It takes a village to raise a child – or at least, that's what they say.
I say, it takes a village to raise a mother.
A baby doesn't need a whole lot, at least in the beginning. Milk, diapers, a blanket or two, and the loving arms and songs of their parents. That's pretty much what they need to thrive and have a sweet little life.
But us moms? Without the right support system, we can spend those early parenting years feeling like we're hanging on for dear life, always avoiding any little crack in our shell or we could split open.
Sleep deprivation, c-section shaming, clogged ducts, isolation, postpartum depression, intrusive thoughts, unsolicited advice and celebrity mom bodies are all things we begin to worry about when our lives have been transformed by our new little family member. Our partners go back to work, our college buddies are in different stages of life, and we may not have family who live close by. Who's going to be there for us?
Friends, find your parenting “village” sooner rather than later and don't let isolation and loneliness be a part of your story. Your village should believe in the power of moms supporting moms. It should be there for you when you need a shoulder to cry on, a hot casserole, or you need to crowdsource the identity of a rash. Your village doesn't need to look like you, pray like you, or birth like you. It just needs to see that there is something beautiful in being there for each other, and that we're all doing our best through these hard things.
Why you should find your village early
If possible, don't wait until your baby is already here and you haven't eaten or slept or left the house in days to pop into a group wild-eyed and hunting for friend prospects. When you find your people early on, you can get to really know them and they can join you in the celebratory anticipation of meeting your baby. You can support them as needed with their little ones right now, and when yours is here they can support you in return.
If your baby is already here, don't worry! It's never too late to plug in to a supportive and friendly group of fellow parents to do life together.
How to find mom friends
While it would be nice if a ton of sweet-but-not-fake, helpful-but-not-overbearing, parent friends just fell into your lap one day, you might have to put forth a teeny bit of effort to find your village. Here are some suggestions on how to find a group of like-minded parents to plug into:
If you have an older child, volunteer at their school
Search for “mom group in ____(your city)” on Facebook and join
Attend La Leche League meetings
Exchange numbers with the other parents in your prenatal classes
Attend a place of worship which attracts young families
Attend a book club, study, etc. with moms your age
Join a Mommy Connections class in your local area
Join a mommy & me yoga class, fitness class, or storytime
How to be a great villager yourself
All take and no give can quickly sour a relationship. While there are seasons of work and seasons of rest in every parent's life, here are some ideas for rallying your village, keeping conversations going, and doing your part to support the other parents in your life.
Get a group text or chat going so you can check in on each other and cheer each other on throughout your week.
Organize occasional meetups for face to face interaction, whether a playdate, coffee, book club, walking or gym date, or some other activity.
Trade with each other to make life easier. Trade babysitting, house cleaning, and even meal planning and/or cooking.
Your village doesn't have to be big. It doesn't have to be perfect. It can even be cobbled together from several different places. The important thing is that you are cultivating symbiotic relationships with other humans in the same stage of life, to learn from each other, grow together, and give each other a leg up out of those in-the-trenches days.