What’s my best advice for a new mom? I’ve been […]
What’s my best advice for a new mom? I’ve been asked this question a number of times, and I’ve given all kinds of answers: “Buy the Mama Hook, and don’t look back,” “Be pro-active dating your husband,” and “Laugh about the dirty diapers your new roommate keeps creating.” My babe is 6 months today, and as I sit and truly contemplate the question, a more honest and helpful answer comes to mind: Find a tribe, and build a community.
Parenting is tricky because there truly isn’t a one-size-fits all solution to making your baby a world-class sleeper with a smile that won’t quit. We all want nappers with a tendency to remain calm, but the route to happy and restful babies looks different for each of us. Maxwell, for example, will only sleep in a noisy room, but his friend Felix wails at the smallest of sounds. I know a tot named Cedar that doesn’t like large groups of people, and a little love named Gwen that gets energy from interacting with strangers. We can read and read (and read and read) to find solutions for our babe’s unique personality, or we can learn motherhood tips and trips by connecting with other mamas.
I’m a stay-at-home mom, and that information tends to scare people a little (errr lots and lots). The words “stay at home” come from my mouth, and I’m pretty sure visions of a lonely woman wandering her house and looking forward to getting the mail runs through people’s heads. Perhaps they wonder if I watch “General Hospital” like a religion and count the minutes until my husband comes home for dinner? I cannot tell you how many times I’ve been asked what I do all day.
Most of my time truly is spent inside the home, but I don’t watch soap operas or check the mail like clockwork. I spend most of my time playing with my son, keeping house (cooking and cleaning), and doing creative projects (when Max naps). Moreover, I try to spend a little time each day visiting with other mamas and their babes.
The interacting bit is key to creating a tribe, or, as the Amma Birth Center puts it, ‘growing a village’ of mothers going through a similar-stage of life. I meet newly-minted mamas for lunch, play-dates and walks around the lake. Together, we check out new boutiques and read to our babes at the library. The community is good for us, yes, but it also provides stimulating interaction for our little ones. A win for babe and a win for mom.
So the littles play and the mamas chat, laugh and lend each other diapers. And you know what happens through all that conversation? Learning. My mental secretary also goes to work when mamas share tips on babywearing, making puree, and talking to the husband about splitting laundry duty.
So where do I find community with other mamas? Parenting centers, storytime at the library, family education courses, BYOB yoga (bring-your-own-baby), Junior League, and the church nursery. I’ve met incredible moms at each of these places, and bonds form quickly when you’ve got a little baby to connect over.
Aside from connecting with other moms, the aforementioned list also provides a number of places where I can go with Max to get outside the house and socialize a bit. If you’re seeking community from inside your home, however (perhaps it’s a snow-day or the babe is sick), there are numerous online groups for new moms that will offer support, girl-talk and guidance.
For example … a good friend recently asked me for breastfeeding advice. I never struggled with that particular issue, but I suggested she join a Facebook group called Breastfeed, Chicago! to chat with other women (2,681 mamas to be exact) sharing tips and tricks on the topic. I’m in a number of Facebook groups for Minneapolis moms, and I’ve gotten quality advice on everything from finding a trustworthy pediatrician to choosing a good school district.
The poet John Donne famously said, “No man is an island,” and his words are central to my mothering philosophy: If no man is an island, then no mother is meant to go-it alone. Mothers are meant to serve each other with our unique strengths and personal experience. In turn, to accept that same help and advice from others. The easiest way to give and receive parenting help? Find a tribe, and build a community.