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sneaking out 380x289 When seeing your friends feels like cheating on your family

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UPDATED: This competition is now closed. Congrats to “Besties” and “amevilcupcake” for their winning comments

Recently, I heard of a woman telling her kids she was going to have a bath. She closed the door, pulled on a dress she’d hidden earlier that day, and climbed out the window. She was meeting her girlfriends for a drink. Her husband was supportive of her night out, but the kids would have pelted her with questions, and she just wasn’t up for them. Similarly, I have a friend who rings around to see who’s free for lunch whenever she has a doctor’s appointment. A catch-up on its own would feel self- indulgent.

More and more, a coffee, a yoga class or (heaven forbid) a grown-up drink with your bestie needs plotting, planning and pernission. Not necessarily from partners – it’s giving ourselves the OK that’s the tricky part. Because in the juggle of life, friendship is the one ball most often dropped. But luckily, it’s a bouncy one.

Rebecca Huntley is an author and academic. She holds a PhD in gender studies and is one of Australia’s most respected researchers. Today, she’s presenting the findings of the Make The Time Report, commissioned by Baileys to find out the biggest time pressures facing Australian women. I talked with her on Monday and asked if female friendship is endangered by our busy lives.

‘The strength of female friendships,’ said Rebecca, ‘Is also their downfall. Women have great faith in their friends. Friends understand that plans change, get cancelled or if there’s been no time to call. Friends are forgiving in a way no one else is. We make time for our kids, worry about letting down our partners, but we assume our friends will always be there.’

But is that true?

‘Mostly it is. You often hear women say they only see their best friend once or twice a year but when they do, it’s like they caught up yesterday. But at the same time, friendships have to be nurtured – mainly because they’re good for us. We know this, but because good friends are so understanding it’s easy to let things slip when life gets busy.’

Is there really not enough time?

Rebecca Huntley When seeing your friends feels like cheating on your family

Rebecca Huntley

‘The ‘no time’ excuse,’ says Rebecca, ‘Is interesting, because everyone uses it, irrespective of what’s going on in their lives. A woman with a full-time job and four kids will say she has no time to see her friends. So does a woman with one child and a part-time job. Stay at home mothers say the same thing and so do women with no kids. In our research, we asked women what they’d do if they were offered an extra day in the week – a spare day to do whatever they liked. You know what they said?’

‘Nice long lunch?’ I guessed, ‘Maybe book into a day spa? Dive under the doona with a stack of trashy mags?’

‘The overwhelming majority said they’d use an extra day catch up on housework,’ said Rebecca.

My reaction was, ‘Shut. Up.’ But I know it’s true. Keeping the household running smoothly occupies many women’s minds, most of the time.

‘Even if they’re doing something nice, like having a massage,’ says Rebecca, ‘Women are wondering what’s happening at home.’

That’s arguably the most depressing thing I’ve heard in ages, but it was mildly reassuring to know it’s not just me. As if sensing my despondency, Rebecca points out, ‘That’s why maintaining friendships is so important. In our research, we’re told constantly that one of the few times women really switch off is when they’re having a laugh with their friends. The engagement diffuses tension.’

Right. Got it. We need to see our friends more regularly. But if the guilt is so ingrained in us, how do we shake it off?

‘We make a leap,’ says Rebecca, ‘Make a commitment to nurturing our friendships in the same way we look after our health. Plan to see friends regularly – if you can combine it with another activity you enjoy, even better. Like exercising, or a book club.’

‘Or just getting together for a laugh,’ I say, hopefully.

‘Exactly.’

Tell us about your best friend and how time with her (or him) makes you feel. The two comments with the most thumbs up will win a 700ml bottle of Baileys Original Irish Cream or a 700ml bottle of Baileys With A Hint Of Coffee. Anyone can comment, but you must be over 18 to win. Competition closes at 5pm AEST on Wednesday 7 September 2011

To find out more about Making The Time, you can find the  Baileys Facebook Page here – you might want to “like it” to keep updated on what’s happening.

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