As moms, we are constantly assaulted with all the ways we could be parenting wrong. It’s awful; I’ll just go ahead and say it. If you’re a mom who’s spent any time on social media or Facebook mommy boards, you’ve likely had that sinking feeling of dread, followed by the urge to clamp down, throw away all your food and screens, and move to the country to feed your kids wild nuts and berries. And so we worry, and we fret, and we huddle in our houses, and we are very, very lonely.
We know we need more connection and community, but we can’t worry about that right now, because all the other work of parenting is just so damn exhausting.
But then I watched this fascinating Ted talk. According to the study, the strongest predictors of long life were close relationships and social integration (how many people we talk with during a day). Why is it that we spend so much time focusing on diet, exercise, screens, vaccinations, car seats, baby gear recalls, bullying, and school curriculum, but so often neglect to teach our kids how to make and keep friends? I’d argue it’s by far the most important thing we can model for our kids, and actually helps all the other things fall into place.
When our days are interwoven with friends and neighbors, it’s easier to turn off the screens. When we cook and share meals with friends and neighbors, it’s easier to say no to the goldfish and urge our kids to try the yummy veggies that little Susie is eating. When we open our door and sit on our front step and chat with neighbors walking their dogs, it’s easier to make our kids run around in the summer twilight.
When we talk daily with other parents and bring our fears into the light, we wage war on our crippling depression and anxiety. When we help each other collectively parent our kids, and share the mental load of motherhood and the burden of childcare, we as women can do more than ever before...for our kids and for ourselves.
Every time we introduce ourselves to someone new, our kids are watching. Every time we ask questions to get to know someone, our kids are listening. Every time we respond to a rude comment or an awkward situation in a way that’s kind but firm, our kids are taking notes. What if we made it our goal to practice this well?
What if we made it our goal to show our kids what it’s like to reach out, introduce ourselves, and make a connection even when we’re scared? They will learn, and they will model it.
I know that as a mom, all you want is what’s best for your kids...and usually what YOU need takes a back seat. When you need friends and connection, it doesn’t usually make the cut, since there often isn’t enough time in the day. But what if we reframed this whole idea? What if we made our communities, our connections, and our friends the MOST important focus, since it has such a huge impact on our kids?
I’d love to come alongside you in this journey.
If you have some acquaintances that you’d like to get to know better, try gathering to make a fun craft! It’s light, it’s fun, and it eases the awkwardness of small talk.