Tips on Building Your Mommy Village
“It takes a village to raise a child.”
This African proverb is often mentioned in the framework of parenting and gleans from the wisdom of cultures where collectivism is the norm (over individualism). In these cultures, expecting or new mothers are often surrounded by extended family (and others in their community) who take an active role in helping her. They provide generational experience and a safe environment as the mother adjusts to her transition into motherhood and beyond.
For most of us who live in the Unites States, we know this certainly is not the norm in our culture and especially when many of us live far from extended family. When we couple this with military spouse deployments, it’s not hard to see how easy it is for new mothers to feel alone and quickly overwhelmed.
Moms can feel disconnected.
Whether you are a brand new mom or a mother of toddlers, this stage of our lives is one where it can be very hard to connect with others socially. It can seem like a huge feat just to get out of the house some days. We feel disconnected, don’t know where to turn to for advice and just feel like we don’t have anyone to relate to. Some of us are also coming from a place of raising children with special needs, suffering with postpartum depression or raising a child on your own.
The value of a mommy village.
Much like the proverb of “It takes a village to raise a child,” I often times tell moms that “it takes a village to raise a mom.” Finding other moms to connect with, relate to and develop a mutual support system has been coined as “building your mommy village.” That said, I realize this concept can sound a bit strange or even intimidating to many. Some mothers don’t even know where to start, while others may be pushed out of their comfort zone in what feels like awkwardly “dating around” to find mommy friends that are a good match. Maybe you even tried already and feel like it didn’t pan out as you hoped it would. While I acknowledge all of that, the benefits can still outweigh the challenges. The advantages of having a mommy village extend beyond the social activities and sharing of mommy memes. The emotional support can have a direct impact on lessening the stress that mothers experience and this can also lead to other mental health benefits.
Tips to get started in building your mommy village:
1) Put yourself out there in a position to meet other moms. Find out where they are at and just go there.
A few examples where you can typically find other mothers are: Facebook mommy groups, local library story times, Chick-fil-A kids play areas, and outdoor playgrounds. Online is a really easy place to start. If you are planning to breastfeed or exclusively pump, one of the largest Fayetteville-based mother to mother support groups on Facebook is Breastfeeding Social of Fayetteville. This group, comprised of around 950 mothers, is an online community where mothers come for advice, to vent on the trials of parenting and to organize in-person play groups. Many of the mothers who have connected within this group have gone on to establish great friendships over the years and have chosen to remain in the group as legacy members.
2) Initiate when needed and “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”
Sometimes you’ll be invited to a meet up and sometimes you may need to be the one to ask others to join you. Until you meet other moms who are willing and able (schedule-wise) to connect, sometimes you need to be persistent. You may experience that it can take a few attempts to find another mom that you “click” with. Don’t lose heart if it takes a little while, your effort will be rewarded over time.
3) Be real with the mom struggles.
Every mom struggles at times with their transition into motherhood and each new baby stage can bring new challenges. In this vulnerable time of our lives where time is a valuable commodity, be real with other moms. Drop the Instagram filters and let others in on what’s really going on. Talk about the stuff that is bothering you. Rejoice with others at the fact that you finally got an extra nap in after a restless night. Crack open a bottle of wine to de-stress with a fellow mom and open up your souls to one another. We all crave real connection. Keep it real and you’ll find those moms who can become your soul sisters over time.
4) Don’t have high expectations of others or yourself.
Be open-minded and give other moms a chance, especially if it seems that you may not have a lot in common. Many of the mommies in my village have age differences of over 10 years, polar opposite personalities, different political/religious preferences, and from very different sociocultural backgrounds. You may just be surprised with whom ends up in your mommy village.
Once your mommy village starts coming together, don’t feel guilty if you can’t make every meet up or if you feel you can’t handle a lot of relationship building all at once. We have enough on our plates as mothers and we don’t need the extra pressure. Plug in where and when you can. There’s a time to give to others and there’s certainly a time to get help when you need it most.
When to get more help...
I would be remiss if I did not mention that mommy villages, and the support you get from them, are excellent resources but they are not always equipped to help with all aspects of the postpartum period. Sometimes you need someone by your side providing you the professional postpartum support that you need – especially within the first months of having a new baby. This is where a postpartum doula can be an excellent resource for you and your family during that time you need it most.