The time when you need a village the most also happens to be the time when it’s hardest to build one.
Do you feel like you have a village? People to rely on when you're in a bind, friends to turn to when you think you can't handle one. more. nursing session, one more set of misplaced keys, one more disagreement with your spouse, one more toddler tantrum?
I recently received this text from my sister-in-law, who lives two states away—
“I'm going to call and order you guys pizza ?? for dinner tonight."
My husband had been in China for almost two weeks, and my sweet sister-in-law figured I could use an easy night with no cooking and no cleanup. (I'd do anything for no cleanup.) It occurred to me that even though she is 600 miles away, my sister-in-law is part of my village. The distance that separates us doesn't have to keep us from supporting each other.
But man, this village thing? It's a tricky concept. In our newly released 2021 State of Motherhood Survey, more than half (56%) of mothers feel they lack a non-family "village" they can call on for support (that's 15 points higher than last year's 41%). While the COVID-19 pandemic has certainly changed the way we interact with just about everyone, that significant an increase is still disheartening.
Some of us feel like we don't have one, like we live too far away from family to lean on them and we're too busy running our lives to really invest in our friendships. Others of us feel village-less… that is, until our kid breaks an arm and friends start appearing with balloons and Sharpies. Others still are trying desperately to build a village but keep running into obstacles.
In this beautiful article, writer and life coach Beth Berry highlights one of the things that makes modern village-building so exasperating— “We're forced to create our tribes during seasons of our life when we have the least time and energy to do so."
Absolutely! The time when you need a village the most also happens to be the time when it's hardest to build one.
After stewing it over in my mind for the eight years (what?!) that I've been a mother, and after discussing it with many people, I've pulled together some of the most common barriers and most powerful tips—to help you slowly but surely build a village you can fall back on.
The age of fellow moms in your life (and the ages of their children)
It can be easier to relate when ages (loosely) line up
The arrangement of work and life
For example, mothers who work outside the home may have a hard time connecting with moms who stay home. There are only so many hours in the day…
The courage it requires to reach out to another woman
This is a big barrier for many of us, because no matter how good the woman's reason for not picking up your offer, it can still feel like rejection. We thought we left that feeling behind with our dating years?
The feeling that the women around you already have a village in place
This can be exacerbated by social media, where people often appear secure and connected when in reality they may need someone as much as you do.
A fragmented village
Maybe you have people who care about you and people you care about, but when those people don't live in the same place or don't know each other, you may not feel the security of a supportive network.
So, here are 6 critical tips to help you build your village—
First, believe that you don't have to do motherhood on your own
What would it be like knowing your children could play in your neighborhood with other watchful, protective eyes on them? What would it be like to know that encouragement was only a text away or that in your lowest moments you could just show up on a friend's doorstep, no questions asked?
"When my twins were born, I built my village. My parents, in-laws, sitters I trusted, friends to text when I felt ready to give up… I only wish I had built it with my first baby, instead of believing I was mama bear and had to do it all alone!"Melissa Hunter-Noori
Next, get comfortable (ironically) with vulnerability
One of the advantages (if you can call it that) of not having a village is that no one has to know that you don't always have it together—that you are exhausted and lonely and can't see above your laundry pile.
But with that comes the feeling that you're parenting in a vacuum. Without girlfriends and family to witness your life (the good and the bad), it almost feels like you aren't really living it—you're marking time instead of experiencing it.
Vulnerability allows us to take friendships to a much more meaningful level, and in turn we find ourselves feeling happier and more comfortable in our own skin because of the authenticity we've developed in the safety of close relationships.
"I have learned to drop the façade and lay it all out, and in return they do the same."Mary Stockton
Watch for women you can bring in
"I put myself out there over and over and it seems everyone is happy with the status quo—their current situation, friend-wise."Chelsie Hatch
A village gets stronger with numbers. If you already have a support network, keep your eyes open for women like Chelsie who might need what you can offer. Be a people connector.
Keep working on YOU
I was so inspired by Tina's comment on Facebook—
"For those who are yearning for a community connection, keep working on yourselves until the right women are presented to you. Your vibe attracts your tribe."Tina Jheeta
Your vibe attracts your tribe. I couldn't agree more.
Ask for help and accept it when it's offered
I would have been fine without the pizza that my sister-in-law ordered for me. We could have eaten cold cereal that night. She knew that. But she also knew that sometimes it's not really about the action; it's about knowing that someone is there for you.
Accept that feeling wholeheartedly when it's offered to you.
Offer YOUR help
I saved the most crucial element for last. Being willing to help others—to be their village—is the biggest key to creating one.
"I am responsible for creating my own village. I realized it was about reaching out to other moms and being of service to them. That is where my village came from."Amanda Roberts
I've noticed that in my own life, the people who help me and the people I help—that's where it's at.
I know it's not nearly as easy as following six simple steps. Not nearly so easy. It takes courage to reach out, to risk rejection, even for something you know has huge power to affect your happiness and the wellbeing of your family. But…
Let's reach out. Let's open our eyes to the village we do have. Let's nurture it. Connect our friends. Help them. Invest in them. Let them invest in us.
This article was originally published on Let Why Lead.