This week an incredibly kind gesture by two amazing women has had me thinking about community. I’m not necessarily referring to the people you happen to live near, although they could certainly be included. I’ve been pondering the idea of a community that one creates- the circle of people that we choose to surround ourselves with and that we choose to be part of.
I believe that community is important to moms. I was eighteen years old when I had my first child and I felt the absence of “community” in a very real and painful way. My friends were all in a very different place in life than I was and I quickly realized that I was losing those relationships. I spent three or four years lacking the basic support system that I think all of us need to be successful and happy in our parenting and in life in general. I felt isolated and lonely and had a strong desire to “make friends”.
At preschool drop off, I was the youngest mom by nearly a decade and I felt out of place nearly constantly. It seems like a silly notion, being afraid of making friends as an adult. I looked for community and friendship in the obvious places; the church nursery, my children’s school, places where other moms were. Slowly I realized that there was more to finding friends than looking for moms of children the same age as mine.
I began piecing together my community with an open mind and the understanding that someone doesn’t have to be like me to be a great friend or even an acquaintance who offers support, encouragement and understanding. I have looked to non-traditional avenues that many people would probably discount. My husband works in a profession that takes him away from home and offers a unique set of challenges. I found an online group of women who are married to men in the same field and they’ve become a big part of my sense of community. I’ve never met them in person, I’ve only rarely spoken to them on the phone, and the majority of our conversations take place over a computer screen; but they are a big part of my support system. I have also sought out women with similar ideals, values, or hobbies. Older women, younger women, women with totally different lifestyles can all contribute something to our sense of community and belonging.
My husband once asked me why I didn’t try to befriend so and so that we met at a school function and as I spoke, I realized the truth in my words: “more goes into making a good friendship than having kids the same age. Sometimes it’s that simple, but it usually isn’t. If we have nothing else in common, we’re just wasting each others’ time.” I knew then that I needed to change my approach. By letting go of my preconceived notions of what friendship and community were supposed to be I’ve been able to think outside the box and find my personal version of “community”. Community, friendships and support are vital to mothers. If you don’t have these vital connections, begin seeking them out with an open mind and an open heart. Think outside the box and build your own community.