Ideas for Creating Your Tribe
Today is the post I’ve been dreading all week. The more I thought about it and read your comments, the smaller and less helpful my ideas seemed. So, prepare to be underwhelmed. You are probably doing most, if not all, of these things.
One thing I regret about my last post is that it seems like I am saying it is possible to fully recreate a tribal dynamic. I am NOT saying that. To the degree that it’s doable for every unique situation I think it’s worth it to try. But in the end most of us will, like Leah, choose to say “In the ideal world, I would…..but in light of my present reality, this is the decision that is best for all of us.” I know I do.
Why did I, of all people, decide to write this post? I am wondering that myself. Although I have a fabulous support system now, it wasn’t always this way. For the first 18 months of Katie’s life I tried desperately to cram my former full-time job into part time hours. My in-laws did not live around the corner then. And while my mom did watch Katie several mornings a week while I juggled conference calls, press releases, and naptime with all the grace of a drunk elephant, dinner was a joke if it got made at all. I constantly beat myself up for not being able to achieve as much professionally as I had been able to when I slept 8 hours a night. I felt guilty for working at all, even though I didn’t even have to walk out my front door to reach my office.
Many (maybe most) of you have probably handled more challenging situations for longer periods of time. You are probably more qualified to write this post than I am. I wish I had known some of you back then. I had NO mom friends. No one to in the trenches to talk things over with. That’s why I’m writing this post . . . to get a discussion going in the comments so that I can learn something! So here’s my best shot:
Daytime Backup. If you’re already in the crunchy scene you may know some homeschooling families. In my experience girls that homeschool are great with children, and because of their flexible school schedules they can come during the day when hubby is at work and you need help the most. We have an amazing girl that comes over sometimes to play with Katie while I catch up on things. She’s only thirteen, but I don’t mind because I’m no further than the next room. And since she isn’t a full-fledged sitter yet her rates are incredibly budget friendly. If you’re interested in exploring this idea but don’t have any homeschool connections you might want to contact this list of Homeschooling Support Groups (categorized by location). From there you should be able to get in touch with a local chapter.
Widen the Circle. Seek out other moms to share ideas, inspiration, tasks, and pool resources with. This can take many forms. Some are practical, like designating one person to pick up milk at the farm for all of us or helping out with our area of expertise (midwifery, cooking, financial management, bargain hunting, home organization, etc.)
One of the most rewarding but least obvious sources of inspiration are mentor relationships. You may be thinking “Um, yeah, I’m sure there are a lot of experienced moms out there just dying to revisit life in the trenches with little ones.” Probably not. And even if there were, there aren’t a lot of moms out there that I can honestly say I’d want to emulate. So, where does that leave us? For every exceptional mentor there are like, a bazillion moms in the trenches needing encouragement and guidance. How does that work?
In my circle there are two moms that speak on occasion to my Wednesday morning mommy group. By loving on us in a group setting they are able to reach more moms without draining too much time away from their other commitments. Tana and Vivian were crunchy before it was cool. They’re fun, accepting and wise. I learn how to be a better mom just by being around them. For the record, this is also true of my own mom
Do you need to make some new connections? Whether you’re looking for fellow trench dwellers or a mentor, consider checking out your local La Leche chapter, Holistic Moms Network, or church group to find moms with similar philosophies.
A personal chef would be better, but . . . Although they are not actual people, you might consider making your crockpot and freezer part of your tribe. When you make your famous crockpot chili why not make it a double batch and let your freezer hold onto the extra for you? On occasion you will find that your freezer will say to you “I’ve got this. Take the night off.” Okay, maybe not, but don’t let their lack of personality stand in the way. Let your freezer help.
Let technology be your butler, accountant, and personal shopper. In other words, Automate EVERYTHING. Bill payments, budgeting (We use Mint. It’s free!), calendar reminders. I do as much holiday shopping online as possible, too.
Rework Work. Dad’s these days are cool. They take their daughters on Saturday morning coffee dates while mommy sleeps in and inspire crunchy moms to declare that real dads wear their babies. Although most dads work outside the home, some are finding that they can adjust their schedules to be at home during peak activity times. When Katie was born Daniel asked his boss if he could start going in early so he could get back home before his baby girl was in bed for the night. We’ve been enjoying that schedule for 3 years now even though Katie has been going to bed later for a long time now. My friend Whittney’s husband made the same request and is home at 3:30 every day . . . just in time to take the kids while she starts dinner.
While that one may work for a few of you, here’s one that may apply more broadly:
Once my little one had slept “through the night” a couple of times (and this age varied with all three), my husband took over the night care. The fact that they were sleeping for 6+ hour stretches at a time communicated to me that they did not need that middle of the night feeding. With Dad there, all it took was a bit of rocking and they just went back to sleep.
All that said, I am not and have never been a militant parent. If the baby had previously been sleeping “through the night” and was on their third or fourth waking, I assumed that they genuinely were hungry and would gladly nurse them. And if there happened to be a time when h/she fell asleep at the breast, I wouldn’t wake him before I put him down. It was simply a general guideline.
Comment from Leah on THAT Mom
I’ll admit, when Katie was a baby I constantly refused Daniel’s offers to help at night. I worried that the lack of sleep would affect him at work. I rarely considered how MY lack of sleep was affecting his ability to enjoy being at home. (Sadly, I wasn’t just THAT Mom, I was THAT Wife, too. : ()
Disclaimer: Have you seen the Babies documentary? A couple of weeks ago I rented it from our local video store. Ironically, of the four cultures it explores only one is tribal, and it is only in that culture that I never saw a man helping with childcare! So, while having The Chief help out is a very beneficial idea, it may not be anthropologically accurate.
At six weeks old Micah is sleeping 6-7 hours straight at night and napping well during the day. He is becoming comfortable sleeping in a variety of situations and has even consented to falling asleep in the co-sleeper after being placed in there awake!!! This is a huge improvement from the way we did things with Katie. I’ll be sharing the details of our sleep plan in the next post.
What did I miss??? Share your ideas in the comments below!
Special thanks to Whittney H for helping me with these ideas.