Tips for Surviving Motherhood, by Heidi Barrett
When I had my first child almost three decades ago, Al Gore had yet to invent the internet as we know it. The isolation of motherhood was at times overwhelming. I was a young mother and I did not know how to handle the perceived criticism of others about my child-raising skills. Fast forward to 12 years ago when my youngest child was born, and the world is an entirely different place with regards to raising your children.
The internet tends to show a carefully curated slice of life of the perfect spouse, house, and children. We can reach out to hundreds, if not thousands of people on a daily basis, finding self-worth and thriving on the number of likes we receive, however it is only a fictitious world we have created. It is a world where one compares their real-life to the sanitized pictures of others. We were not meant to live our lives in cyberspace. The downside is it is often very hard to build a community of friends, especially if you are new to an area. I happen to live where making friends can be hard. We have a name for it, the Seattle Freeze. There are numerous ways to counteract the freeze and build friendship and community,
Start a babysitting coop: Find 4-6 other couples with children. Pick a day that works for everyone. Two couples together will watch all the children while the other couples go out on a 2-3 hour date. The two couples who are babysitting will get time to socialize, and it does not leave anyone in isolation.
Start a Rosary Group: Pick one evening a week where other families will come over to your house to pray the Rosary. Socialize and have snacks afterward. Nobody cares about how your house looks. Nobody cares that the babies are crawling every which way and there are children hanging upside down on the couch.
Park Days: Meet up in a different park every week or every other week. Bring a sack lunch and snacks to share. Bad weather? Make it a sledding date or a stomp in the mud puddle date.
Book Club: Join a book club or start a book club. Most libraries have an open book club that meets once a month. Or start a book club. The internet is full of ideas on how to structure the club. Wellreadmom.com is a great place to start.
Each spouse gets one day a week for a few hours to alone away from family responsibilities. The spouse is allowed to do anything they want during this time from meeting a friend for coffee to browsing a bookstore. Each spouse gets equal time each week or even bi-weekly. Remember you are a much better spouse and parent if you have time to recharge your batteries.
Volunteer: www.volunteermatch.org, or if your community participates with 211, find a perfect match for a non-profit that needs your skills. Volunteer as a family. It can be something simple like sorting baby clothes for pregnancy aid or visiting seniors in a nursing home.
Invite another family over for dinner during the week. Make a simple meal to share. It takes less than 30 minutes to whip up a Mexican feast of tacos and a salad or an Italian feast of spaghetti and garlic bread. It is okay to use shortcuts. No one is going to judge you for using jar spaghetti sauce. The meal should not be about your culinary prowess but, instead, fellowship with friends.
Have a tea party. Invite another family to share in your tea party. Have everyone dress in their Sunday best. Have no teacups? Goodwill and Value Village often have teacups with saucers for under $1. Slicing a PJB sandwich into triangles and serving on a special plate adds to the magic.
Organize a trash pick up day at your local beach or park. Invite other families. Celebrate at the end of the trash pick up with cupcakes.
Invite another family over for a playdate with your kids. The adults can hang out and talk while the kids play.
Motherhood can be very lonely, especially if you are an introvert who is a SAHM with younger kids. With a little effort, you can build a community of friends where you live. Remember to have good friends you must be a good friend.