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I’ve been getting a little introspective recently. I’ve been looking at my life in an attempt to decide how many social connections I have and how strong they are.

social connections, men's mental health, mental health, social connections, dadbloguk, dadbloguk.com, Averie Woodard

Truth be told, it’s not always been a comfortable experience. I’m told I’m a very sociable person and I’d agree with that statement, but I know there are a number of social connections I have let slide, especially since becoming a father.

It’s a very common story and one that is articulated perfectly and very personally in this article in the Boston Globe, written by journalist Billy Baker. After giving it some thought and consideration, Baker admits he has, for many years, concentrated on work and family.

He hasn’t felt lonely, but that’s because he is always busy or surrounded by family and work colleagues. When he takes the time to analyse how many of his long-term friends he genuinely keeps up with and sees regularly, it gets a bit painful. Crucially, he realises that his health may be at risk if he doesn’t pay more attention to his social connections.

I started doing the same prior to reading Baker’s article. I was inspired to do so following my involvement in a men’s mental health project run by the Movember Foundation.

My involvement in the project is only minor. Even so, I’ve had to read heaps of material about men’s mental health and how men often lack strong social connections. This is especially true after they become fathers and it can have a negative impact on their mental health.

Time and again I’ve read how men’s lives often take a particular path. They get so bogged down with work and family life that the one corner they cut is seeing friends. They stop socialising and ignore the social networks they built up at school, in higher education, work and sports or other clubs they may belong to. The result is loneliness by stealth and as busy family men, it can creep up on them without realising it.

When I thought about this, I realised was guilty of behaving this way. Without a full-time job I may not be in quite the same position as many men, but I noticed the pattern I have read about many a time, the same pattern that Baker highlighted.

I became a dad. At first I was a working dad that had to concentrate on work. I then became a stay at home dad at first of one but then two daughters and had to wangle my way into various networks primarly populated by mums, a task that isn’t always easy.

I noticed I stopped socialising as much. I can give examples. I have a couple of exceedingly good friends from home.

I used to see them pretty much every month. Two of us now have children.  Since the kids came along, we maybe see each other twice a year while my child-free friend and I see each other slightly more.

I also have a brother who lives in Central London, a very easy train journey away. We saw each other just before Christmas. That was the first time we’d seen each other in eight months (in my defence, he was in New Zealand for three of those months).

It isn’t all bad news. While I struggle to see some friends and family, other social connections are opening up. These may revolve around my daughter’s school or other groups I am involved with.

As I’ve learned more about the importance of social connections, I intend to treasure and nurture my established connections and the new ones I am making. I am also making a greater effort to keep in touch with old friends and reconnect with those I have unintentionally put on the backburner.

I won’t deny it though, it isn’t easy. I have two children with a demanding schedule of after school clubs and activities. I have a wife who works full-time and doesn’t get back home until the early evening.

Sure, I can and do go out and socialise, both with and without her. Even so, it takes enormous effort to arrange and it only takes a small problem with the public transport system and, puff, the evening’s plans go up in smoke.

Enough about me. What about you?

Do you recognise the pattern I have mentioned here, either in yourself or people you know? It is of course essential to acknowledge that social isolation is a massive issue for women and mums. It may happen for different reasons, but it’s an issue that affects both genders with painful results.

It’s a very personal thing, social isolation. Nonetheless, it’s something we should all be willing to discuss openly.


11 thoughts on “The importance of friends and good social connections”

  1. Hi, what a fascinating read. I think many of us are guilty at loosing touch with our friends as everyday life gets in the way. Yet it do important to stay in touch. You have just prompted to rebook a catch up with an old friend that I had to cancel #ThatFridayLinky

    1. It is so important to keep up with social connections. Some people are truly happy with their own company but I am not one of them. It is, as you point out ‘though, easy to let every day life get in the way. Thanks for commenting.

  2. Before I had children I didn’t really have any friends to be honest. I had my twin sister which is great as we talk every day and see one another pretty often, but I longed to have some mummy friends. I made a brave step (for me anyway!) and asked a new mum at a playgroup if she wanted a play date over my house. She accepted and we really hit it off, I then introduced her to another mum from a different play group and we’ve all been friends ever since! We meet up monthly for a night out or just a chat and a cuppa. Our children all play together too which is nice. There was definitely a point in my life that I felt lonely, but now I’m happy to say that phase has gone and won’t be making a come back anytime soon! Thanks for linking up to #ThatFridayLinky

    1. I hope you don’t experience that again. Friendships do ebb and flow but I think they have got to be nurtured. If not, you can loose very important connections.

  3. I’ve been lucky to keep a lot of my social connections. But that has a lot to do with my work. That’s where a lot of my connections exist. It’s important to always think about things like this. I’ve written a post to our son about the value of friends.

    Great post.

    1. Thanks Peter for stopping by. Work is a great way to maintain social connections. As men often stay in work, I think that’s why many women complain of having poor social connections. I will be checking out your post!

  4. It’s a difficult one I guess I lost contact with family and friends years ago as you know but I have a couple of close friends that I have known all my life fab read mate Thanks for linking to the #THAT FRIDAY LINKY come back next week please

    1. Yes, it is tricky and some guys are simply happy in their own company. Some, however, just don’t give the issue much thought and end up very lonely in later life. I know from my time working at Age Concern (a long time ago) that isolation among pensioner men is a huge problem. In many cases it’s because they always let their wives deal with the family’s social diary. When the wife dies, the guy is left on a limb without the skills to socialise.

  5. I read the original Globe article with interest. Before having kids, I had many friends, many hobbies such as golf and a billiards team that I was a part of. Little by little that all went away, and now I don;t do much of anything that doesn’t involve one or more family members. My wife has been going out a bit more lately and there have been several occasions when a gram would have the little and I had a free night to myself- with nobody to call. #thatfridaylinky

    1. It’s a typical story Jeremy and you are not alone. It’s vital to keep up with as many social connections as you can I think. It does get more difficult when you have a family ‘though (albeit in a beautiful way!).

  6. Great to hear this from a different perspective. It does happen and, as you rightly say, it’s not necessarily gender related. I think we lose touch with people for all manner of reasons, life stages, relationships and, of course, partners often tend to define how things go forward. I find that some friendships take a step back and then return at a different stage and others don’t always make it. I think we’ve all been in the position of taking that look around at one time or another. Equally, the friend groups that form as part of the kids can be those that stay. Who knows. Do we just make less friends as we get older? Nights in often more appealing after a day with kids? I could ramble on here but I’ll leave it there and say once again – what an interesting read.

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