I’m doing laundry today and as I sort and fold, I can’t stop my thoughts from going to an anonymous post I saw on a community moms page earlier this week. It went something like . . .
“How are you ladies doing it? Really? I can’t keep up on the laundry, let alone everything else in the house. I’m working, but money is still tight and I’m a mess constantly pulled between home and work needs. My husband and I are struggling in our marriage. I am often counted on as a caregiver/helper to my parents, which I’m happy to do but leaves me even more pulled. I feel like I’m failing in every area, but mostly it hurts that I might be failing my kids. So, how are you all doing it?”
Right away I related so deeply to this woman because I have felt that way too. Alone and overwhelmed in this thing we call motherhood. No village.
Her words triggered a memory. I remembered a day when my twins were babies, my husband was still a graduate student, we lived away from any family support, and every single resource was short. My daughter had infant reflux that significantly impacted her sleep, and between the extra wake-ups to care for her and the regular newborn wake-ups of her brother, I was not sleeping—at all.
My husband was an amazing dad right from the start, but he was totally overwhelmed too as he worked on his degree and provided income simultaneously. One day, I collected a giant armload of laundry, intending to throw it down the basement stairs where my washing machine lived. But in a total sleep-deprived blur, I opened the door to my backyard and threw that pile of clothes right down my back steps and into the grass. I remember tears falling while I picked up the mess, and I remember hearing my babies cry for me while I did it. I was giving all of me, and it still didn’t feel like enough.
So when I read this woman’s post, I viscerally felt her. And this is what I want to share with her, and the many other women who feel just like her. From what I can tell, when it comes to raising our children, there are three kinds of villages.
One is made up of engaged and involved family and established “there for each other” solid friendships that live nearby. The second is the kind of village support resources that are paid—babysitters, house cleaners, lawn service, meal delivery, handyman/woman for house projects, etc. And three, the village we create.
Numbers one and two types of villages are wonderful, but the truth is many—for many—reasons, do not have access to either or both of those supports.
But number three . . . we get to build that village. Yes, it takes time. Yes, it’s hard to fit in “village building” time when already struggling. Yes, it might feel uncomfortable. Yes, it takes effort and even more work when you’re already functioning so underwater. But it’s worth it. I will say it’s what got me through. So mamas, please hear me, if you don’t have a village, be the architect of your own.
Hop online and find a mother’s group in your area. I remember the one I was part of even rallied together to pick up women who did not have a car and drive them to and from the gatherings.
Go to free children-themed community events like library story times, which let’s be honest are often meant more for the parents to connect than the sometimes even sleeping or fussy babies.
Put out an open invite on your local mom’s page for a park meet-up. And then push yourself to actually show up and chat (even if it means saying no to other things on your list).
If you are a person of faith, consider joining a church or temple community.
If you have an immediate need for yourself or child, hop back on that community mom’s page and speak it. I have been floored in the best most beautiful way by the outpouring of support I have witnessed from women who are strangers to one another offering kindness when someone bravely puts out their need or situation on the mom’s group page in my community.
Be the first to invite someone to the next playdate or coffee meetup. (It’s tough and vulnerable to build friendships, but over time these friendships turn into your support network.)
Join the YMCA (or similar) if you’re able, and use the childcare center even if it’s simply to head to the locker room and take a warm shower and have some time to put yourself together while someone keeps your baby safe. This was me. I did this. I joined primarily so someone would watch my twins while I took a shower. But eventually, it turned into also walking the track and getting my body some healthy movement. And it turned into a place where I would see friends and neighbors, lifting me up in the way that connection does. Bring your husband or partner and have a whole conversation without paying a sitter.
And do this, look in the mirror and remind yourself you are doing hard things and doing them with so much heart. You are a critical component of this village you are building, encourage yourself. Take a deep breath and soak in the words, “I love these children of mine, and I’m doing my best. That is enough, even on our toughest days.”
If you don’t have an established village, I’m so sorry. I remember. I know how crushingly hard it feels to desperately need that village while at the same time trying to find time and energy to build that missing circle of support and community.
But also, I want to be that nudge, that encouragement, that whisper from one mama folding laundry to another, that there is a village out there available to us that we get to design, to be our own architect of, and to grow.
The answer to that question How are you ladies doing it? we do it better together. Little by little mama, build yourself a village.