When my girlfriend gave me this dishtowel, I laughed and said in tears, “Yah, the number was 303-7&5-0$21.” That was her number when my kids were young. That was my helpline when I needed to know if I was being too hard or too soft with my boys. I called that number when I just had to share the outrageous things my boys were doing, like floating boats in the toilet water and climbing on top of the fridge. That was the number I called when I felt like I was gonna blow and needed to do some feelings work. The friend with that phone number brought meals when I was on bed rest and bore witness to my divorce and the re-invention of myself.
Parenting is such a juxtaposition: there are always people in the house who want and need our services and attention; at the same time, all that adulting can leave us feeling so lonely. It takes great effort to act like an adult day in and day out. Trying not to crush our children’s little psyches when they have more needs than one person can meet …. oof, that requires a lot of restraint and patience.
Are you with me?
We all need help with this job of raising little people into big ones. Maybe what we need more than anything is a witness to this journey. My “helpline friend” bore witness to my struggles and my celebrations. And I got to witness hers. When she shared her humanity and struggles, I felt more normal and less alone.
When a new client starts working with me, I always assess how much support they have because research shows that friends and community are good for one’s mental health. We humans are wired to connect. We need each other. I’m forever grateful to a woman named Julie. Back when my oldest was a baby and I was taking an infant massage class, Julie boldly, bravely threw out to the whole group the idea of starting a playgroup. Julie’s sister had insisted that she find one for her own well-being. The group started with a couple of awkward meetings of women who didn’t really know each other. That same group morphed into 26 years (and counting!) of rich friendship that I can’t imagine doing without while my kids were young. All those years, just because one mom was brave enough to take a risk and invite some strangers and their babies over to her house.
I have an invitation and a commitment:
Invitation: I’d like to invite you to consider taking a risk and doing something to expand or deepen the quality of your friendship with other parents. If you’re already in great shape socially, then I’d encourage you to invite in someone who might feel on the outside.
Commitment: As I work on my mission of helping parents create close, connected families, I am committed to having community be a central element of the new program I’m putting together. I commit to doing what I can to help bring together support groups and accountability pods where parents can connect with each other.