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Embracing Community: Navigating the Journey of Motherhood Together

Motherhood is often dreamt of as a journey of joy and fulfillment, a path illuminated by the radiant glow of maternal love. Yet, beneath the surface lies a truth that many of us are hesitant to acknowledge: the journey of motherhood can be lonely and isolating at times. 

As modern mothers, many of us were raised in nuclear families with limited exposure to strong community ties. We've heard of 'community'. We understand the concept. And of course, if you've joined this community, you probably value this idea of 'community'.  But do we understand the reality of how community works?

Do we know how to be part of a community? The concept of building and nurturing a supportive community may feel unfamiliar and daunting. However, it is precisely in this unfamiliar terrain that we have the opportunity to forge connections that can sustain us through the highs and lows of motherhood.

A collective of mothers creates a support network that fosters resilience, reminding us that we're not alone in the sleepless nights and joyful milestones of raising little ones

The Challenge of Building Community

If you grew up in a nuclear family, it's possible that you may have never experienced the deep sense of communal belonging that characterized earlier generations. Our support networks were often limited to immediate family members, leaving us ill-prepared for the communal bonds that are essential for thriving in the journey of motherhood. As we navigate the modern landscape of parenthood, we find ourselves grappling with the challenge of creating communities from scratch, unsure of where to begin or how to cultivate meaningful connections.

Within a circle of mothers, wisdom flows freely, offering a diverse range of perspectives that enrich our parenting journey and empower us with knowledge.

I recently heard a mother in one of my groups say "We were never meant to be doing motherhood as an island" There is so much talk about self-care. And there is a place for that. But really, I think a lot of the time what we need is Community Care

And yet, once we have babies, this is what most of us face. We're suddenly launched into a stage of life that includes intense feelings in all directions, a steep learning curve, physical changes in our body form and function, and a complete change to the shape of our lives and relationships.

 And it's not just one momentary change to adapt to. It changes over and over again. Daily, weekly, monthly, yearly. New stages of development, new sleep patterns, new feeding needs, new moods, new abilities, new challenges. And that's just our children.

There are also endless changes for ourselves. Our identities, Our emotional reactions, our worries or anxieties, our joys, our bodies, our intimate relationships, our family dynamics, our past influences, our sensitivities, our triumphs, our careers, our dreams, our expectations. 

Phew. How can anyone be expected to manage all that?

And yet we do manage. Annnnnd also, sometimes we don't.

We cope somedays, and other days not so much. Amongst all this, through my years of work in this area, I find myself asking these questions over and over again.

Q - How do we parent well, in a way that builds strong resilient children and a strong resilient society? To continue to learn and grow ourselves as parents, so we create better patterns of child-raising than we may have experienced ourselves. 

Q - How do we make it easier for parents? To not just leave them quite isolated, with this huge effortful job of raising the next generation, whilst also sometimes having to re-parent themselves.

Q - How do we make mothering and parenting more enjoyable? Relationships aren't fun all the time. Life isn't fun all the time. It doesn't have to be. But ideally, overall, it should contain AT LEAST as much joy as difficulty. And preferably much more.

And I guess, from my experience and understanding and observation, one of the big answers to these 3 questions, is Community.

Embracing the Unfamiliar: Leaning into Community Support

Of course the difficulty with community, is that when you suddenly need it, we often don't have all the time and mental resources to suddenly try and build one!

And even when there is a community ready built for you (Hello Baby Village !!), it can take some getting used to HOW to be in a community.

Together, we create a village that shares the load of child-rearing, turning the demanding job of parenting into a collaborative and fulfilling endeavor.

There are sometimes obvious, sometimes subtle differences in the way we think, act and behave when we are to truly be in a community. It is a learning in and of itself. The more you practice it, the easier and more automatic it becomes. and like all things, some of us find it easier than others.

While the task of building community may feel daunting, it is not insurmountable. By embracing the unfamiliar and leaning into the support structures that surround us, we can begin to cultivate the sense of belonging and connection that is vital for our well-being as mothers and parents.

Here are some ways we can lean into our communities to foster meaningful connections:

1. Ask for and Receive Help:

One of the cornerstones of community support is the willingness to ask for and receive help when needed. Whether it's asking for an item in the Buy Sell group, or reaching out to the WhatsApp groups for suggestions on an issue you're struggling with, or listening and responding with compassion in the 'check-in' within a class or WhatsApp conversation. Allowing ourselves to not only offer assistance but to ask for it, accepting a degree of human vulnerability, and letting others assist us is essential for building strong community bonds.

2. Be Authentic:

Authenticity is key to fostering genuine connections within a community. By being honest about our struggles and vulnerabilities, we create space for others to do the same. Sharing our experiences, both the triumphs and the challenges, allows us to connect on a deeper level and build empathy and understanding. Motherhood can feel performative sometimes. Let your mask slip a little.  Be extroverted. Be introverted. Be Joyful. Be sad. It can be a relief to just be yourself and be accepted in that. 

3. Chat About Light and Casual Things:

While deep conversations are important for building intimacy, so too are light and casual interactions. Whether it's chatting about the weather or sharing funny anecdotes about our children, these moments of lightheartedness help to foster a sense of camaraderie and belonging within the community. Relationships are built on multiple layers of interaction. We need both light and deep to build meaningful bonds.

4. Share Deeper Emotions and Experiences:

In addition to casual conversations, it's important to create opportunities for more meaningful exchanges. Opening up and sharing our fears, insecurities, and triumphs allows us to connect on a deeper level and build trust and mutual support within the community. It also helps to normalise the range of emotions that we all experience.

5. Help Create the Culture

Within a community we co-create a culture. A set of unspoken guidelines for behaviour and expectation. I try and set this culture in various ways, but culture is a dynamic process and it is reinforced or changed with every interaction, or lack thereof. Every time someone offers, receives, is authentic, chats lightly, and shares deeply they are modeling for everyone else what this community is.

Lean in. Co-create. You know the whole ' No I in Team' saying? That.

You are the community. You don't have to do every bit of it, just your little bit. 

While the task of being in a community may feel unfamiliar or even daunting for some, it is also an opportunity for growth and connection. By embracing the support structures that surround us and leaning into the unfamiliar terrain of communal belonging, we can create communities that nourish and sustain us on the journey of motherhood.

Together, we can navigate the challenges, celebrate the victories, and find solace and strength in the bonds of motherhood.

The bonds forged in a community of mothers create a foundation of friendship and understanding, enriching our lives and those of our children with a sense of belonging

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