Seeking a Village

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Recently I was blessed with a whole weekend off of full-time mommy-ing to go to a conference all about mommy-ing with a few new, also mommy-ing friends. We all knew from the get-go that the conference was really just a good excuse to get out of the house for an extended period of time, but what I didn’t fully expect was that it wasn’t going to just be about time off of Mama-duty, but rather about building the relationships that will help make Mama-duty less harrowing when we were inevitably back at it.

The conference had all sorts of speakers and freebies and giveaway and vendors and goodies. But I was so busy building these new relationships—talking, laughing, listening, complaining, walking, eating—that I didn’t even have time to look through my goody bag until I was back home. When I did, I was tempted to complain that the treats weren’t as awesome as I’d hoped or that some didn’t even apply to my toddler anymore, but then I remembered one of my father’s axioms.

Backstory: for those of you who may not know, my father has made a habit of coming up with axioms. An axiom is basically a catchy little life lesson that can help you in challenging times. (Shameless plug: check out his book on Amazon, Papa’s Axioms.) The one that stuck out to me as I was digging through my goody bag is this: It’s relationships, stupid. Tons of these axioms are based around relationships, a few others being: People are more important than things and It’s people not places. While each lesson may be slightly more applicable to different circumstances, the end product is similar. This life thing? It’s about people.

MommyCon attendees didn’t go to that conference seeking a goody bag that would make them feel like lottery winners, they went seeking support. You see, God did not create us to rear our children alone or even solely as a small family unit. He built us for relationships: relationships with Him, romantic relationships, familial relationships, and, of course, friendships. Ecclesiastes 4 has these verses:

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.

We often hear these verses read at weddings, and while a healthy marriage is an awesome part of a supportive community, it’s not the only part. And maybe, sometimes, not a part of it at all. The point is that all of us were designed to work as a part of a team and not alone. Whether we are introverted, extroverted, from a huge family, have no family, live in the city, live in on a farm, are married, or are single, we were created to work in partnership.

Likely all of us have heard (and maybe some even resent) the age-old axiom, it takes a village to raise a child. And when we are exhausted on a no-nap Thursday at witching hour with no idea what anyone will eat for dinner, and then the spouse calls to say they are working late, and THEN you STEP ON A LEGO, it’s tempting to think that you are completely alone. Your village has failed you. From that point, I think it becomes incredibly tempting to isolate yourself even further because this village that was promised to you is nowhere in sight. You feel abandoned without even someone to text to say, I’m at my wits end. Maybe you moved far away from friends and family, or maybe the village you expected to have wasn’t as supportive as you’d hoped. And maybe for one of those reasons even hearing it takes a village makes your heart ache.

Well I am here to say that you are not alone. Many mothers have been hurt by their village or their lack thereof. Many mothers (and fathers, too) are seeking a safe and supportive circle of friends. First step—in my opinion—is to forgive your village if you feel it has let you down. Holding onto those negative feelings is only going to build a wall between you and the community you seek. Second step, pray for God to open doors for you and bring into your life the relationships you seek. Remember that you are NOT alone and somewhere out there is a friend who needs you just as much as you need them.

Which brings me to my last step: get out there. Some of the ways to “get out there” are to seek out a church or a hobby club or a mom’s group (or maybe four mom’s groups if that’s what it takes to find a good fit. Trust me, Facebook is full of them). Go to MommyCon (no, they’re not paying me for the plug, but perhaps I should have asked…) or on a women’s retreat. Step out of your comfort zone and ask that mom you see at the gym struggling with dropping off her toddler to go to Chick-fil-A so the kids can go nuts while you chat with each other briefly between trying to control the kids. Maybe she has been hoping that you would ask.

I know, I know. There is always a reason why the “getting out there” is hard. Maybe for you it even feels impossible, but please, please do not give up. Maybe you live rurally and there are no mom’s groups available or maybe you have family nearby and it’s hard when they aren’t the village you’d hoped for. Or maybe you tried a church mom’s group and found them hurtful or clique-y. But please, keep trying. Whatever your circumstance is, I just encourage you to keep seeking out those meaningful and supportive relationships.

If you really feel like there is nowhere in your community to turn, turn to the virtual community of motherhood. Join a mother’s support group on Facebook, or take a chance and message another mom friend who maybe you’ve fallen out of touch with. Or email me, Hannah at farmlutheran@gmail.com. Seriously. I talk way too much and love to listen, so while I can’t come babysit every single one of your children (although I really wish I could!!) I can promise you that I will do my best to support you virtually. Maybe FARM can host a mother’s event in your area, you never know unless you ask!

Either way, I came back from MommyCon having eaten wayyyy too much and with some serious baby fever (seriously, my daughter can drive me nuts sometimes but remember when she used to be so squishy!?!), but the most important thing I returned with was a renewed sense of community. So that’s why I have decided to replace the outdated axiom, It takes a village, with my new favorite, It’s relationships, stupid. YOU are capable of raising those beautiful children that God gave you but YOU are also deserving of the loving and supportive relationships that God designed us for to help and encourage you.

You are not alone. Do not give up. Because God has big plans for you and all your little monsters.

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