Sunday, 10 April 2016

Finding my Tribe

Being a mama has the potential of being a lonely road.  I can't think of many other occupations in which building a tribe of other women around you is so essential.  I mean I literally can't live without my tribe.  They build me up, they are there when I am feeling rubbish, they support me, they help me, they wipe away my tears, they laugh with me at the things that go wrong, they celebrate my successes...I could go on and on.

But finding this tribe has taken time and there were times where I thought I had got it all wrong.  My worst mistake was not following my intuition, my gut feeling.  I was having a particularly hard time when Boris was about 12 weeks old, I had found a trusted group of friends in my NCT group, but was being encouraged by my Health Visitor to branch out more and make as many connections as possible.  I had met another group of women through my post natal classes but never felt I really clicked with any of them, but I persevered with them at the suggestion of the Health Visitor thinking she probably knew best even though my gut was telling me these weren't my people.  My instinct was proven right when I was rejected from the group after revealing some personal information about my parenting choices.  I was really upset for quite a long time, but I learnt some important lessons through the experience:
1. If something isn't working then stop being like the fly that continues to bang against the window trying to get out of the house thinking the harder you try the more chance there is of getting through, and try a different direction - like through the door. I shouldn't have carried on trying to make connections with the group of ante-natal women, I should simply have moved in a different direction and found a different tribe.

2. It is important that your tribe are like minded and that you have things in common. I have stayed good friends with some of my NCT group over the past 4 years not necessarily because we share the same parenting philosophies or life goals but because we shared a close personal experience.  They understood what it was like to have a first child and all the drama, trauma, tears, joy etc that come with it.

3.    If something doesn't feel right then move on.  You know in your gut if you are with a person who is on your wave length or not, you know if you are clicking or not. Listen to what your heart is telling you about the people/person you are with, I don't mean to be unkind but there is no point in pursuing friendships with people who aren't helping you on your journey and who can make a positive impact on your life.

As the time passed my tribe grew, or rather it branched out I suppose, I am still reliant on my NCT friends but have also made strong connections with some other women whom I have met predominantly through Facebook. ( Actually don't know how people ever met like minded folk before the invention of Facebook!)

I realised that I had taken quite a different approach to parenting (with attachment and gentle parenting) to most people and was feeling a bit alone at times.  I could have cried when I had my first encounter with another attachment parent, I remember it so well.  I took myself off to a sling library because someone had recommended it for some reason (can't remember what now or who they were but *thankyou!*)  and I met some women there who were talking about attachment parenting.  I could hardly believe my ears, other real life attachment parenting mothers!  I was over the moon!  I never really forged strong connections with those particular women as they lived a bit far away but it was the start of a journey to finding more women who took on the same parenting philosophy that I did,  I knew they existed now, I wasn't alone!

Through attending other sling libraries, breastfeeding meets and gentle parenting groups I met more and more like minded mothers, such a thrill!  And I now feel I have a fairly strong network of women around me whom I can turn to for help and support when I need it, and for whom I can be there to support them (so important, a friend in need is a friend indeed).

When I ran the first Gentle Parenting Retreat it was incredibly exciting to bring together so many women locally who were not only open to the creative life but also followed the same parenting philosophy that I did, and it is both exciting and touching to see some of these women continuing their creativity at home. It is so heart warming to be with women who you have strong heart connections to, and I am still learning to trust these friendships.  It has been such a long time since I have had a group of strong women friends (maybe even since high school) that it's highlighting my own weaknesses, such as my struggle with asking for help, and the dreaded FOMO (fear-of-missing-out) monster, but I think I am getting there.

Because I am a sort of person with a bit of a split personality I am chronically torn between wanting to be involved in everything and feeling hurt and rejected if I am not invited to things whilst simultaneously wanting to be alone and away from people.

I would encourage all women to get out there and search for your tribe if you haven't found one already.  I promise you there are like minded women out there who are kind hearted and want to be friends with you too, if you just put yourself out there and look for them.  Some won't feel right, but others absolutely will, keep searching until you find them because they are essential for us mamas, especially those, like me who live far away from their families or are the only ones in their families with young children.

As I approach the birth of my third child, and with no family near by to offer short notice support I am relying on this network of strong women to support me on this most important day.  I am so thankful to have found such a supportive, generous and kind group of women.  We need women like this in our lives to build us up and help make us strong, confident in our choices and to help guide us on our journeys.  I am still looking to grow my tribe, particularly to add some more creative mamas to my life who empathize with the struggle of cultivating creativity in the midst of motherhood, I am getting there, we are getting there and we are doing it together.

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