In the season of mothering young children, some days are just long. One of the best ways to survive them is to call two of my friends over to combine their chaos with mine. Together, we three mothers have twelve children ranging in age from a few months to 9 years old. We get together, and our babies, toddlers, preschoolers, and elementary schoolers run each other ragged around the house and out back on the Slip n Slide until they are all worn out.
Although there are always photo-worthy moments with this group, I almost never take a single picture.
I’m too busy appreciating the warm, fuzzy comfort of two women in my kitchen who know exactly what it's like to survive the long days. Over salads and fruit, we talk about communal life...what it would be like to share our food, our chores, our possessions and our children all the time instead of just occasionally.
Many women I know think that living together in groups would be desirable...if not in the same houses, at least near enough that we could holler at each other from our porches and have our kids run back and forth for cups of sugar.
Why are we so drawn to the idea of living in community?
There is a common feeling of totally-completely-overwhelmed that sometimes chases us, mows us down and crushes us with its weight. It happens because we as modern parents of young children are trying to do it all. Our society expects us to work, take care of our families, our houses, our yards, our cars, all the while trying to make as much money as possible so that we can buy more (bigger, better, newer) things.
What if less was really more? What if we shared? We wouldn't all need to own a lawn mower, a grill and a swingset. What if we could step back from that constant push for more and actually use less? We could do what we do best and combine it with what someone else does best and make a life together where we are liberated from having to do and be every single thing.
Doing and being everything is too much for one person.
There's more to it, though. The desire to live in community is born of a longing to know and be known, to share burdens that go beyond the practical ones about what we're having for dinner or who is going to cut the grass. It's about finding someone who can relate to your struggles, who can share your journey, who can be vulnerable with you as you find ways to ease each other's burdens.
My friends and I combine our crazy families just for a morning, but what we get is worth so much more than the sum of our chaos. In each other, we find encouragement, an understanding smile, an empathetic ear. Our spirits are refreshed by talking with someone else who gets it. Even if nothing changes at all, things seem better.
We weren't meant to do this alone. We need to find ways to help each other out.
So how can we create this kind of community? How can we support each other in our vocations as spouses and mothers? What steps can we take to form bonds of community without stepping completely out of our lives and moving to shared properties in the country?
Here are some ideas to get us started:
Start a playgroup.
A playgroup is the perfect excuse to get a group of moms together with a common interest- our children! Maybe we start out comparing teething remedies and favorite brands of shoes for new walkers and end up offering a shoulder to cry on during a difficult week. Socialization is good for our kids, and talking with other adults is definitely good for us. Knowing we have a play date coming up makes me less likely to pull my hair out (and more likely to make sure I brush it instead) on frustrating days.
Host a meal exchange.
Unless we are lucky enough to have in-home chefs, we all have to cook, anyway. Instead of cooking five times in a week, try cooking just once in a really big batch. Have four other friends do the same, then switch meals. All of you will have food for the whole week, and you’ll get to see each other to switch the meals. Better yet, find time on a Saturday once a month and get together to cook the big batch meals together. I’m always amazed at the ways my friendships grow from spending time together in the kitchen.
Have a hand-me-down swap.
Everyone brings outgrown children’s clothing and takes home clothes that fit. You get to hang out with other women while exchanging clothes, and you feel glad knowing that your own clothes went to a good home. You could also try this with women’s clothes if you want to refresh your own wardrobes.
Start a book club.
My own book club is an unlikely collection of busy women who meet once a month to discuss great books. The format is simple- we gather, eat snacks, and talk about the book we’ve just read. Our club is part of the Well-Read Mom, so we have resources and discussion questions available to guide our meetings. We leaned heavily on them at first, but now that we’re in our second year, we don’t need them as much. We’ve learned a lot about literature and about each other from discussing these great books, and we’ve become part of each other’s lives in an important and meaningful way.
Do a DIY project together.
Have you been curious about making your own laundry detergent or starting to grow herbs? Do you need extra motivation to get started on new curtains or on painting your deck? Split your time with some friends…they help you paint your garage doors, you help them wash their windows. You’ll have company while you work, and you’ll both be more likely to get the job done knowing that someone else is counting on you.
Maybe we can’t all move onto group farms and share all of our resources, but we can find creative ways to share our lives with others. What ways have you found to help create community with others in your life?
Copyright 2014 Abbey Dupuy
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