Saturday, July 9, 2016

Let's build a village

This is the third summer that we've spent in Michigan, living with my in-laws on their country farm. And every summer, I come to the same conclusion: we need to start a commune.

It becomes very clear very quickly that this parenting gig is just a whole lot easier when there are other caring adults around to share the burden.

All we need is a big house and a big backyard. We can split responsibilities. We'll take turns cooking dinner, doing the laundry, washing the dishes, and cleaning the floors. We'll watch each other's kids so we can shower in peace and run to Target alone. The kids would always have friends to play with and the moms would never feel isolated or lonely. Someone would always be there to take care of your toddler while you're in labor at the hospital. We can cover for each other when we need a nap! THINK OF THE NAPS!

But we'll draw the line at husband sharing. No husband sharing.

And while this is tongue-in-cheek, I do think that the importance of the proverbial Village cannot be underestimated. We need each other so much in this stage of life. Especially in this day and age where most of us don't live near family, raising young children can be extremely isolating. If we don't have a village, we can fall into a comparison trap and think everyone else has it together while we don't. Our exhaustion and anxiety feels larger than life. There's no place to turn for a babysitter so we can focus on our marriage. It becomes easier to judge other parents. Without a village to turn to, it becomes more automatic to turn inward for help rather than reach out.

So maybe what we need is to create our own village - not a big house with walls and rooms, but a community of moms that are there to support each other. How can we do this?

1. Invest your time in developing relationships with other moms.

MOPS is certainly an easy way to do this. There are lots of opportunities to develop friendships between all of the meetings, playdates, and Moms Nights Out.

Another way is to be intentional in having friends over to play at your house, even when you don't have the time to make your place look as presentable as you would like it!

Don't be shy in getting someone's number and taking the first step!

2. Be willing to be honest and vulnerable.

It's just a lot easier to connect with someone when that someone doesn't appear to be perfect. When we admit we don't have it all together, it's easier to put our guard down. There's less pressure. We need to have the guts to answer truthfully when someone asks "How's it going?" A truer connection is made when I tell you that the only reason I'm not yelling at my kids this morning is because there are other people at the park, that my boys have been pushing my every last button and I'm just counting down the minutes until bedtime. It's the "me-too's" that draw us all closer together. We all have good days and bad days as parents, and sharing that common ground goes a long way in building true community.

3. Offer help, and learn to ask for help.

Part of having a village is the willingness to BE the village for someone else. Even if it's as simple as texting a friend while you're at Target: "Do you need anything at Target while I'm here?" Or offering to bring dinner over to friend who you know from your Facebook feed has two kids down with the whatever sickness is going around. Or offering to come over to your friend's house with your kids to entertain her toddler so she can nap with her newborn.

The flip side is being honest enough to reach out for help. It's often harder to be the one in need, to admit we could use some help. Reach out anyway! You'd be surprised at how many people would love to help you.

It takes a village, ladies. Let's build our own!

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