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Ideas for Creating Your Tribe

on October 29 | in Co-Sleeping | by | with 14 Comments

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. :)

What’s Next?

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.

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14 Responses to Ideas for Creating Your Tribe

  1. margo says:

    This is not about tribe but about helping yourself in the dinner dept:
    I am not the most creative cook in the world & since we decided I would quit teaching and stay home with our little one, we had to also be smarter about grocery shopping. A friend recommended emealz.com. It’s a website that you subscribe to (only $5 a month) that gives you a weekly meal plan, list of ingredients needed, & the recipe too. My husband is a little on the pickier side so we do the Weight Watchers menu (not for dieting sake) but it’s usually healthier meals. They even have a “try-it out” menu. Check it out! It has done wonders for our weekly meals and budget.

    • Heather says:

      Margo – Great point! Meal plans make life MUCH easier in the kitchen and save money, too! I am actually working on mine right now :) If you have any quick and healthy recipes please share them here. I am always on the hunt for great dishes to add to my Real Food For Busy Moms Series.

  2. Rita Louise Miller via Facebook says:

    love the LLL hat tip.

    • Heather says:

      The women I have met in my chapter are incredibly wise and compassionate. I never had any difficulty breastfeeding, but that didn’t stop me from calling to chat once in awhile!

  3. Whittney says:

    I wish I had even more ideas to offer! I think much of your post has a theme. Intentional planning, planning and more planning.

    • Heather says:

      Thank you for all your help with this post, Whittney! I hadn’t thought of it, but there is a theme. It drives Daniel nuts but I do love to plan . . . I even plan my days on vacation, LOL!

  4. Sarah says:

    Bringing your freezer into your tribe! That just reminded me of the MOST HELPFUL thing ever! I don’t know how I forgot about it. Our mom’s group as a whole coordinated a “meals of love” for each mom after the baby arrived. Basically what happened was you left a cooler outside and for almost 3 weeks you had someone deliver you and your family dinner! It was a LIFESAVER!! Each mom in the group would sign up for a night and just drop it off in the cooler so you didn’t have to worry about putting your boob back in for guests etc… The best!

  5. Sarah says:

    I actually can take ZERO credit for the idea or implementation. One of the other kind and brilliant moms in the mothers group came up with it. Basically you start with a group of mom’s. One person sends an email out to the group saying something like.. “Heather is going to be expecting her new arrival next month. Her parent’s will be helping out the first few weeks but then she and her family will be on their own. Let’s get together and send her some meals of love. starting June 5th. Below are the sign up dates.” Usually 3 families would sign up for a week. So if you know 9 other moms then that is 9 meals that the new mom and family don’t have to worry about. Each person drops of 1 meal in the cooler placed outside. We had a system to place a jar on top of the cooler if you had left a meal. That way the receiving family would know to look. And you didn’t have to chat, have a social visit etc… just food with zero planning. IT WAS THE BEST!!!!!!

    • Heather says:

      I LOVE that idea. Meals after my first was born were virtually nonexistent, but I was blessed with TWO WEEKS of meals from friends with Micah. I cannot express what a difference it made!

  6. Kirsten says:

    What a great post, Heather! I love the ideas in the comments so far as well. This whole topic is wonderful, and timely, as we prepare for our new baby. :-) Though I didn’t have a chance to comment on the last post, my suggestion was going to be one you have covered here…a mommy’s helper! I just want to encourage moms who need the help, as well as moms who have kids old enough to share with others, that being a mommy’s helper is a big blessing to the “helper” as well. How do I know this? I got to go help a friend who had just had her seventh baby every week for a year or so. I was older, so I could drive myself, and ended up not just playing with the kids, but also helping homeschool them on my day at their house, as well as teaching things I enjoyed like sewing and music lessons. It was seriously one of the highlights of every week. I learned so much from that experience! I still look back on it fondly (and sometimes in amazement of what we actually got done…but I wasn’t sleep deprived then-ha!). Anyway, just wanted to encourage anyone for whom this is an option to try it out. :-) I’m on a little search for a helper myself!

  7. Em says:

    I love both the LLL and HMN!!! I found my best friend at a LLL meeting, and we’ve developed a tribe of like-minded mamas together. I didn’t realize that LLL was about support, not just technical bf’ing help, and I’m now becoming a leader- I love the supportive network of bf’ing moms, especially as my nursling grows older. Also, our Chicago HMN chapter has been wonderful for finding resources for like-minded mamas.

    One more idea: look at meetup.com for groups and activities for new moms. A friend and I started a nature group for moms and kids that has taken off, and I’ve met some great women through our shared appreciation for the outdoors in the midst of the city.

    BTW, great topic- one that is SO important for us moms! I’ve related my tribe of moms to a Bible study, in a way, too. While I have friends of all religions, my Bible study consists of all Christians because we have that in common. In the same way, I want my mothering tribe to consist of all women with similar parenting values. I can be friends with people with different parenting styles, but my tribe needs to be made of women who can support my choices to parent with love.

    • Heather says:

      Meetup.com is a great idea! I I’ve visited their site and it seems there’s a group for every kind of mom right in my area: crunchy, traditional, single, working, SAHM, etc.

      Oh and I totally agree with this: “I can be friends with people with different parenting styles, but my tribe needs to be made of women who can support my choices to parent with love.”

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