Motherhood support is not something that I was graced with in the early stages of parenting.
I entered motherhood as a terrified twenty-year-old, and my support network was limited to my mother. In many ways, at that time, I felt that there was an underlying strength in being my own sole source of support. An added bonus was that putting on an air of being strong masked just how desperately I was trying to hide my fears about being a new mother.
How wrong I was. Now, with three daughters, ages fourteen, eleven and nearly four, I look back on those solitary years without motherhood support and wonder how I held everything together without the real-life duct tape and glue that holds us all together: community.
Today, I could not imagine life without those women I hold near and dear available to talk me off my parenting crisis ledges at the drop of a text message. Women to lean on in times of overwhelm, challenge and trials, to help keep me sane on days where I feel madness creeping in, to laugh with, to share with, and to celebrate this crazy ride that is motherhood. And to give my kids rides to and from their various activities and commitments, of course.
Growing up, our family was not only close-knit, we were geographically close. My father’s five brothers, one sister, and parents lived within a five-mile stretch of each other. My mother’s parents, her two sisters and three brothers, with the exception of one, lived within a 20-mile radius. I was raised side-by-side with my cousins. My mother says it best,
We weren’t just brothers and sisters, by blood or marriage, we were best friends.
My experience has been a bit different. I have had to build my community.
Finding and fostering a community of support as a mom is not easy. Finding the right circle who can offer the non-judgmental, accepting, understanding, empathetic, authentic, caring, vulnerable and embracing motherhood support community we all need is a tall order. To become part of the fabric of a community, you must be willing to offer your own resources; to be a truly authentic member, you must be willing to extend yourself. You have to be willing to vulnerably connect on a meaningful level, a level that reveals that you don’t have it all together.
Isn’t that the number one fear, though, that we’ll be seen as somehow inferior to other women, other moms? Moms who are doing it all, prepping Pinterest-worthy parties and organic, handcrafted lunches, who breastfed until just the exact “right” age, who enroll their children in all of the acceptable activities.
Underneath all the shiny veneer we present, we all just want to be accepted, and we’re afraid of being seen as “less than.”
The irony here is that showing these vulnerable parts of ourselves, risking the fear of embarrassment, is where true friendship begins. And we all feel a little better when someone shares a similar story to an experience we have had. We are all flawed and messy. Bonding happens over unsorted laundry piles, fights with our spouses, commiserating about parenting, sharing the mistakes we make, the fears we have, and the challenges we face.
It’s not easy to find women who both give of their energy and who replenish you by their presence, nor is it easy to be one. We’re in a season of our lives where we must protect our time and energy, both being easily depleted resources. Motherhood, however, can be extremely lonely, and without others to share our experiences with, we are missing out on vital connections that can help us feel whole.
Our communities not only help us to navigate the stages of our children’s lives but encourage us to remember that we are women; we are women beyond the title of mom who enjoys good company. Perhaps you enjoy going out to dinner, partaking in a book club, attending concerts, or getting together to create art. Our friends help foster those passions and joys we may otherwise let grow stagnant. Our friends in motherhood grow and learn with us, and push us to be the best versions of ourselves that we can be. On the days where we can get out of our yoga pants, at least.
Community and motherhood support are about the tedious things that fill our days, like fighting with our kids over putting on socks, and the big things, like connection with our spouses.
Whether you are a part of a community already or are seeking one, the number one piece of advice that I can give to you is to remember to show up for those who are in your community with you. There will be times where you will be the shoulder they need, and there will be times that they will be the support that you need. Showing up for your community, and allowing them to do the same for you – no matter what form that is in – is the way to create real, authentic connections.
Recently, one of my closest friends taught me what showing up means; she took time out of her busy schedule, demanding career and own parenting trials and tribulations and attended funeral services for a family member of mine. Her sole intent was just to be present for me. That gesture, of lending a few hours simply in support and solidarity, taught me more about what being a friend is and how to build community than I believe I have ever learned from one person’s actions. It was certainly not something that I had ever considered doing myself, showing up in that way, but it is something that I have taken to heart and will remember throughout my life.
Our communities teach us. They bolster us, carry us, and we, in turn, learn how to do the same for them.
We all need community. No woman is an island, and it does indeed take a village. Several of them – to give and receive the motherhood support we all need.