Community, Contribution, Passion and Purpose
As moms, we’ve all faced crises. Mine was a huge and scary one, because my daughter was missing. She ended up in the hospital for two weeks. She is home now. But she has a long road ahead as she works to manage her mental illness.
And I’ve been so comforted by my friends during this very tough time. I was actually pretty blown away that 8 different mom friends reached out after seeing a social media post my son created when his sister was missing. I’ve known these moms since my kids were little, but now that my kids are 18 and 20, I rarely talk to or see these moms these days. Sometimes I used to feel like I didn’t have any close friends anymore, but I realized that tribe is still there for me. Just hearing that they were thinking about us and checking in to see how my daughter was doing meant a lot to me.
So that’s why I want to start this session with Community, something we all crave and many of us question if we have it -- even when it may be more accessible than we realize. We don’t reach out to those we know often enough -- when we are struggling we don’t want to burden others or seem weak, when we have a big win we don’t want to seem like we are bragging when others may be facing problems, even when we just feel alone we think we may be bothering others who are busy.
Forget all those “reasons” not to connect with moms you already know. They will be happy when you reach out, even if they can’t text back right away. Set up a Zoom or Facetime call with them. It’s a lot more personal than texting or emailing or even talking on the phone.
Since I’ve been in touch with moms I hadn’t talked to in years I found out so many of them are confronting a similar crisis with a teen or young adult child who has mental illness. It saddens me to know so many parents are dealing with this, but it is important that I don’t think our family is the only one, because we’re not.
This is especially timely right now because so many people are stuck at home due to COVID and missing our interactions with friends. It can have such a detrimental impact.
Did you know that humans are pack animals who are not meant to survive alone? When our kids are all over us all day, we often just want some peace and quiet away from everything and everyone. But we often just want another mom friend who could relate to our exhaustion, our worries, and our dreams.
Friends have always been my lifeline. I moved back to the Midwest to start my family here because I wanted to be around my tribe of high school friends. It was great when my kids were little and I was working part-time. But I created unrealistic expectations that we would continue to see each other often and forge deeper bonds as our kids got older. The opposite happened. Our kids went to different schools in different suburbs and got involved in different activities, and my life became dominated by people and places that didn’t include my old friends.
Instead of reaching out to become part of the mom cliques around me, I clung to the idea that my old friends were more important. But we grew apart, especially when I began working more and had less time to socialize. I finally realized I needed to put in more effort to get to know the moms who were around at my kids activities -- the moms in the bleachers at the soccer games, in the auditorium at the band performances, in the gym at curriculum night. It was as simple as sitting next to them and jumping into the conversations to commiserate as I heard them complaining about the piles of laundry and dishes that never end.
With the pandemic, many of those opportunities have been snatched away. There are virtual opportunities for socializing, and some of you might have tried attending meetup groups on Zoom like I have. Even better is a one-on-one call, where you can both have a glass of wine and catch up and laugh. Try to get someone else to watch your kids. Even if you only do this once a week for an hour with four different friends in a month, it forges those friendships that are so important in life.
I also find that getting a side gig you enjoy can force you to get out and build new relationships. I started hosting trivia a few years ago, and sometimes that night is the only time I put on makeup and get out of the house. My family knows I have to leave because it’s a “job,” but it’s just as much a social event for me. I’ve gotten to know the regulars at the pub, and spend time with them after my shift is over -- not to mention I get paid too. There are so many things like this you can do -- as an employee or a volunteer. The best way to meet new people is to do new things, and that includes downloading the MomSub app to join our community.
And that leads me to the next area, which is Contribution. We want to show our kids it’s important to give back, but it often feels like another thing to tackle on our to-do list. The best way to find time to contribute to your community is to do something that easily fits in your life.
If you know you’re going to be helping your kids with their math homework a lot this semester, it wouldn’t take much extra effort to offer to tutor another child in the same class at the same time. Think how grateful that mom will be when she sees your email inviting your child’s classmates to soak up your expertise during a joint homework session by Zoom. Imagine the lesson you’re teaching your kids about helping others.
Contribution doesn’t mean you have to spend an afternoon cleaning a park. The volunteering I did at my kids school was to coordinate the activities for the class party because I loved event planning. Contribution also doesn’t mean you have to give money to charity. My kids had so many great books and clothes and toys when they were young because I was part of the freecycle.org community of parents who donated their discards instead of throwing them away. Donating to nonprofits is wonderful, but sharing your cast-offs with your neighbors and your talents with acquaintances can be just as heartfelt -- and helps build your tribe of friends too.
The best part about including this kind of contribution in your life is that you can pick something that you really enjoy. And that brings me to the next set of hacks centered around Passion. We hear about this a lot, to nurture your passion. You may even preach it to your kids, to find something they love and pursue that as their career. It may seem noble to encourage this, but it should be tempered with realism. It’s exciting to watch kids get involved in sports and music, but few people ever make a living that way. Los Angeles is filled with out of work actors, singers and screenwriters. I know. I lived there and saw friends struggle for years who never made enough to pay the bills doing what they loved. Our family suffered financially as well because my husband and I followed our dreams to go into the music and media industries, which is a very tough way to try to support a family in the suburbs in the 21st century.
I’m talking about passion because it is critically important in life. We are all happier when we find something we are passionate about and love to do so much that we get caught up in the zone and time flies whenever we’re engaged in that activity. But it doesn’t have to be your career. It doesn’t even have to generate revenue. It can be something you do for money or for fun or to benefit others. So pursue your passion with gusto, or try different things until you find it. But keep your day job and keep your options open. Financial stability is critical when you’re a parent. If you worry that you won’t have time for a passion unless it’s your job, find a way to get your kids involved. If you love to paint, get them an easel too. You’re more likely to spend time on something you enjoy if you don’t have to sneak away to do it every time. And it’s always great to be a role model to show your kids that even adults love to play in our own way.
And sometimes that fun hobby can become a guiding light in life that is even more important than a career -- and I’m talking about purpose. For many moms, our purpose is our children. And that is a beautiful thing. But it shouldn’t be that way for the rest of our lives. Our kids will grow up and move out and get lives of their own.
Even if that seems so far in the future for many moms, it can add a sense of resolve to our lives if we recognize that there is more after our kids have left the nest.
I didn’t think much about this until my kids were teens, and then I started to realize there would be a whole new future in front of me that I could embrace rather than fear. So I started to write more, something I’ve always done as a journalist, but this time my writing became more personal. I started a blog and began detailing my experience as a mom, both the ups and the downs, so I could share all of the lessons I had learned with other moms.
I realized my purpose was to find a way to bring calm and confidence to the lives of stressed out and self critical moms. You might already have a strong purpose -- maybe as a lawyer who represents victims poisoned by tainted water or a chef who brings home cooked meals to shelters for battered women or someone who designs home remodels to bring beauty to people’s lives. Whatever your purpose is, it’s okay to know that you are or will be enlightened by something beyond your kids that will fill you up in ways you never imagined. That’s how I feel every time someone tells me my business brought them happiness.
That’s exactly what I want for you -- a better quality of life. I know you can find that as you meet more like-minded moms and contribute to each other -- even in simple ways, like admitting our struggles so the other moms know they are not alone in theirs. We all face adversity more than we let show, and we should stop trying to project the image of perfection. It’s a myth, no matter what you see on social media. And perfectionism is actually dangerous, and next week I will explain why in my weekly Dose of Inspiration.
One of the ideas behind MomSub is we don’t have to be perfect mothers who never take a break. We need and deserve a break, and you can find a super affordable way to get that by joining our community at MomSub.com. Don’t forget to spread a little of your own love to another mom who needs it.