When I was seven months pregnant with my oldest son, we packed up our lives in Ontario, boarded a plane and moved out west. We didn’t know anyone in our new home town, and neither of our parents were able to make it out to visit us until our son was about six months old.
It was lonely.
This was the first time I didn’t have school or work as a place to meet new people. I didn’t know where to turn to find friends, and as a brand new mother I desperately needed friends.
Friends who I could ask for help when my husband worked 12 hour shifts, friends I could ask for advice when he wouldn’t nurse, and someone to tell me where the yummiest kid-friendly places to eat were.
Being a mother is hard, and exhausting, and it can feel very isolating. The saying “it takes a village to raise a child” isn’t wrong, but in today’s day and age where people, like me, live nowhere near their families finding that village can be tough.
Don't Give Up
Don’t be discouraged if your first or second or even third attempt doesn’t work out. When I started my quest to find my village, I started with the parents who were in our prenatal class. We had hung out for one weekend, and the instructor suggested we all meet up again after our children were born so we could support and encourage each other.
We hung out once. I thought it went well. I had fun, but apparently the other adults disagreed, and with the exception of one, I never saw them again. I’m sure they had valid reasons (like being busy) but nonetheless it hurt to be so unceremoniously rejected by the only people I had the opportunity to meet.
I tried again with a different group of moms.
This time I couldn’t stand them. I’m sure they were lovely people, but they just rubbed me the wrong way. I have never felt so judgmental in my life, but in the hour I was with them, everything they did seemed wrong, or odd, or something I would never ever do. It didn’t help that I felt like they were also judging me for not meeting their standard.
They were not my village.
4 Different Places to Look for Your Village
There are so many different places for you to look for your village. Don’t limit yourself to one way, simply because you feel like that’s how you’re supposed to do it.
1. The Local Park
The first place to meet new parents is the park. I know this means that you will actually have to speak to other people at the park, which can be uncomfortable. But a bunch of the men and women I hang out with on a regular basis are people I saw at the park all of the time.
2. Your Neighbourhood
Your neighbours might also be a good community to embed yourself in. You live there already, so you might as well set down some roots. In our neighbourhood the kids are always outside playing with each other. I speak to those who live beside me on a regular basis. And I know there are about ten families with kids my sons' ages within two blocks.
3. Community Centers
I don’t know about your area, but there are tons of different community centres around here and each one had it’s own parenting group. It was at one of those mom and babe groups that I eventually found the first members of my village. They are fantastic.
When my husband had to go away for work for a few weeks they were the first to call to see if I needed them to come and take my son for a couple of hours so I could shower, wash the floor, or dance like no one was watching and actually have no one there watching.
4. Facebook and Other Forms of Social Media
I'm a member of a few mom groups online. While I haven’t met many of these women in person, I do know that if I ever have a question about parenting, relationships, or work they have an answer.
If they don't have an answer it's often because they are trying to learn the same thing. Solidarity ladies. These women understand the struggles of bedtime, the horrors of potty training, and the joys of afternoon snuggles.
Even though we didn't see each other in person, together we wove our way through to understanding what to do. And when when one of our number is struggling, the community comes together to help them in anyway they can.
Accept Non-Parents Into the Fold
Just because you now have a baby, does not mean that you have to throw all of your childless friends out the window. The members of your village don’t all have to be parents and they don’t all have to have kids who are the same age as yours.
My boys have a bunch of aunties from my dance class who either don’t have kids or have kids who are much older (some of them have kids older than I am).
I also have other villagers from my writing group. When I was overdue with my second child and the three families I had lined up to watch my child all had something come up to make them unavailable, it was a member of my writers group who stepped up and said I could call her anytime to watch my oldest.
Plus if these women knew you from before you became pregnant, they can help you not lose that connection to yourself. Trust me, one of the things I struggled with the most was realizing I had no idea who I was outside of "mom."
So if you are like I was, seven-months pregnant, shy, and needing to build a village from scratch don’t worry, it might take a few tries, but you will find them, and they will make this thing called parenting so much easier.