When I was an infant, my mother lived in a communal household with friends. Some had children, some didn’t. All joined in the experience of parenting – dirty diapers and all. When we moved to a small coastal community with my step-father, my mother gained a new community of parents. The families looked out for one another – sharing food, playtimes, stories. That presence in one another’s lives offered support, companionship, and a sounding board.
This network dissolved as kids grew up, families moved away, and life sped up with a freakish pace. I had my peer group, but my family lost its peer families. There was no consistent sharing of the struggles of parenting which I’m sure my parents had a hand full of during my adolescence.
Life hasn’t slowed down since my age of youth, and I feel it has only become increasingly isolating. When I first became a parent, my husband and I had moved to a new neighborhood and we were the only new parents on the block. The fall and winter months were tough; I was reveling in the wonder of a new life in our household but often felt “cabin fever” being inside all the time. When our son came along, I knew I needed more interaction with others and we eventually made the move to a cohousing community. We moved in just shy of the autumnal season, so we were battling the northwest urge to retreat to the indoors.
Even on the darkest days, we shared meals with our neighbors. We participated in work parties and community meetings. Now that we are almost in the summer season, my life is reminiscent of my toddler days where the kids are playing together and parents are sharing conversation, food, and time in more liberal quantities. I would be at a loss if I wasn’t in this community.
This has been one of the toughest periods of my life. My purpose has shifted entirely to the growth and education of these two dear little children. It is no easy task and I value having colleagues to share this struggle with. I am a somewhat private person – a sort of extroverted introvert, so living within a community removes the effort to search out support and social ties. And this supports my own evolution from career woman to mother to someone who can balance her own needs with those of her family’s.
How and where do you find the support to parent effectively?