This was never meant to be done alone.
The truth is...raising children was never meant to be something that you did by yourself. Raising children takes a village; we've all heard that age-old proverb. Here's the thing, it is a proverb because it has stood the test of time and still rings true after all these centuries. I am a firm believer that you should build this village intentionally. There is so much influence that your village can have on you and you want to make sure it is a positive one and one that aligns with your beliefs and approaches.
I chatted with Meghan Shults about what her village looks like. Meghan is the mom of one little girl and enjoys supporting other mothers in knowing they aren't alone in this journey. She wants to show the nitty gritty of being a parent and give others real expectations of motherhood. Her village includes her friend Brittany, "who simply gets me. It's as if she can read my mind" and her sister, Merissa, who "amazes me with her strength, patience, and her ability to know when I need flowers to make me happy."
The beautiful thing about motherhood is that even when you feel you are alone, you truly are not. Somewhere on this beautiful planet called Earth there is a woman, another mother, who feels as stressed, overwhelmed, and perhaps defeated as you and wants to be there for you. Before I became a mother, the concept of needing a village was foreign to me. I have always been enough for me. I never needed anyone to bring me dinner so I could have a break from cooking one night. I never needed 'happy' flowers delivered to my door. I never needed someone to be there for me when I was freaking out over the tiniest thing. But that's the thing about motherhood...it takes a village.
It's been said for a mother to successfully keep her sanity, she needs a village. You could do everything alone. The minute a woman becomes a mother, the natural domesticated, get shit done despite feeling like total crap power kicks in, but why would you want to walk on your motherhood journey alone? Isn't there something so satisfying and gratifying knowing that you can be there for someone in their times of weakness and despair? Isn't a breath of fresh air knowing that someone wants to help you clean house, cook dinner, or wash a load of clothes? A husband or boyfriend could never do things exactly how a mother would, but another fellow mother could. So...find a village. Embrace your village. Love your village. More importantly, invite other mothers to be apart of your village.
Critical Tips to Building Your Village
Accept that you don't have to do motherhood alone--Before I gave birth to my little girl, I thought that if I needed other women in my life for support that it automatically meant I was a bad mother. I was determined to be able to do it all and, frankly, know it all. Motherhood has a way of humbling a person though. I had been home from the hospital for 3 days when I called my mother and asked for her help. Naturally my mom responded to my plea by telling me she would be at my house in just a few short minutes. I didn't necessarily need my mother's help, but the minute she walked thru the door I immediately felt a sense of calm. I simply just needed to feel her support. You see that day I had it in my head that I was struggling with breastfeeding when in reality I was just paranoid and fearful of not being enough for my daughter. My mom couldn't help me produce more milk or help my daughter with a better latch. My mother was able to be there for me in a way that only another fellow mother would be able to.
Practice being vulnerable--The key trait to any lasting relationship is its degree of affection and true vulnerability. In my opinion, there is nothing more scarier in this world then showing my vulnerability for fear that I would be judged as weak or submissive. However, being vulnerable in relationships shows true courage by being yourself, emotionally exposing yourself, and accepting risk. With motherhood, we all experience feelings of guilt, failure, happiness and much more, but these feelings are common and natural. 4 hours after I gave birth to Emilia, my sister came to visit me in the hospital. I was desperate for a shower, but was still in so much pain and bleeding. I remember telling my sister how badly I wanted a shower, but I knew I would need help. My sister being the caring person that she is immediately offered to help me, but all I could think about was how swollen and gross I looked naked. My sister is a perfect size 0 even after giving birth to 4 children...a far cry from how I looked. Maybe I was just that desperate for a shower. Maybe I was just feeling that vulnerable, but I put my brave face on and let her help me. It wasn't easy allowing her to see me in such a fragile state, but it was so nice to know that deep down she was at one time feeling as vulnerable as I did in that moment.
Don't be afraid to ask and offer help--We are just ONE person. Say it out loud: I am just ONE person. It is impossible for one mother to do it all. No matter how perfect a mom can seem, deep down she needs help and that's ok. Whether you are a stay at home mom or a mother that has a 9 to 5 career, you will need help at some point or another. Whether you need help cleaning the house or picking up the kids from school, ask your village for help, but don't forget to offer help as well. It is an unspoken rule in all motherhood villages that all mothers are in it together. With any relationship, give what you receive and you will be plentiful.
Be selective, but remember that their is strength in numbers--Your village should consists of women who you trust, who you comfortable with, and with those who you can be vulnerable with. Protect your village. Keep it strong. However, be welcoming to other mothers because you both will need each other. I recently bonded with a mother who honestly I never saw myself bonding with. When I first met Marina, I immediately thought, "wow, this girl is gorgeous," but never thought we would share anything in common. She eventually married my husband's friend and became a mother. We bonded due to us both becoming mothers and I am so grateful for her friendship. Emilia is only 2 months older than her son and it is so nice to walk around Sams Club sharing common stories and advice to each other. Our friendship was unexpected, but also a breath of fresh air.
To Love and To Be Loved.
The village life is a two way street. You must be willing to support those in your village the same way they support you. It may look differently for everyone, but when your village members need you, you should try to be there. The power of the village only works if there is dedication and true love. However, if you surround yourself with intentional relationships and people who already love and support you unconditionally, then you'll never think twice about supporting them.
At the end of the day, lean on your village members when you are down, but when you are strong, offer a lending hand, a loving hug, and a gentle embrace. Sliding in at someone's lowest moments and giving them a breathe of fresh air, whatever that may look like for them in that moment. That's the power of the village.
A big thank you to Meghan for allowing me to take a peak into her life and her parenting and practicing the vulnerability that she talks about! You can also find her on Facebook or her website.
Tranquility by HeHe, A Maternity Concierge, Birthing and Doula Service in Boston, Massachusetts