Everyone can agree, the task to raise a child is much bigger than one person can handle. A human being requires continuous nourishment...physically, intellectually, emotionally, socially, mentally. It truly takes a village to accomplish that. But many moms would say that when that village is needed, it can be difficult to locate. Our culture and society today is much more dislocated and disconnected than in previous eras. Many factors play into this dynamic, but it sure has added weight onto the shoulders of today's parents.
Motherhood can feel like an isolating stage of life. However, we have compiled a list of 7 ideas on how you can seek and build your own village, creating community and connection for you and your child.
As a mom, it can be challenging to have an actual conversation with someone with children around. Online communities can be a great way to find support and connection based around your schedule and availability. If you have a specific problem or interest, there is likely a Facebook group already in existence for it. If not, you can create one. There are also helpful Instagram communities available such as Our Mama Village that provide parenting support, education, and encouragement.
Go Where People Gather
Though online communities are an incredible tool, don't forget to meet the instinctive need of face-to-face connection. Making friends can be overwhelming. It can even feel like dating all over again. However, a natural way to get to know people is through institutions that naturally gather people together. Examples of these include: churches, schools, and extracurricular activities. Research where people gather in your area that likely share similar interests and values as you.
Keep in mind that the process takes both time and reciprocation.
YMCA/Gym With Childcare
It didn't take me too long into my own motherhood experience, to recognize that I needed help. I felt the weight of living over 1,000 miles away from any family while trying to learn the ropes of motherhood and how to care for my boys.
A friend of mine, who has several children, would regularly go to the YMCA. She spoke about what a positive aspect it was for her and her children's lives. After my second son was born, I decided I needed to give it a try. So off we went and signed up for a membership. The child watch staff willingly cared for my children while I was able to get some much needed exercise in. This helped our family create a routine. My boys were able to get needed socializing into their day. And I was able to have a little break to strengthen myself both physically and mentally.
I recently listened to the book Hunt, Gather, Parent by Dr. Michaeleen Doucleff. In the book, the author discusses the history and need for parental support and community when it comes to raising a child. I was curious about what her suggestions would be for our western culture to find such support. One idea seemed very doable, and that is to enlist a mother's helper. She suggested finding a mature pre-teen girl in your neighborhood to come and help with the day-to-day tasks of motherhood (while you are also at home). This structure allows for an extra set of helping hands for you, and great experience for the mother's helper as she prepares to become a babysitter.
If paying someone to help with your children is not in your current budget, try connecting with friends/neighbors to see if they would be interested in doing a babysitting swap. This gives your children an opportunity to mingle with their friends, while also having the positive influence of other trusted adults in their lives. It also gives you the chance to have an influence on children outside your own family, helping them to feel that they too are part of a community.
Focused FaceTime Calls With Family
Familial support can oftentimes be an automatic part of your built in village. But if you live away from family, the distance can be challenging. Remember to utilize FaceTime/video calls with family (or friends). You can also prep your relative before a call with topics that you would like them to talk about with your child. i.e. If you want your child to be read to, but you are too exhausted at the end of each day...ask a grandparent to help out! If you are in the thick of potty training, and your child could use some extra encouragement...ask a relative to talk to your child about it and cheer him/her on. Having extended family members show interest in your child, whether in person or via technology, will be a great benefit to them throughout his/her life.
If you are expecting a baby, and feel that you might lack birth and postpartum support, consider hiring a doula. A doula is trained to provide mothers with physical and emotional support during pregnancy, childbirth, and recovery. It is imperative that you rest during your recovery, and a postpartum doula can help make that possible by assisting with light housework as well as infant care.
Starting motherhood off on the right foot, with the support you need, can create a positive impact in your experience as a mom. To find a doula, ask moms in your area for recommendations. You can also check out https://doulamatch.net.
What additional suggestions do you have for moms looking for their village/community? Let us know in the comments below.
About the author:
Michelle White is a wife and mother to four energetic boys. She founded Rest Dress: A lounge dress company dedicated to improving the motherhood experience.