By Jessica Braidwood
There is something I hear far too often. A quiet, frustrated cacophony of the mothers and fathers I see going about their days with their children.
Holding too much stuff and too many hands. Spending too much time just getting from Point A to Point B. Eager for conversation at the playground with other parents, wanting to share their stories of life in the trenches with kids.
We were not meant to do this alone. There is truth in saying it takes a village to raise a child.
Our kids need the village. We need the village.
We’ve taken a very drastic wrong turn and family life has suffered immensely. It’s no simple feat, but to be successful in these trenches I’ve come to believe we must try to create the village we both so need and desire.
So, my first piece of advice is to:
Put Yourself Out There.
This was and continues to be a tough one for me. I am an introvert by nature. I am happy to go to various activities and events that are family focused but to really connect with someone does not come easily. But I’ve had to just keep going and keep trying.
For our family, we made the (life changing) decision to move cities. A fairly big part of this decision stemmed from wanting to find ‘our people’. Our people didn’t really live around us in our previous town. My daughter was already nearly 5 when we left and I had yet to really connect with a single other parent who lived in my immediate vicinity.
So, we moved. We chose a city that we knew fit our lifestyle and our values and beyond that we were careful about the neighbourhood we picked. We really didn’t want to always HAVE to go places but at the same time wanted close access those places when we did want to venture out. We really wanted a neighbourhood, a true neighbourhood of people and kids and COMMUNITY.
And we were lucky. We found it.
Our neighbourhood hosts a weekly family dinner. It’s put on by our (very active) neighbourhood association. They ask for a $2 donation per person, if you can afford it. The food is cooked fresh and everyone is welcome. It’s hosted in the community hall and it’s a bustling, crazy room full of families: parents eating and talking, and kids too busy playing to eat very much. It’s kind of awesome.
Our community association hosts multiple events a year, the biggest of which is a two day festival in our neighbourhood square. This amazing blend of music and artisans and family events. Everything is free, the entire neighbourhood is encouraged to come out and participate and everyone does.
Maybe you could start a dinner in your neighbourhood? You could start small. Invite a few people on your street. Make it a potluck. Make it something regular. Let it grow over time. See what happens….
We also made the choice to share a home with my sister and her husband. This type of living situation would not work for everyone but for us, it’s been one of the best choices we’ve ever made. We aren’t just family but friends too. We each have our own separate living spaces in the house but we also have each other closer than ever. We share many meals together; we spend time together as a family nearly every day. And we will be here for each other whenever someone needs something.
If you have the opportunity and inclination to move closer to family in this way then I urge you to give it serious consideration. Yes, careers and personal life choices are always important but having people in your corner who love you and respect you and will always help you when you ask is something that makes me feel fulfilled deep down in the soulful sense of the word.
Sometimes creating your village in your neighbourhood is impossible and if this is the case then you could try to find your tribe in other ways.
When my daughter was about 8 months old I desperately needed to talk to other parents. I needed to hear stories about what they were doing about their babies not sleeping, ever. I needed to know if they were transitioning them from the family bed to their own rooms. Really I needed to hear that what I was doing was not damaging my child. So I did what you do in this day and age and I went online. I read blogs and eventually looked on Facebook until I found the group I was looking for. At that point I had not met another attachment/gentle parent in the wilds of real life but low and behold, I found thousands of them online!
See page 2 for more on how to find your tribe…