It’s funny where memory is rooted.
Slicing an orange today, I was reminded of a mamas group that I belonged to when my first baby, Sage, was a newborn. Though it’s been some 15 years, I still remember our weekly morning potlucks.
Together at the local park or in our kitchens, we would drink tea, nurse babies, chase toddlers and talk about our nights, our days, our struggles – motherhood. It was the local crunchy mama group full of small town living-, attachment-parenting, homebirthing-, breastfeeding-, cosleeping-moms. It was my first taste of community as a mother, a place where I could ask questions and trust the answers would be more-or-less in line with my world view; a place to talk about our non-traditional choices as if they were normal.
I needed it so.
But back to the oranges. I remember one week, a mom who was having a rough morning and struggling to simply get out the door, brought a bowl of sliced oranges. “That’s the best I can do this week,” she said. Not apologizing, but simply acknowledging and honoring the day she was having.
After 15 years, I still remember those oranges.
What was significant about them? For me, as a struggling new mom, in her realness and lack of perfection (what, no freshly baked bread or homemade granola and yogurt?) I saw my own struggle. “The best I can do today is oranges, and that’s enough.”
And though she certainly long ago forgot, I still think of it every time I slice an orange.
Her honest imperfection validated my own rough days. It validated my flaws. It validated the always messy, often painful deconstruction of who I thought I was, as I slowly found my feet again in a brand new reality.
That group was a lifeline for me during those first months of motherhood.
How important it is that we show up for one another – whether with freshly baked muffins or a bowl sliced oranges or only dirty-faced babies in our arms and tears in our eyes.
All this to say, mamas of little ones: find your people.
In real life or online; at the yarn store; at church; in a parenting group; or a virtual community. But find them any way you can, and show up in all of your beautiful flaws.
You never know what may shape your life.
And you never know the powerful impact your own honesty may have.
Ready to find your people?
Here are five simple tips to get you on your way.
1. Become a sling stalker
(Or a stroller stalker. Or a jogger-stroller stalker. You get the idea.) Keep your eyes out for other moms who look like “your people”, whatever that may mean. It might be parenting-style specific, or it might just be another mama of little ones to connect with. At the park, the grocery store, or walking downtown, keep your eyes open for other mothers who might just be speaking your language.
Then step out of your comfort zone.
Make eye contact, say hello, exchange a few words about motherhood, toddlers, or life.
Making new friends can be hard at any stage of life, but with a baby on your back or a toddler in your arms? Connection is somehow easier. (My mama group found me when I was still pregnant with my first, because one of their members saw me and invited me in. I’m so glad she did.)
It takes courage to reach out, but your boldness will be rewarded.
2. Join an existing group
La Leche League is about more than just breastfeeding. So is any parent-child group that you can get your hands on. I signed my young son up for a Spanish-language immersion morning once a week, more for him than for me.
No, my 2 year old didn’t learn a lick of Spanish, but I met some lifelong friends in that class, and for that I am still grateful.
Find other parents who are already gathering, and join them.
3. Start your own group
Whether you live in a big city or a tiny town, there’s no guarantee that you’ll find your people in a day. Or perhaps there is no local group that speaks to you.
If you’re coming up empty, put a notice on your local community bulletin board (something in the local coffee shop, grocery store, or online forum) and invite other moms to a meet-up.
If you wish, narrow your focus in to attract the moms you’re looking for. Our group went by the name of “Earth Mothers” so I had a decent idea what the group would be like before I ever showed up, but it certainly wasn’t the only mama group in town. Start one that speaks to your heart, based on whatever drives you: diet, religion, parenting-style, anything! Chances are it will speak to others as well.
4. Connect online
In the absence of a flesh-and-blood mama’s group, online is a wonderful alternative. Find a community online through a favorite parenting website or social media platform. Use keywords that are in line with your personal or parenting values to narrow down the scope.
5. Be patient
Finding your people takes time. Repeat the steps above as needed until you find the community you’re looking for. They are out there, and they’re waiting for you.