Belfast Telegraph

Home Life Weekend

The coffee with a pal that reminded me how important it is to make time for friends

GOOD TO TALK: sometimes a chat with a friend can help your mood
GOOD TO TALK: sometimes a chat with a friend can help your mood

By Kerry McLean

Sometimes I'm not a very good friend. I let work, or homelife, or just pure laziness get in the way of meeting up with my mates. This week, when a friend called, asking if we could have a coffee and a catch up, I was tempted to say no. We're still adjusting to the back-to-school, hectic pace of life in our house and all I really wanted to do was climb into my jammies and cuddle up with my offspring.

But I gave myself a shake and forced myself out of the house to prove that I could be a reliable pal. Plus, as someone who never knowingly turns down an opportunity to guzzle down caffeine and cream buns, the temptation of both at the coffee shop quickened my decision.

I'm so glad I went. It was only when we had been chatting for a while that my lovely friend worked up the courage to tell me that she was feeling a bit depressed of late. I can't start to tell you how surprised I was to hear that this lady was anything other than completely content with her lot because, out of all my pals, she seems to be the one who has everything sorted.

She's a naturally beautiful woman, has two happy, healthy children, a lovely husband who adores the ground she walks on, and vice versa. I've always joked that she must be part-cat as she always lands on her feet and yet here was my lovely friend welling up. It seemed like once the floodgates were open, they couldn't be closed, no bad thing when it comes to sharing your problems, and for the next two hours I force fed her traybakes as she got it all off her chest.

As is so often the case when the blues beat down upon your head, there wasn't one big worry but instead many little ones that had been slowly creeping up. Her eldest child has just started her final year of school and, should everything go to plan, this time next year will be off across the sea and studying in Scotland. Her sibling has three more years to go but is already very vocal about her wish to get out and explore the world.

My friend is extremely proud of her independent girls but is dreading them being so far away. She wonders if her daughter will be happy and safe in a new city? Will she move back to live and work here after her studies? And, of course, what will life be like when it's just her and her hubby rattling around the house on their own? These and a hundred thousand little midge-like questions have been buzzing around her head and biting into her happiness.

She also has a big birthday ending in a zero coming up and thoughts of getting older have been preoccupying her mind. We discussed where all these emotions were coming from, how normal they are for all mums hitting a certain age and stage in life and we came to the decision that how she's feeling is the female version of a mid-life crisis.

We all know that some men, when they approach a big birthday, go through a massive change in behaviour. I've known more than a few formerly sensible souls to suddenly find themselves swapping their estate car for a sporty motorbike or, in the worst cases, a loving wife for a wee young thing.

These actions make a mid-life crisis easy to spot and of course for some women it can be just as visual, but we decided that many more women go through this time of fear and change without any obvious, outward signs.

That's why we need our circle of friends around us. That's why we have to fight the urge to be lazy or distracted and be there for each other.

I asked my friend if I could write about the lesser spotted female mid-life meltdown this week and she agreed, saying that thinking of how she's feeling right now as just a stage lots of men and women go through, weirdly helps.

The only proviso was that in writing this, I have to fork out for the buns for the next few weeks. Pass me my purse...

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