I am not sure you can be on social media these days, as a women, and miss the fact that we, as a culture are craving something. Call it community, call it a village, call it a tribe, we all want to be part of SOMETHING. Our hearts ache and long for the connectedness that seemed to come so naturally to the generations before us. Sort of.
It seems that no more than a week or two can go by without a blog post popping up on my Facebook wall about the loss of “the village”. For awhile these really resonated with me. As a young mom raising three kids I often feel lonely and isolated and long for the tight knit community my parents had when I was growing up.
Then, a few weeks ago, I read a post that just rubbed me the wrong way. I don't mean to bash other writers online, and I am sure the author is an amazing woman, mother, and writer. However, this particular piece just didn't sit well with me. While she was presenting a very real issue, the tone of the article came across as whiny, abdicating any personal responsibility, and a touch hypocritical and like a sale pitch for her writing mentoring program. (Don't even get me started on paid “mentoring”.)
After reading the article I went on to read the comments and was flooded with a sense of irritation quickly followed by shame.
Woman after woman responded that yes they felt EXCACTLY the same way. Clearly the writer had touched a nerve and given these women a voice. (Well done! That's exactly what every writer hopes to do!)
What I loved was that, every so often, another mom would offer a spark of hope. She would post a link to MOPS and share her story or invite local moms to a play group. And time after these women were shot down. I started to roll my eyes and mentally rail against the women when I was hit the gut with the realization that I had made almost every one of these excuses myself.
This is the truth...
We all SAY we want community but we have forgotten the price. It is so easy to blame the lack of community on society, long work days, the rise of social media, capitalism, or even the industrial revolution. But, for the first time in a long while, I am taking a long hard look at myself and my role in building, or destroying, community.
So here it is...
3 Ways I have Killed My Village
Being a new mom is terrifying. Especially if you are a perfectionist. I so terribly want to do it RIGHT. I want to be a strong super mom who had everything under control.
Being part of a tribe means asking for help. It means admitting I am not perfect. It's acknowledging that NONE of us are super mom, including me.Being part of community means recognizing there are as many parenting methods as there are children. Here is the thing, because I want so desperately to do things RIGHT, it can be really hard to be around people who are doing things differently. I either a) start questioning MY parenting practices or b) start questioning THEIR parenting practices.
My husband and I have read this one particular marriage book over and over.In it the author talks about how men and women are different. Everything we do from the way we think, to the way we talk, to the way we deal with conflict is different.
“Not wrong, just different.”
It's not a bad mantra when it comes to parenting difference. Unless their choices are putting a child in danger, than the difference between me and another mom aren't WRONG they are just DIFFERENT.
(I honestly cannot think of a single difference I have had with another parent where the child was in real, immediate danger.)
Being part of a village also means admitting that my kids can get by with out me.And that can hurt a bit. It means admitting that my kids need more than I can give them. It means admitting that I am not the center of the world and that other people can love them and care for them. It means admitting my kids really will be OK if I leave them with a trusted friend for a little while.
Which brings up another way I had killed community in my life...
I never thought of myself as a control freak until I had kids. I think it was, in some ways, inevitable. I was 22, I had been married for just over a year, and out of college for 18 months. And then, in a moment, I was responsible for the entire well being of another person. The only way I knew how to cope was by trying to control EVERYTHING. And here is the thing, living in community means surrendering some of that control. When I ask for help with my kids I may lose some control over my child's routine/diet/entrainment etc. And that is OK. Really. I promise.
Real community means trusting that the people around me and my children LOVE us and want GOOD THINGS for us. I have three daughters and I would say that 46 Friday nights out of the year, they spend the night with my in-laws.
Yes, I know I am incredibly lucky!
I realize a lot of parents would die to have ONE date night a YEAR much less one almost every week! But here is the thing, in allowing our kids to spend that much time away from us, we had to give up some control.
We have talked with his parents and set up guidelines and rules about how much junk food and no scary movies. Really that's as much for them because they have no desire to be up all night with upset stomachs and nightmares. But let's be honest, the kids stay up way later at Grandma and Papas. They get treats there they would never get at our house (partly because our grocery budget doesn't allow for a ton of extras.) And all of that is OK. Letting go of control wasn't easy, but the benefits have been so worth it. My kids are happier, healthier, and more secure knowing that there is a group of people around them who love them and would take care of them if anything ever happened to Mom and Daddy. And I sleep better at night knowing my kids will be taken care of, not matter what.
Control is an illusion any ways. And when I am too suborn to let go of my PERCIEVED control the vast majority of community feels like a major.....
My dad has this phrase that I have fallen in love with. I am honestly not sure he has ever used it outside of the letters he has written to his children on their wedding days, but I adore it and it has become an often repeated phrase in our house.
“We chose to clutter our life with people not things.”
Relationships are no different. They cause us to trip and stumble and crop up at the most inconvenient times. My husband works 12 hours days and Saturdays. Most of the activities that build community take place in the evenings or Saturdays. Times when I am alone with three kids. On top of that all of our local family and many friends live twenty minutes away (my fault, I chose the house in a different county).
I will be honest, driving 15-20 minutes on a school night, with three kids, by myself, is super inconvenient. So, more often than not, I just don't do it. I skip church outings, play dates, play groups, cook outs, birthday parties, coffee with friends, and time with family because I don't want to be inconvenienced. I will think about, and then dismiss, taking a meal to a friend because I don't feel like taking an extra trip to the grocery store. I will see a friend post on Facebook that they need childcare and brush it aside, because adding more kids on top of my three feels too hard. I hear someone is looking to borrow something I could lend, but I don't feel like driving out to meet them.
It is easy to yearn for the days when kids could roam the neighborhood freely and know that there would always be a mom or a grandparent watching out the front window keeping an eye on things. But the truth is having my own kids in out the of the house thirty times in one afternoon already feels like a strain, and I'm not always inclined to have the neighbor girl join them.
So there you have it...
TV may have killed the radio star...but I killed my own village.
In preparation for this post I posed this question on both my personal facebook page and a local Facebook Mom's group with over 3,000 members...
Ok Facebook World, I have a question...
I've seen a growing trend amongst my generation.
We all* seem to feel like we are lacking a community/village/tribe.
So here is the question, what is keeping you from finding that?
*It was pointed out to me that the word "all" wasn't accurate.
Which is very true, there are quite a few of my generation who have found community
(myself included at times).
So rather I will ask this.
If you are part of the growing number of people lacking community...
What is keeping you from finding it?
I got a lot of interesting responses. Women talked about distance from family, personality types (extrovert/introvert), social media, difference in parenting styles, difference in religion, busyness, the judgment of others, one mom commented simply “people.” All of those are honest, real, and valid reasons. And I respect those women for sharing.
But here is the thing, I can't change most of those things.
One man answered... his response was one word.
He later expounded...
And this quote came to mind as well,
“Hospitality is more about an open life than it is about an open home.
The home is the mechanism that lets us share our life with others.'
It's my responsibility to make sure that my preference do not hinder relationships,
It's also based on the other person in the relationship putting for similar efforts as well.
So, when I neglect to do the things that make my dwelling/life pleasant enough for the opportunities to build community, I can actually be the problem.=
And my heart breathed... “yes.”
I can't fix everything. I can't wave a magic wand and create a village.
But I can let go of my pride and my need for control, and make room for the inconvenience of community. And then, maybe then, I can start to resurrect my village.