Covid – Lockdown – Full time jobs or even part time jobs – Busy schedules……..All good reasons why parents find it hard to make connections these days. And we all know that parenting connections are really important – for our own well-being and mental health.
IT TAKES A VILLAGE
You hear the quote “it takes a village” floating around a lot. Apparently it comes from an African proverb of “It takes a village to raise a child” and has to do with the tribal cultures. It came into popularity by Hilary Clinton (whether you like her or not is not the point – she is the one who used it and made it popular, even among academics) even though no one really knows where it originally came from.
I agree in part with it as I think that it is so very helpful to have people around you that you trust and love who can help you as you parent. I wouldn’t just trust anyone around me. There are a handful of people that my girls know are to be treated with the same respect, or if not more, than Mummy and Papa, and their consequences for behaviors and actions must be upheld! But these people also have similar ideas around parenting, so I know I am not confusing my girls with vastly different parenting styles. I value these parenting connections.
PARENTING CAN BE ISOLATING
It can be so hard to make parenting connections though. Parenting can feel isolating, especially in the beginning. I honestly was not ready for the isolation I felt. And I am an introvert to the extreme when it comes to recharging! I think it can be easy to think that we are the only one who travels this path. Even though I had been trying for years to have children, when it finally happened it was a big change – I wasn’t working anymore. I had twins. It was the middle of winter. It seemed like everyone was busy and getting out was hard. I also found it hard because most of my peer group had older children and here I was, almost 40 with brand new babies. I always felt like the old one out. But it was when I started deliberately connecting with other parents that I started to see just how vital parent connections were – not only to me, but to my parenting. It’s powerful. It’s helpful.
HOW CAN WE CONNECT?
If you are lucky then you live in an area that has community groups or activities at a local library, etc. These can be great places to get to know other parents when your children are little. As they grow you have things like preschool or school. Other class parents are a great connection source.
But life is changing. More and more children are traveling to school via bus or car, and there is not as much mingling out by the front gate waiting for your children to come out. We need to be more proactive it seems in meeting other moms and dads and making connections.
I know I love the conversations I have with other moms at my daughters’ ballet class. My girls are also not shy and introduce themselves to people wherever they go. I have met a number of new families who live in our neighborhood at our neighborhood pool – mostly because my girls just start going up and talking to them (and start to tell embarrassing things about me. Ha. They have no secrets and neither do I apparently!)
GET OUT OF THE HOUSE!
It can be as easy as that. It can be as hard as that. But it is one way to meet people. In the wise words of Winnie-the-Pooh… “You can’t stay in your corner of the Forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes.”
I am part of a co-op. We are like minded mothers who have children around the same ages. You could call it a mom’s group or a play group. We don’t. Co-op works well for us as “co-operative” means that we do life together. We are able to speak into each other’s lives and into each other’s parenting. It is so helpful.
We are a mix of ages for sure. I jokingly laugh that I could have been the babysitter for a few of my friends but age . But these are the ladies, with a handful of others, who make me feel this……“You’re braver than you believe, stronger than you seem and smarter than you think.” —Christopher Robin
It is true that finding new parent friends can feel like dating. You are starting out trying to be on your best behavior. Striking up that first conversation can be tough. As much as people don’t believe it, I am an introvert and I hate making the first move. The thought of putting myself out there to meet someone can put me in a cold sweat. (Put me on a stage in front of 300 children or a group of adults who want to hear what I have to say is something very different. But one-on-one with a stranger? I would rather run and hide.) I am very thankful my girls know no strangers. Sheesh. They did not get that from me! I know that I need to put myself out there, and the times that I have done so has helped me no end emotionally, and helped to end the feelings of isolation.
I fear rejection and worry that people won’t like me. Now, I totally understand that lives are busy, sometimes feeling overwhelming, and that there are many reasons why someone might not want to pursue a friendship with me. But that doesn’t stop me from overthinking. Or doesn’t stop me from writing my own dating profile in my mind.
My parenting dating profile
I feel like my parent dating personality profile would read something like this…..
Hi, I’m Michayla. I am an older twin mom. I am sleep deprived. While I would love my children to eat everything healthy, I do let them have too much sugar at times. But they breastfed until they were almost 2.5 so we’re good. I homeschool, specifically unschooling, believe in raising strong girls, and say bad words far too often – especially when tired (which is all the time). My girls are bilingual, trinational, wannabee nudists. They especially love honey garlic shrimp….. and Orange Chicken from Panda Express. If you become my friend I can promise to send you inappropriate memes late in the evening, particularly if I think you need a laugh. I make a mean Nutella Eierlikor and will gladly eat far too much ice cream with you. Do you need help with education for your children? I’m your girl. Please be my friend. Please.
WE CANNOT BE AN ISLAND
I do know this without a doubt. Connecting with other parents, other people really, is important. We cannot be an island. Australia is an island. So is Madagascar. We cannot be. We need other parents in our lives to balance us. To be there for us, just as we can be there for them.
Need some other ideas? I have not read all of these books, but sometimes it is great to have a list of recommended parenting books in one place. Here is a good list.