The proverb “it takes a village (to raise a child)” is a familiar one. And for good reason. While it tends to speak specifically to the intricacies of raising children, the past few years have shown me that our village, or support group, directly affects our ability to parent as well as our mental wellbeing.
Reasons for a Support Group:
Sometimes the unsung hero’s of our child’s upbringing, the friends and family who make up our village are more important than they probably even realize. They help get us through the harder times without turning into a Sméagol-esque figure, rocking backwards and forwards in the dark, whispering “my precious” over what’s left of our sanity. Motherhood can be lonely at times. The village helps to alleviate this loneliness. They also uplift us and celebrate with us in our triumphs.
I’m usually not one to brag, but my support group is first rate. When my daughter was born a month early, and my husband was hectically trying to move his jobs around so he could be at home, my village were there. Dinner was provided every night for my family for 2 weeks. People were over cleaning and watching the baby while I napped. Stuck for a babysitter? The village is there. Need an afternoon with another adult? The village is there.
As mamas, we’re blessed today with a wide range of options when it comes to how we raise our children. With choice though, comes a divide between those who choose to do things differently. Even those who WOULD choose to do things differently, but haven’t had children of their own. We can sometimes feel like we’re in a lose-lose situation. In fact, a recent survey showed that 66% of working parents feel like they can’t win.
This is when my appreciation for my support group went to a whole new level.
Amongst them, there are mamas who breastfed for 6 weeks, 6 months, 9 months or longer, combined fed and formula fed. There are stay at home mamas, mamas who work part time and full time. Scheduling mamas and demand feeding mamas. Co-sleeping mamas and those who didn’t. Mamas who pierced their girls’ ears and mamas who haven’t. Parenting styles vary from the laid back to the structured.
Despite the differences, a good village will support one another’s choices. Because bottom line – our kids are happy and healthy. No child is at risk or in danger just because someone parents differently. What works for you may not work for another family. We free each other to be the best mamas we can be when we accept this and offer support and encouragement.
Personal safety net:
A study conducted by Sarason, Sarason and Pierce (1990) showed a direct connection between having a personal safety net (support group) to rely on, with well being. Having a safe place to go when life gets a bit too real is so important. Our own well being as mamas has a profound effect on our entire family. You don’t need to be perfect and you don’t need to do it alone.
Benefits to the kids:
A new study shows that there is a connection between a mama who is well supported by her social group, and the cognitive development of her child. The thought being that as the mama is socializing, often so is the child. This offers greater stimulation through social activities.
How to find a support group?
As mentioned above, your village doesn’t need to be mamas who do everything the same way you do. They don’t even all need to be mamas – a part of my support group is made up of my daughter’s aunts and uncles who aren’t parents. I also have a close friend who’s a pediatric occupational therapist. My other mama friends and I have probably asked her more child-related questions than we have to each other. What’s important is that they are people you trust and who genuinely care about you and want the best for you. Those who uplift and support you. There’s no right or wrong way to choose your village. There’s no right or wrong number of people to have in your village. It can be as many or as few people as you’re comfortable with.
If you’re feeling stuck in identifying these people in your life, there’s an incredible amount of supportive mamas out there for you to befriend. You could join a mother’s group or join a mama group on Facebook. There’s even apps to help you find like-minded mamas nearby such as Mom Life, Peanut, Hello Mamas, MomCo and Meetup.
However you choose and utilize you village, please, for your and your family’s well-being, don’t do this alone mama. You have nothing to prove (we already know you’re a superwoman) and so much to gain.
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