends who have special-needs children tell me that it's even harder for them because they have to watch their kids more closely and it's nearly impossible for them to find a capable sitter. They, like me, often run the math and determine that the friendship and fun potential in an outing just isn't worth the hassle.

If you're a Must-Have Parent who works outside the home, it's likely that with all you've got to do, you're just too exhausted to pursue new or old friendships. And if you're living somewhere other than where your family and old friends live, like most military MHPs, there may be times when you look up and realize that you have no local friends at all.

Oh, how I can relate.

I have tons of friends. Thousands of them, according to Facebook. To paraphrase Ludacris, I've got, ahem, friends in different area codes. I have friends on other continents. I have friends who have been in space.

When I see them, my friends and I, we have a blast, because I'm good enough, smart enough and, doggone it, people like me. But that happens two, maybe three, times a year.

The rest of the year I have kids. And a dog. And social media.

And that's not enough.

Friendships are important. People need people. And people who need people ... are the luckiest people in the world.

(OK, OK, I'll stop with the song lyrics. But, tell me, where else are you gonna see Ludacris and Barbra Streisand quoted in the same column?)

Must-Have Parents often fall somewhere between single and married people. We're not very likely to hang out with single people because single people tend to be interested in dating -- and we can't share that hobby with them.

But it's hard for us to hang out with married people because married people like to hang out with other couples. We're a third wheel on couple dates when our better half is away. I've been married for nearly 13 years, and some of my oldest friends still haven't met my husband. Some even joke that he must be imaginary.

So how do we nurture friendships with similar (aka, married) people when we're often lacking our better half, or we're always with kids?

And how do we find and maintain friendships when one of those kids is both hard to deal with and hard to find a sitter for?

I don't know.

I mean, I have some ideas but, I'll be honest, they aren't that great.

Things like join a gym with childcare and take group classes, and then linger after the class to try and make small talk. Or partake in church activities where childcare is provided. Dig through sites like Care.com or Sittercity.com to look for sitters you can trust who can deal with your kids' issues.

Maybe research drop-in child care facilities in your area -- and then budget for childcare so you don't feel bad about spending money on it.

If your kids are in school, look for group activities -- like classes or volunteer work -- to do during school hours. If you work from home (like me), this might mean you have to catch up on work late after the kids are in bed.

Or you just make do with social media friends for now, with the understanding that this is just a season of life, not your whole life.

'Cause, you know what? You're good enough, smart enough and, doggone it, people like you -- and someday you'll get to sit in a room with those people again.

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Contributor

Rebekah Sanderlin is an Army wife, a mother of three and a professional writer. Her work has been published numerous places, including The Washington Post, The New York Times, National Public Radio, CNN, and in Self and Maxim magazines. She currently serves on the advisory boards of the Military Family Advisory Network and Blue Star Families.

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