In my Attached at the Heart class this week, we talked about how 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.” 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. My friend Bethany, who lives in Zambia and blogs at Bush Baby Colvin, explains this better than I ever could in her post about The Missing Ingredient in American Attachment Parenting.
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 seven ways that I have found common-interest community during this stage of raising young kids:
- Babywearing International
Learn about carrier options and how to wear your baby safely. Then stay for play time, conversation, and lunch outings. In babywearing cultures, schlepping a baby around while you go on with outside 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.
There also are non-BWI babywearing groups
- Le Leche League
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 V was born. (Yes, really–I saw SEVEN. One of the good two LCs was a former LLL leader.) We actually learn muscle memory from watching others!
Northern Virginia area
- 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 these 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. (P.S. If you are looking for education and support on this in a weekly format, check out my Attached at the Heart Parenting class.)
- Dynamic Marriage
If you are married, what better community is there than making that relationship as healthy as possible? Dynamic Marriage is an extremely thorough yet very affordable marriage class. It is a Bible-based curriculum, but a couple with different preferences could adapt it in their discussions at home. The parenting section is not attachment parenting-oriented and gender-role portrayal is different than the reality of my highly egalitarian marriage, but it was no big deal for Dave and I to just personalize our responses to our family’s style and theological views. The class is more concerned with the couple themselves agreeing on viewpoints than agreeing with the curriculum. Also, we met several other couples who we had things in common with.
So, maybe none of those groups 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. (This is how I discovered Babywearing International.)
Where are you already connected that you could dig in deeper to get to know people? Volunteering is a great way to meet others find a core of friends in the midst of a big group of strangers. The first four organizations I listed are all places you can volunteer with a child in tow. If your child is in school or your neighborhood has an association, volunteering with them is another 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 cookies for neighbors.
Once you’ve founded the beginnings of your tribe, it’s time to do life together! Catch up beyond 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?