In mainstream, modern Western culture, we parents of young kids often practice silo parenting, “My home, my kids, my stress; your home, your kids, your stress.” Some say that this mindset is actually The Missing Ingredient in American Attachment Parenting; other cultures live in multi-generational families or in the context of tribes or villages where so much doesn’t fall on each individual family. Daily life is shared together more easily.
So, how do we begin to combat this silo lifestyle? By finding a different sort of tribe–a group of people united by blood (family), or time (old friends), or proximity (neighbors), or common interests (church, groups, classes, work , etc.) Here are three spheres where I have found community during this stage of raising young kids:
Becoming a parent has a steep learning curve. Not only is there this new little person in your life, but while she’s constantly changing, you are going through your own growth spurt of learning, adapting, surviving on two-hours-at-a-time sleep, etc. In this, education, support, friendship, and getting out of the house are all helpful. Here are four groups that support empathetic parenting and welcome even the tiniest new baby (and often older siblings, too). These groups will naturally provide some topics to center conversation around. It may take a few tries to find your tribe, but keep at it. The worst that will happen is that you’ll lose two hours of your life, right?
- Babywearing International or other babywearing groups: Learn about carrier options and how to wear your baby safely, then stay for play time and adult conversation. In babywearing cultures, toting a baby around while you go on with life–so you can keep your sanity and regain your hands– is common knowledge. In the US, we can learn through educational groups that become our tribe.
- Le Leche League (LLL): Breastfeeding is great, but hard when we come at it with only web and book knowledge (if even that). I don’t know about you, but I had only seen one or two people breastfeeding up-close before I had kids. Being around other moms and highly trained mom-leaders was more helpful than 5 out of the 7 lactation consultants I met with when my oldest was born. (Yes, really–I saw SEVEN. One of the good two LCs was a former LLL leader.)
- Holistic Moms Network This group combines natural living and natural parenting with local community both online and in-person. When I have a green-living question that I can’t answer on my own, these are the people who expand my horizons even more. Plus we have a lot of fun learning together, playing together, doing bulk buys of food, and more.
- Attachment Parenting International Support Groups Because of my work schedule, I can rarely go to my local meetings. But, they are a breath of fresh air when you are looking for support on attentive nighttime parenting, positive discipline, or other attachment parenting principles.
- If none of these ideas are up your alley, fear not! there is something else out there for you. Meetup.com lists loads of other events and groups that might suit you better.
The Community At Home
If you are parenting with a partner, what better community is there than making that relationship as healthy as possible? Having a baby changes the dynamic of even the most secure relationship. Just like our cars need tune-ups to stay in good working order, so do our relationships. Relationships with extended family are also important. If you can keep (or make) healthy communication there, do it. Extend grace, assume that people have good intentions, and set healthy boundaries. Books can be a good place to start (like this and this), but marriage or communication classes, a few counseling sessions, or asking a couple or friend you admire to mentor you can add accountability to this growing process.
Giving Back to the Community
You have gifts, talents, and capabilities to share with the world, and volunteering is a great way to put those things to use, meet others, and connect in the midst of a big group. Where are you already connected that you could dig in deeper to get to know people? If an older child is in school or your neighborhood has an association, volunteering there is a place to connect. Volunteering in a community of faith does the same thing; it groups you with a smaller core of people who you now have a common language with. Or go independent: invite a friend over and make sandwiches for the homeless or freezer meals for neighbors. Additionally, the first four organizations I listed above are all places you can volunteer with a child in tow. Your local groups’ needs may vary, but mine offer roles like greeter, snack-baker, online data enterer, and leader. No matter if you are employed or are at home, no matter your budget, volunteering is a way to find (and contribute to) community.
Once you’ve founded the beginnings of your tribe, it’s time to do life together! Catch up beyond group meeting, Facebook posts, and text messages. Ask questions about the good and tough things in their lives. Offer help, and–just as importantly–ask for help. Remember how good it feels when you can save the day for someone else? We rob others of that opportunity for joy when we don’t ask for help.
There are many days I feel trapped in my silo by culture or my schedule or tiredness, but that’s when it’s important to still reach out. Because maybe if we all were doing life together more, those individual needs wouldn’t get so extreme. Let’s bust those silo walls down. Sure, it might get a little untidy, but won’t it be easier to sort it out if we’re not going it alone?
Elements of this article were originally published on MoreGreenforLessGreen.com.