We feel lonely because raising a child was never meant to be a solo journey of one or two parents with a child. It was meant to be aunts, grandmothers, cousins, sisters and beyond, all taking turns doing the nurturing, supporting and raising children together. Paying people to be your village of nannies, chefs, night nurses, doulas is easy if you’re extremely rich. Plus, it would allow for easy access to personal time with friends if you’ve got the paid-for village.
Step 2: Reach Out. Maybe this is sending a text, a DM or even inviting a fellow mom to join you for a coffee. If you’re on the shyer side, maybe sparking conversation around a shared experience at school or sending a parenting article to discuss could be a nice icebreaker on the path to greater connection.
The Resource Authority: This person is a human encyclopedia of kid clothes, toys, medicine, parenting approaches, doctors, schools — you name it. They’re the person who read all the books and reviews aka, have done the work for you! Make sure to say hello to her and do small favors for her wealth of knowledge.
The Mentor If Grandmothers and Great Aunts were meant to be a part of the communal aspect of parenting, finding a been-there-done-that parent with children older than yours is an invaluable fill-in. They are the holders of institutional parenting knowledge and because they have done this before, can give you insights from a hindsight perspective.
Step 3: Do Small Favors: This sounds like a tough one, especially during COVID, since we are all stretched to the limits. But! Imagine how special or appreciative you might feel if a new friend offered to watch your kids play in the park for an hour while you ran errands or, took a nap!? I think of this kind of community building as the “cup of sugar” approach. If you need something (a break), and I have it (a little extra time), why wouldn’t I share it some?
The proliferation of social media and mom-fluencers can add another painful pressure to the isolation, causing many of us to “compare and despair” the reality we see in our own lives to those on our screens. Too many perspectives and not enough vetted sources of truth can have our minds racing. Is breast best? Is formula ok? Why does breastfeeding look so easy for her? What’s a waist trainer? I want to get my pre-baby body back. Should I want to get my pre-baby body back? Body positive! How do I baby proof? When do I babyproof? What about screens? Will wooden toys make my kids smarter? Being a modern mother is hard enough without the proverbial peanut gallery weighing in.
Now that you’ve said hello, followed through and supported your own growing community — -let’s talk about some strategic folks who are especially valuable to have in the community.
I continued to work out at home when the gyms reopened because now, the schedule has changed again, and writing for Medium has taken up a huge chunk of my morning. I save a lot of time commuting to and from the gym, which I turn into additional hours of writing instead.
Step 1: Say Hello! Whether you’re an introvert or extrovert, finding a way to wave, say Hi, Howdy, What’s up can lead to good things. Even Oprah had a whole magical campaign about it years ago and has been scientifically proven to lighten the load of loneliness.
Tapping into your community as a parent can happen successfully onIine and offline. In person relationships are vital yet, trickier these days (because, ya know, COVID) And, while the Internet can activate FOMO, real, fulfilling friendships can absolutely form online. Maybe they’re in your local Facebook Group, NextDoor or on Peanut or, maybe you keep seeing these moms in your neighborhood park, at school drop off or, looking as frazzled as you in the background of your children’s Zoom class.
Hopefully, I won’t sound like too much of a community PollyAnna but, I have seen and experienced first-hand how participating in community can fill the chasm between loneliness and belonging.
How could we not feel lonely when our own government can’t prioritize meaningful legislation or programs that honor and support the labor of care-giving. Parental leave is not required in the US! Almost 2 million women have dropped out of the workforce since COVID hit and nothing has been done to address the dearth of support for these women.
Step 4: Work Together Without government infrastructure to support parents, I believe we have to work together in ways big and small to fill in the gaps for each other. AOC created an even more thoughtful and structured way to create a COVID-friendly childcare collective where you bank time with your neighbors and friends.
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