Girls’ Getaway: A Mom’s Guide to Friendship
Story and photography by Annette Benedetti
From the time we are old enough to socially interact, we strive to connect with others in a meaningful way. Friendships are essential to living an enriched life. In fact, the ability to build healthy relationships with others has been shown to be one of the strongest predictors of a fulfilled life. Throughout our school years and well into early adulthood our social lives are as much of a priority as our educational and professional lives.
Why Friendship is Different for Women
While close relationships are important for men and women alike, a landmark UCLA study has revealed that there is something special about friendships between women. During times of great stress, the human body releases a combination of chemicals that lead to the fight or flight response, but researchers found that the addition of the hormone oxytocin that is released in women, discourages the fight or flight response and encourages connection with other women for relief. If connection is made, more oxytocin is released and stress is reduced. Because men produce a high level of testosterone—which reduces the effects of oxytocin—they do not experience the same calming response. These findings suggest what many women already know: girlfriends are important.
After becoming a mother, the need for connection, friendship…a female tribe, becomes even more important. In fact a recent study published in Developmental Psychology found that the four qualities that play key roles in mothers’ wellbeing are feeling unconditionally loved, feeling comforted during stressful times, having authenticity in relationships, and satisfaction with friendships. Participants consisted of 2000 moms and was conducted with the purpose of creating interventions designed to foster resilience in mother’s plagued with stress from their parenting roles.
Keeping Friends after Children
While the importance of the bond between girlfriends increases after having kids, maintaining those friendships oftentimes become more challenging. For new moms especially, the list of obstacles that stand in the way of maintaining friendships with other women is long and complicated. From not being able to find time to having difficulty connecting over lifestyle or parenting differences. Feeling isolated from friends is a common challenge moms face.
The following are some simple steps you can take that will help you maintain your friendships and build connections that last.
Adapt Your Conversation: Baby brain: it’s a real thing. After you have your first child (and second and third) they are all you can think about. Your friends want to hear about your children, but hijacking the conversation with details about the significance of the odor, coloration, and consistency of your baby’s poop might be too much. Switch up the conversation and adapt it to the individual or individuals you are spending time with. If they aren’t moms, try to focus on issues and interests that are important to them. A break from mom topics will be refreshing for you too.
Maintain Mutual Interests: Momming is an important job, but a big part of being a healthy, happy mom is maintaining your sense of self. You and your friends created bonds through shared interests—don’t let those fade. If you took yoga classes together, sign up for a weekly class you can both attend. If you enjoyed going to shows, buy tickets to see your favorite bands. Participating in these types of activities will help maintain the bond with your friends and remind you of who you were and still are.
Make Time: The most important thing you can do to maintain and strengthen your friendships is make time for them. When you have small children, time is tight. It can be challenging or nearly impossible to leave them for long periods, however, planning a regular girl’s night out is a reasonable goal to set. A bi-monthly or even weekly outing is a perfect way to shake off stress and reconnect.
Girlfriend’s Guide to Getting Away
As your children age, consider planning a getaway with the girls. If the idea of being too far away from the littles is overwhelming, Central Oregon has endless options for amazing staycations. Book a room in Sisters or Sunriver, or head out to Elk Lake Resort and Marina and enjoy a mini-getaway. After a couple of these little getaways, take your girl-time to the next level: plan an urban adventure.
Central Oregonians enjoy easy access to outdoor adventures. Jump in the car and you can be in the desert, at a lake, or in the woods in no time at all, but getting to the city is a little bit more of a trek. Fortunately, Portland is only a three-ish hour drive away and full of activities and hot spots that are perfect for an epic girlfriend getaway that can’t be found in the High Desert.
Things to do in Portland
The following are a few ideas for the best places to go and things to do with the girls while you are in Portland.
Powell’s Books: Powells is the largest independent chain of bookstores in the world, and Portland is home to its flagship store called Powell’s City of Books. It is so big you need a map to get around. A visit to Powells is a perfect way to spend a couple of relaxing hours, feeding your minds together.
Portland Art Museum: The Portland Art Museum is the oldest art museum on the west coast and is recognized for both its permanent collection and its special exhibits. If you and your girlfriends are art lovers, you will easily spend the day wandering through the various exhibits.
Dancing at the Crystal Ballroom: There’s no venue like the Crystal Ballroom. It consists of three floors: pool hall on the first, small dance floor on the second, and the full-meal-deal on the third floor. From a balcony bar to a spring-loaded or “floating” floor, the earth will literally move as you dance the night away to local or big-name bands, or enjoy a themed dance night out.
Food Carts: Portland is known for its incredible culinary food cart scene. There are over 500 food carts in this city, and they can be found in groupings called “Pods.” Check out www.foodcartsportland.com/maps/ to find the pod nearest you. Some are even open after a night of dancing ends.
There are so many Portland neighborhoods, each with their own feel and flair. It’s hard to know where to head for an afternoon of wandering, especially when time is limited. The following are a couple to consider:
• N. Mississippi Street. Here you will find shopping options, casual food restaurants, and hot bars to hang out in including Mississippi Studios, where big and local name bands often play.
• Northwest. If you are in the mood for high-end shopping and restaurants, NW is the neighborhood for you. It’s also peppered with breweries and bars that make it feel a bit like home.
• SE Division. This up-and-coming area has a mixture of high-end as well as casual shopping and restaurants. It embodies the modern-day Portland scene.
• SE Hawthorne. Are you ready to return to the 90s? Then this is the area for you. From funky second-hand clothing stores to a bar scene that will take you back, walking down Hawthorne is a bit like time travel; you might just never want to return.