“A true friend is someone who makes you feel better than you think you are.” – Me
Friday night and the girls are out. Our monthly cocktail party for moms only – we call it Mommy Needs a Drink. It is a helpful venting and laughter session. It was supposed to be something we did once a year. After the first night, we understood that Mommy needed to get out at least once a month. Round-robin hosting – a different house each month. This month is Jennifer’s turn.
“I can’t believe it! Alessio threw his toy moto at me today,” I tell her. “I lost it. I got so mad we all three had to take a time out – me, Alessio and the motorcyle.”
“That’s nothing,” Jennifer says. “Karen bit me the other day – look – teeth marks! A dental imprint from my own child! Maybe she will be a dentist.”
“Believe me, sometimes counting to 3 is as much for me as my little one, ” a third mom pipes in. “That’s a good idea – time out for all. I’m going to use that one myself.”
I got there feeling like a terrible mother, but as soon as I stepped in the door, I was greeted by the kind of nurturing I’d needed all day. What is it about girlfriends that makes everything right, even when things go wrong? We feel for each other, we sense beyond words what we are trying to say. It should come as no surprise that girlfriends are good for your health.
While marriage is good for men, actually extending life span and increasing quality-of-life factors, for women it’s a slightly different story. We benefit most from hanging out with other women. It’s something about the way we communicate. We learn it as children.
Look at a playground. Most boys tend to one up each other – to gain friends by out-performing. Girls want to normalize and downplay. They talk in a circle, make eye contact, listen, empathize. When they do that, people are more likely to share information. So women’s power comes from shared knowledge and trust. If someone feels down or thinks their dress looks funny, a girlfriend will jump in and say, “You look great. Don’t worry about it.” Okay, so maybe we lie a little, but it’s to make you feel better. Men are often mystified by female logic and how women connect, but in my view, women are simply experts in emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence is more important than IQ. It’s crucial to success in our modern world – the understanding of relationships and community, who we are individually and collectively.
Though it’s recently been debunked that women speak 20,000 words vs. men’s 7,000 daily (daily word usage is about the same), here are a few true facts you can count on:
Women use more of their brains to process humor than men. Results of a recent Stanford study show women think more, even about funny things.
When you feel listened to, there is a chemical change in your body: Cortisol (stress hormone) goes down. Cortisol is the culprit that causes aging, heart disease, increased weight in your mid-section and any number of modern ills. Girl time not only lowers stress levels, it increases the body’s feel good chemical serotonin, raises endorphin levels and strengthens the immune system. Those with strong social networks survive cancer better, heal faster and live longer.
“When you analyze happiness, it turns out that the way you spend your time is extremely important. Decisions that affect how much time you spend with people you like are going to have a very large effect on how happy you are-not necessarily satisfied with your life but happy,” says Daniel Kahneman, psychologist and Nobel-prize winning economist.
“Work hard, play harder,” is the advice from Dr. Elizabeth Blackburn, winner of the 2009 Nobel Prize for her work on discovering the DNA link between stress and aging.
That’s why Mommy Needs a Drink is a good idea for all of us – how to square away time in our lives that seem almost too full already. But girlfriend time is on my priority list from now on. Mommy Needs a Drink and time with friends. Laughter, too. These are the NECESSITIES of life.
Illustration by Rima Hawkes Graphic Design