If It Takes a Village…Build a Village!
I am a mother of a mere 1.75 children at this point in life. But I do believe that’s enough for me to share my belief in the saying “it takes a village”. This, of course, can have meaning in a variety of different aspects of mothering, but the one I want to focus on is the idea that we are not meant to do this alone.
Like many people, my husband and I live away from family. We are transplants to the glorious Bay Area in California and our family (luckily) is only a few hundred miles away in Portland, Oregon. That distance is easy to scale for holidays and a generous grandparent visit schedule. But for the day-to-day we are sans familia. The best (and I repeat BEST) thing I ever did for myself, for my son and for our family as a whole was to join a mom’s group.
There are a number of mom’s groups out there: new moms, working moms, single moms, Christian moms – you name it, you can find it. I joined a new mom’s group that happened to be affiliated with the hospital where I delivered my son. We met once a week in-person until our children “aged out” at 7 months and, luckily, women from any hospital, birth center or at-home birth experience were welcome. Our in-person time was, of course, immeasurable in the comfort and connection it provided. But we also did this great thing of creating a closed Facebook group so we could squawk at each other for help in the middle of the night, hash through any- and everything pertaining to our little ones, and stay in touch after our kids aged out.
Let me be the first to say it is HARD to put yourself out there in any way during the early phase of motherhood. It’s likely you have never felt so tired, unbalanced, hormonal, drab and (sometimes) insane in your entire life. The beauty of finding a mom’s group that is a good fit for you is — EVERYONE IS FEELING THIS WAY! As women we can be so judgmental and petty in our friendships from our teenage years right on through middle age. But I’ve found that connecting during this incredibly vulnerable time can be one of the most genuinely bonding experiences between female friends. You rise up from the humble time of newborn-mothering on a daily basis together. You find your footing as mothers together. And you lean on each other, support one another and, yes it’s true, root for each other!
My son is now 2.5 years old and I have been blessed by a group of women that is all of these things and more. It took some time to find each other (more on the intimidation and perils of “mommy dating” later!), but now that we have I can absolutely see what our mothers have been talking about when they say you meet some of your best friends through having children. These women haven’t replaced my best friends, but I have no doubt some will be in the mix when, later in life, I will have to dig through the cobwebs of my memory to look back and try to track when and how I met my dearest friends.
For now, in a tiny spec of time, these women have provided me a sense of concrete friendship and support, their children are my son’s best friends, and our families are building relationships all the time. My son is surrounded by friends who are raised in a mindful way, he is genuinely cared for by this rather large and local extended family, and his life is enriched because these people make his mommy a better mom to him (not only through support but through wisdom and differing perspectives and by being people who usually choose the harder-but-more-rewarding path in this parenthood adventure).
So to anyone feeling even a tiny bit alone on your path, I encourage you with all of my heart to put yourself out there and allow yourself, your kids and your family to connect with the amazing people around you. And to those of you who are lucky to have this community already, don’t forget to tell the Michelle’s, Natalie’s, Ariel’s, Liz’s, Stacy’s, Melissa’s, Rachael’s, Jill’s, Amanda’s, Kristi’s and Monica’s of the world how much you appreciate them. (yep, that was a shameless dedication to my beloved new-mom friends)