I recently had a sleepover with some high school friends of mine. Just the girls, staying up late in our jammies, reminiscing about the ‘crazy’ things we did back in the day. Crazy things for us were defying the nuns at our all-girls school by ignoring the dress code or sneaking out in our parent’s car while they slept. Funny thing though, I heard some new (and surprising) stories this time. Tales of detention, drinking, and dating I had no idea about. It was refreshing to find that I didn’t know everything about my closest friends, the women I talk to every couple of days, and who have supported me through thick and thin.
As close as I am with these friends, it seemed that the older I got the fewer friends I had. I was so busy during the years my kids were young that I never really developed close friendships with their friends’ parents. I would definitely call my work colleagues friends but would we go on vacation together? Research around happiness, what creates it and sustains it, demonstrates over and over that having social connections is a key component to good long-term health. Why is it then that doctors are one of the groups with the fewest friends according to the most recent Medscape survey on the subject?
Physicians are notorious for going it alone. The competitive nature of pre-med and med school education often creates a mindset that isolates us from each other. Relying on our own grit and capability is how we make it through. The trauma and intensity of our work is huge and we learn to handle it through compartmentalizing, working through it on our own, and (if we are lucky enough) venting to our partner and closest friends.
As female pediatricians, our work lives are often very different from the other women we come in contact with socially and as a result, it is often hard to find common ground. Those of us who are parents have it particularly tough. Connecting with other mothers can be a minefield. Not to mention the time constraints of work and life!
Given all of that, how CAN we make friends as we get older?
A couple of years ago I realized that I wanted to broaden my friend group beyond my high school friends. I wanted some new thinking and variety in my life. People to inspire me to live my best life and who I could be my authentic self with. I began my hunt. I went away to conferences with women physicians, attended events close to home with other women doctors, and interviewed several local clubs to see which one might be a good fit for me. It was quite a journey.
One local club I visited was very promising. It was within biking distance and the facility was everything I wanted…until…We had just finished up the tour of the women’s locker room (gorgeous!) and I asked where I might work if I wanted to come to the club and spend the day doing admin tasks. I was shown a tiny room off the women’s locker room, 10×10 with no windows and a card table and chairs. The alternative offered was to sit in the pub and work there.
My husband was taking a long time finishing up his time in the men’s locker room and the woman taking us around mentioned he had probably gotten hung up in the Men’s Grille at the back. The Men’s Grille is a 60’x30’ room attached to their locker room that overlooks the golf course with couches, tables, a bar, TVs, etc where they can work and chat. I was floored. Clearly, this was not the club for me. Women were welcome and I liked the women I knew who belonged but this was not the place for me.
I kept on looking. Not long after I found a club a little farther away. No swimming or golf here, but it features plenty of fascinating people who bring in speakers, an endowed foundation that grants $300K to local groups yearly, and a vibrant social and dining calendar. This club is rich in people and the facility is beautiful.
Consider what YOU may be looking for in new relationships. Are you looking for someone to share your work challenges with? Someone, to call on the fly and grab a bite to eat? Are you looking for a friend who sees the world a little differently and challenges you to think? Are you looking for a Pickleball doubles partner? Sometimes looking for people who are not connected to your kids can help.
Once you have thought about what you are looking for, and how you want to grow or have fun, then you can begin to find the right people.
I spend two days a week now at The Village Club meeting new up with new friends. I’m learning new things about the broader community through the grants we give and through the programs there. Finding ‘my people’ here and building relationships with women physicians elsewhere is helping me grow in new ways. Now when I meet my high school friends for pajama parties I have a lot more to share!
Blog written by Molly O’Shea, MD