When I hear people stress the importance of “building your community” I react with a slight inner cringe before outwardly and emphatically nodding in agreement. I mean, let’s be honest – it IS true. When raising children, and when not raising children, having people to support us is important – perhaps vital – for thriving.

So why the cringe? My life is brimming and overflowing with people who love me. The parents of my kids’ friends. The homeschool moms. My next door neighbour/sister. My other neighbours AND the other ones. My parents. The list goes on. I am not short on support.

And still. I cringe. Here’s why.

  1. My community doesn’t really raise my children or make sure I’m mentally sane. Sure, they help out when I need it, provide fun and growing opportunities for my children, and sometimes even tell me how amazing I am. But all of it, completely 100% of it, comes back home at the end of the day to face the actual reality. Having a community does not erase what is at home. So I cringe because it all sounds so good – but disappoints when we still have ourselves and our messes to deal with.
  2. Not everyone has community. For an endless buffet of reasons, there are too many people to count that don’t have this so called community and have TRIED to have this community. Even with the above mentioned list of my own, there are many times that I can’t find someone to take my kids for me when I am about to explode or just exploded. There are countless times that I can’t think of who to call when a specific difficult thing happens in my marriage. There isn’t someone for everything. So I cringe because many of us KNOW we need community and the reminder pushes us deeper down. Thank you for reminding me that I am alone even though I try not to be.
  3. Finally, I cringe because no one tells us how to build this community. Apparently we just need it. It takes a village, they say, to raise a child. Well what if I live in the middle of a cornfield in the middle of a bigger field in the middle of an empty province? Or what if my social anxiety makes it near impossible to leave my home 22 days of the month? And they don’t tell me how to build a community when my child is on the spectrum and I can’t find other kids, or their parents, who will nail down a date to get together. So it’s important!? Well then tell me HOW!

I have concocted my own array of suggestions and tips on how to build a community. Some of the suggestions might work, some of them might not. Some of them work for me, others do not. At any rate, we all do know that blah blah blah, community is important. Having someone to call on when the tough already got going is critical to maintaining some sanity. Some of us are lucky enough to have built in community – kids’ friends parents, relatives, neighbours… But oftentimes this isn’t enough or may not exist. Let’s think outside of the box. Here goes it.

  1. Read some good books that you enjoy. I have some great book suggestions to help raise emotionally healthy children, but let’s angle it a little differently. Read books that help YOU feel better as an individual. The authors can absolutely serve as part of our communities. Surrounding ourselves with words that make us feel less alone really DOES make us less alone. My most recent example? “Girl, Stop Apologizing,” by Rachel Hollis. I just finished it and her words have served as empowering in my own life, providing a little sliver of the community that I need to function at my best.
  2. Find an online community. Don’t have the Facebook? Get it and don’t let yourself get sucked into the black hole of lonely depression that it inevitably triggers in so many of us (me.) I “unfollowed” all of my friends (and even my husband) so that all that would pop up on my feed is the influencers and communities that I hand picked to join. I don’t have to see when my science lab partner from high school goes to the Dominican Republic or when my choir buddy from elementary school sneezed. Choose communities that encourage rather than judge. Be careful. Exit a group quickly if it tears down. There are oh so many to choose from. One good one? The Atomic Moms Facebook group. Atomic Moms is a wonderful podcast that encourages moms in their journey and keeps it real and relatable. Join the Facebook group and interact with other parents who are working their way through this gig also, and who might be able to offer some support. Listen to the Atomic Moms podcast while you’re at it.
  3. Ok. Moving on past the hide-at-home options. I am noticing as I am typing this that the tingles of nervous jitters are running up and down my arms. I do not feel mentally nervous, but my body is telling me that it is scary to leave home and put myself out there. If you have a similar reaction, please know that if you see someone like me (seemingly confident) at one of these clubs, they too are likely nervous when thinking about socializing beyond their couches. Join a local club. I live in a relatively small town, and there is everything from a circus club, to an ax throwing club, to a knitting circle, pow wow gathering, triathlon club, rock music band, African drumming circle to book clubs galore. There are far more than this, but the point is – there is probably something for you. And the beauty is that there will be people there that are EXCITED to see someone new joining their “chopsticks techniques” training or their “lavender growing” groups. People are thrilled to share their interests – and you will be fresh blood. If you go and find that they’ve capped their memberships and don’t have room for you, or they don’t make eye contact, then believe me when I say that THIS GROUP ISN’T FOR YOU AND TRY ANOTHER ONE. We don’t always find our people the first go around. It’s ok. They missed out.
  4. Finally, my last suggestion on finding community beyond what is built in and obvious is to breathe. I say this because I don’t always remember to do it myself. Sure, I subconsciously take breaths every couple of seconds to keep my body going. But I don’t stop to really take it in and reflect. I jump to conclusions when upset, tell myself untrue narratives about my own life, and react before my kids know they did something wrong. Stopping to take that intentional breath is where I have the space to see that I AM loved. That I AM worthy of spending time with. That I DO have people in my community. Sometimes a shift of perspective can help us see that we have more of what we want than we realized. Maybe that community is there already, just waiting for you to tap in. Stop and take stock.

Regardless of what it does to my cringe muscle, I admit that having support and community around us is important to our sanity and our quality of life.

There will inevitably be days when we cannot call on someone to come save us from our children. When our community just isn’t there to take our kids before we throw the broccoli that no one would eat at the wall. When the kids are driving us berserk and the piano you thought they’d learn how to play is somehow producing annoying repetitive sounds, the best community that I have found to maintain my sanity is the iPad. Netflix for kids, to be precise.