When I got pregnant with Asher, almost two years ago, it was a complete surprise and at the time it was not a joyful surprise. It was shocking and scary and dug up a TON of my inner fears. I’ll share the details of our story someday soon, but the important part to know is that we struggled for months (like so many months) to embrace and celebrate the fact that we were having a baby. It was a hard season for us.
BUT. During those months, we did have moments of complete elation and dare I say even deep healing.
When we broke the news to a couple that we love and respect, the husband welled up with tears of joy, hugged us tight and said with true sincerity, “You guys are going to make amazing parents. I’m SO happy for you.” Over time, his words repeated in my mind and I started to believe him. When I broke the news to a friend, she, too, was thrilled and became deeply invested in me and baby. Now, she is a cherished friend and an integral part of our support system.
These are two of many stories we have where our community became lights in our seemingly dark tunnel during my pregnancy.
Fast forward many months later and we finally had our beautiful baby boy in arms. He was perfect. The birth was wonderful and we were fully and completely in love. The fears and worries had slowly melted away, and instead, this overwhelmingly adorable child, our son Asher, had captivated our hearts and there was no going back. But, not everything was sunshine and roses. After the labor and delivery is when the real work began: the late nights, the early mornings, the postpartum recovery, the cooking, the cleaning, the pumping – oh! the pumping, the crazy hormones, the napping schedule (what napping schedule?!), the fears of SIDS, too much spit-up, not enough poopy diapers, and the list goes on! The list of daily responsibilities exploded in ways previously unimaginable and it became clear it was too much for even us, the high capacity, follow your dreams duo, to handle alone.
But you know what? Becoming a mother, despite all the challenges, became one of the most joyful things I’ve ever experienced. And our community helped pave the way for this to be my reality. How? They helped lift some of the burden of the hard stuff so we could enjoy the good stuff.
It’s one thing to take a moment and share a heart-felt encouragement with someone, which DOES go a looooong way. But it’s a whole other ball game to show up and share the load; to bring a home cooked meal (or several!), to fold laundry, do dishes, run errands, watch the baby and not expect anything in exchange. And this is exactly what our community did for us. Our friends and family showed up and did the work. And even now, almost 12 months later, we are still getting help in various ways.
My friends have grace as I continue to work through how to mom and still be a good friend. In our weekly young adult hangouts people help out with Asher (and making sure he doesn’t eat cords or junk off the floor). This has been our community for 4 years and the impact of their care on all three of our lives is immeasurable. We are surrounded by amazing people that love us well and whole-heartedly support our new role as parents in both words and actions. And for this, I am eternally grateful.
It’s often said that we are the sum of the 5 people we spend the most time around. This principle holds true for the community we surround ourselves with as well. As new parents, we are learning and absorbing every chance we get how to do this things called parenting and our community’s perspective, values and approaches toward parenting (no matter how subtle or loud) plays a big role in how we are shaped as parents. This is in part why, even in our many struggles, Paul and I continued to have an exceptionally positive parenting experience. Our community’s mindsets and attitudes about parenting were positive and supportive. However, this is not always the case for people. Often a parent can be struggling and their community is unsupportive (or perhaps nonexistent) so the person sinks deeper into more challenges – emotional, financial, relational or others. Not fun. And not what I want for you.
So, at this point you are probably thinking one of three things. You may be thinking…
“Wow! That’s so amazing! Yes I have a great community too and I’m so grateful!”
To you I say, “Yay! I celebrate that we both have this amazing gift of community!” And my advice to you is, “Keep unashamedly asking for help and allowing people to be in your mess! It’s good for you and for them 🙂 Helping one another and being transparent brings people closer together. And of course, use your manners and always say a sincere thank you ;)”
Or maybe you are thinking…
“Community! Gosh, I wish! I’m all alone. I … [just moved, don’t like to leave my house, am socially awkward, etc…]”
To you I say, “I’m sincerely sorry you are or feel alone. It’s a crappy and stressful feeling. But the good news is that if you don’t want to be, you don’t have to be. It will take some effort, but there’s a way out.” To you my advice is, “Don’t wait. Don’t put it off until XYZ happens to get started. The truth is it takes time to build a good community and you need to start now. You can do something as simple as connect with a parent on the playground, or heck! even a Facebook group for parents in your area, then ask about getting together. Or, you can go big and join a place of worship or parent meet-up group. They key is to take a step. And then another step.”
Or maybe you find yourself in this last group thinking …
“Well that’s great for you but my community is not super supportive of my new parenting role. I like my friends but they just don’t get it.”
To you I say, “This is honestly a tough place to be in so I understand the struggles you may feel. You have well formed relationships that you enjoy but some may need some reshaping if you want a healthy and supportive community.” To you my advice is, “Try first having conversations with those that are closest to you about what your new needs are and how they can help. It can be hard to understand people that are in a different season, so some people may not be able to get past that and that’s okay. It just means it’s time for you to shift focus to new, life-giving relationships and redefine how you spend time with the old ones. And you never know, some people totally come around after some time and space.”
Your goal is to have a peaceful, healthy and joyful family and you owe it to yourself and your family to find enjoyment in this new role and responsibility of parenting. Community plays a big role in helping you experience this reality. As new parents you have many new needs that you have never had before. These needs matter and community helps to meet those needs. You can’t carry this load alone. You will hear me say this often, “it takes a village to raise not only children, but parents too.”
So I know you’re busy, tired and trying to keep up. Me too! But do yourself and your family a favor and take time to consider who you surround yourself with and simple ways you can improve. Your community can be global or local, just get connected!
Let’s continue pursuing a Joyful Parenting Journey!
PS – If you are a new mom (or mom-to-be) and are looking for community, I have an amazing opportunity for you to easily connect right in with other moms in your season. I’m hosting a weekly new mom’s group (0-4mo) and blossoming mom’s group (5-12mo) Starting Sept 4th, 2017. CLICK HERE to get the details.