It’s startling how much better we humans feel when helping arms reach out to hold our babies, stir our pots and smile knowingly into our tired eyes. There’s nothing more comforting than a bunch of nodding heads when a mom says she dreads the 3 hours before bedtime or a dad confesses he misses his life before baby.
We are not meant to raise our children alone
It’s hard to imagine a time in our lives when we need the camaraderie and friendship of others like us more than when we become new parents. We humans are social creatures who thrive in tribes, clans and extended families. But in today’s society, we have moved away from this natural source of support and joy.
We are too isolated
We live isolated lives alone in our homes with our baby. Our culture often makes us feel that we are supposed to do this parenting thing pretty much on our own. I mean how hard could it be? It’s so easy to fall into a belief that there must be something wrong with us that it feels so difficult. Does anyone else feel this way? Am I just a failure at this?
At every turn, we feel doubt
One of the most challenging adjustments for parents is being abruptly thrust into a world where nothing is certain. Is my baby wet, tired, bored, in pain, sick . . . what does she want? Does she like big movement or small, a Woombie swaddle or an Ergo baby, is it time for a nap or a feed or is she just crying because she’s a baby? The questions without answers are endless and for most of us, this is a brand new feeling and not a good one. We are used to solving problems, knowing what to do and feeling capable. This atmosphere of self-doubt is made much worse when we’re alone. As soon as we enter a group and realize everyone feels the same way, the dread lifts, the humor helps and there is light at the end of the tunnel.
Breathe, go easy and find a loving ear
Start by taking a deep breath and leaning in to these feelings of uncertainty and isolation; know that they’re normal, go easy on yourself, be curious about this new world you’ve been thrust into. Find people who will really listen and empathize with how this feels to you. Know that “this too shall pass.” You will learn all kinds of things, your baby will grow and you will gradually get to know and understand each other.
Seek out your village
Moms and dads show up with their babies on the first day of group, looking a bit like deer in the headlights. As they begin to share their stories, their questions and challenges, their highs and their lows, how this brand new world feels to them, there’s a palpable shift in the room; heads start to nod and sighs of relief and “Thank goodness, I’m not alone and the feelings I’m having are normal.” start to emerge. Talking, sharing, empathizing, knowing that we are in this together is healing and gives us the strength to move forward. We call this our virtual village; we are artificially recreating what society has removed.
There are lots of ways to create your own virtual village, whether through family, friends, parents in your community or an organized group like Mommy and Me or Daddy and Me. You also get to learn more than you ever dreamed you would as you have guidance teasing out the important stuff from the parenting information overload. The most beautiful legacy is your lasting friendships with other parents and their children. Over and over again, we bump into parents from our past groups whose kids are now 6 or 7 or 9 and they always say some version of, “we still get together to have fun and find comfort in our connection with each other.”