I was folding laundry in the spare bedroom in our basement, mindlessly, when I felt myself floating back in time to ten years ago, when I was a Human Services student at NSCC. I sometimes stayed with my dad’s cousin, Pauline, so I could be spared the hour+ drive in both directions every now and again. Beyond the generosity of opening her home to me, she offered up wisdom, a listening ear, and a safe space.
I often remember eating dinner together or setting up on her couch with a cup of tea and the TV on in the background. A mother and grandmother herself, Pauline shared her experiences raising her own kids, her experiences with relationships, and gave advice in gentle ways.
She was the woman who taught me that it takes a community to raise a mother, though I’m not sure I saw it then.
We’ve all heard the phrase, It takes a village, when we talk of raising children. It’s a saying I’ve said many a time myself, when a neighbour has fed my son lunch on a Saturday or I find myself kissing a booboo or fetching snacks for hungry explorers. Aunts, uncles, grandparents, friends, neighbours, teachers, and many others have an important hand in raising kids – even when they might not see it that way.
As if it’s built into our DNA (and perhaps it is), most of us instinctively look out for children. We immediately feel the pull to be part of the village, happy to be able to help.
But, less discussed is the community that mothers need to grow and thrive. Is it because we expect women to instantly adopt the role of mother, dutifully and without error? Is it because we, as mothers, are ashamed and afraid to admit that we’re struggling? Whatever the reason we don’t talk about it, I can say with certainty that a mother’s community is vital.
I am grateful to have the awesome communities I have – from my online YMC community to my circle of girls, my neighbours, my family members, and my colleagues. Over a decade into my life as “Mom”, I still regularly lean on these communities for support, a good laugh, advice, or to simply let loose and it’s a privilege to be part of others’ communities.
As I get older and more of my friends have had children, I can now see the quiet but strong creation of communities around them. It’s more than just friends or family showing up, but a movement filled with love and purpose and more often than not, it’s filled with those who are mothers themselves.
A good friend once reached out and told me she’d never considered how hard it must have been when I was a young and new mom. As a new mom herself at that time, she had many friends – including me! – to reach out to for advice or just a sounding board. It was perhaps the first time anyone had acknowledged the loneliness of being a new mom to me. And it was such a relief – some eight years later.
What I was unable to see while I was in the trenches of new motherhood was how my community raised me and raised me up. Their wisdom and advice helped me grow into my role as Mom, and their strength and love helped me keep on when I wanted to throw in the towel. Eleven years later, I know I owe a lot of my success and happiness ot the communities that raised me, the many villages that raised my son.