Build your village: The three components of a healthy "village" in motherhood
We've all heard the phrase "it takes a village". But as modern mums, we're expected to do everything ourselves - and when we're not, help can be hard to find. But even for those lucky ones who have help in the early days of motherhood, the support seems to drop off significantly after the first year. You may have noticed this yourself. Perhaps your mothers' group fell apart, your friends stopped popping by as much, or everyone you know went back to work.
In addition, one of the sad realities of being a mum in this day and age is that whilst we've never been more connected (through things like social media), we've actually never felt less connected at a human level. Mums need a village - and by village, we mean a community.
A community of people and services that align with your values, support you through the good and bad and help you find a sense of calm in your everyday life. Motherhood is tough. You can't do it alone - and you were never meant to. So you need to find ways to build your village, even if it looks a little different than you'd expected.
Create time and space for nurturing your relationship at home
Home is where the heart is. And if there's anyone you should be able to
count on, it's your partner. Before you had a child, your relationship with
your partner was a priority. You'd go on date nights, discuss your dreams,
talk about each other's days and support each other through everything.
For many couples, some of these links break down once they've had children.
There's barely enough time to do everything you need to let alone time to focus
on your relationship. You're both exhausted, feeling overwhelmed and probably
feeling a little alone.
Schedule some regular one on one time with your partner to just talk. Put your phones away. Turn the TV off. Have a coffee or a glass of wine, and just talk about how you're both feeling. Try and look at if from each other's perspectives, without judgment (this might feel hard because you feel like you're the one who needs to be heard the most. But just try). It doesn't have to be a fancy dinner or night out. It's just regular 'let's check in with each other' time. This simple task will improve your relationship and hopefully, with some great communication, put you both on the same page.
Building and nurturing your inner circle
The next step in community is your inner circle. These are the handful of people in your life that you keep in regular contact with, and can be completely honest with. If you don't have this yet, please don't beat yourself up. So many women find themselves in this position after having children. For some, it's because none of their friends have children, and they've suddenly found themselves living a completely different life that their friends can't relate to.
Or perhaps everyone moved suburbs, cities or countries, and you're suddenly disconnected from the friends you once had. If you've found yourself in this position, you can still create a new inner circle for yourself - it just might take a little time. A few ideas on building or expanding your inner circle:
- Head to some local mothers groups
- Go to play centers
- Book your baby into a group activity once a week (e.g. swimming, music, gymbaroo)
- Strike up conversations at cafes (yep! this works)
Remember that the one thing you have in common with every other mum out there, is that you're all mums who love their children fiercely. You're all figuring out how to do this whole motherhood thing and the chances of you finding something to bond over are quite high!
Once you've got your inner circle, nurture those relationships. Make it a point to communicate often, meet regularly and connect without social media. Why? Because it keeps you sane. Discussing the ins and outs of mum-life in an honest way is what women have been doing for thousands of years. It's in our DNA to share our secrets, tips and daily struggles. There's only so many people you can truly connect with at once, so schedule time for your inner circle.
Creating and nurturing your outer circle
The final step in building community is the external world that we spend a large amount of our time in. At a physical level, this might refer to your local cafe, daycare or even your neighbours. It's important to find people and places that give you a sense of happiness, safety and stability. That's the easy part. The harder part of your external community lies in your social media use. Instead of scrolling aimlessly through your social media feeds, be intentional about who you follow and which posts you see.
Join Facebook groups that are relevant to your stage of motherhood. It's important you find a sense of belonging - a safe place where you can ask honest questions and receive kind and honest responses. Follow only those accounts and hashtags that inspire you. And unfollow those that don't. Motherhood is hard enough without constantly being told that you need to bounce-back, lose weight, live the #organiclife and feel #blessed everyday. Your time on social media affects your mental health - so choose wisely. Use social media intentionally to foster positive human connections and connect on a broader level.
Finding a balance
Everyone will have a different balance of their home life, their internal and external circles...it's important to find the right balance that works for you. If you feel like you're lacking in a particular area, focus on building that one out for a while until you find a good balance.
We all need a village. But it's up to us to create one that works for us. You've got this, mama.