Sep 262011

The other day at the park I overheard two moms talking about another mom they both knew. They were talking about that mother’s decision to try the “cry-it-out method” to help her child sleep: “She’s crazy.” “I would never do that to my baby.” “It just seems too awful.” Even though the mother-on-trial wasn’t there, I felt a pang of empathy for her. Her friends’ judgments were anything but supportive. I imagined a mother at the end of her rope, exhausted from lack of sleep, maybe at odds with her partner due to the nighttime stress. She probably feels pretty alone and frazzled and scared she is making the wrong decision. She has probably fretted and worried and changed her mind about how to parent her little one and finally committed to a certain method. A method that at least two of her friends disagree with.

I wondered where that left her. Where does that leave any of us?

As parents we enter into a world that no one can really prepare us for. Even though millions have forged the road ahead of us, we still feel as if we are inventing the wheel, each step can feel new and awkward, scary and difficult. We constantly question ourselves. Are we doing it right? Are we messing everything up? We are our own worst critic. We judge ourselves constantly.

And who do we turn to for solace, refuge, support? Our friends. Other moms who share our common experience. Others who are where we are or who have been where we are now. Women. Mothers. Sisters. Friends. They should be our closest allies. We should be able to wrap ourselves in the warmth of our commonality and feel comforted knowing we are not alone. We should be able to tell our “sisters” all of our worries, all the things we fear we are doing wrong, all the things we judge ourselves so harshly for.

But, we don’t. Why? We fear judgment from them.

And, sadly, I wonder if our fears are often justified.

I know it’s an amazingly blatant generalization, but I have to say it anyway. Women seem to be almost as judgmental of other women as we are of ourselves. Maybe it makes us feel better, more competent in our own parenting to be able to judge others. Maybe it’s just habit. Maybe our judgments are really just reflections of our own worries.

Whatever it is, one thing is for sure. It keeps lots of us from really giving or receiving the support we need from our “sisters.” And during this amazing stage of life called mothering, we may need our sisters more than ever.

So what can we do about it? How can we change our Mama Circles from being a Jury of Our Peers to a Sisterhood of Support? I propose that a few new truths can make all the difference:

1)      There is no “Right Way” to parent. Parenting strategies have to work for the child, the parent and the family. If they don’t, the strategy just won’t be effective. We have to be true to our own dynamics first rather than blindly following a theory or advice.

2)      All kids are different, all parents are different, all families are different.

3)      Parents are the only ones who can be an expert on their family.

4)      As parents, we all have things we will do “right” and things we will do “wrong.” In that way, all sisters are equal.

5)      Parenting is like a Monet painting. It’s the accumulation of a million decision points parents make over the years that create the painting. One individual dot probably won’t make or break us. We agonize over the dots instead of working toward the bigger picture. Sisters can help bring us back to the bigger picture rather than adding critique to the dot.

6)      And maybe the most universal and important truth. If you’re a mother, no matter what pain, fear, anxiety or regret is being expressed by your “sister,” you have probably been there. If not, then you will be soon. Listen with empathy.

As women, let’s ban together. Let’s commit to loving each other, supporting each other and helping each other thrive as mothers. Let’s adopt the mantra “I’m with ya, Sister!” and really mean it. Let’s let go of the judgments and give each other what we really want in return: Pure, unadulterated support with no strings attached from the only people who can really understand how we feel. Our sisters.

Aug 232011

“It takes a village.” A war cry for decreasing juvenile delinquency and improving educational success. The saying has become almost cliché amidst the myriad talk show topics and political references. But what does it really mean? How can “the village” really improve the lives of struggling youth and how can it impact the average family?

To us “the village” is really an intentional community. It used to be that individuals and families gathered together in close proximity to share the responsibilities of daily life. From child care to collective meals to protection from predators, people found support and relied on each other to get their basic needs met. Today in our society, families live farther and farther from their loved ones. They can get their basic needs met through one trip to the local “Super Store” and spend a majority of their time in isolation. It seems that our reliance on others has shifted and that depending on others is not only inconvenient, it is frowned upon. A sign of weakness.

But what we gain in independence, we lose in connection. And while some of us are fortunate enough to be a part of a great network of friends or religious groups or parent groups, we often find that people are reluctant to ask these groups for help when it counts. While we will show up for playgroups or nights out on the town, we hold back from asking our networks to help with childcare when we are in a bind, or to help make a meal when we just can’t get it on the table. For these things, our individual families “tough it out” and “find a way to manage”. While we may be successful at managing, we may also be missing out on an amazing opportunity to be a part of a bigger community.

Intentional community building means that groups of families design ways for the collective group to help meet the needs of all the individuals. In doing this, existing groups go from “good” to “great”. From “friends” to “family”. From “managing” to “thriving.” How does this happen? The possibilities are endless. With our facilitation we will help existing groups to build out ideas, establish methods, and create the framework for things like babysitting co-ops, pot-luck dinners or rotating meal sharing systems, garden or house project teams, and more.

Parenting suddenly multiplies time and financial demands in ways that no one expects. Maybe families were not meant to negotiate these challenges in isolation. Supporting each other in more meaningful ways can elicit positive impact on our core basic needs; like sleep, nutrition and social connection. It can give us amazing opportunity to experience our connection to each other in a more profound way. It can help us to be better friends, better people and maybe most importantly, better parents.  Not to mention, some values are best taught through community: Shared responsibility, giving and receiving, unity.

If you have an existing group that would like to come together for intentional conversation contact us. Our professional facilitation will provide a process for full participation in building consensus on a clear vision and action plan. Let’s move toward making the village more than just a cliché.

 Posted by at 1:58 pm