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Parents, You Need Community: Reach Out and Invite Others In

My husband and I have found that we are in the throws of parenthood in almost every aspect.

Our days are filled with those second cups of coffee, trains and tracks filling our hallways, a matchbox car in our pantry, blowouts, temper tantrums, runny noses and snuggles.

Often times, we look at each other from across the table smiling at something our little one just said or with weary eyes while one of us tries to calm down the latest tear-induced scream fest.

Some days we don’t leave the house and other days we yearn for the comfort of letting our little guy just run around in his pajamas all day.

Our life feels busy and our schedules keep us moving; sometimes we move too much to where we are just passing each other by with a quick kiss and an update on the toddler, like, “try to get him to eat veggies” or “he didn’t take a great nap.”

We love our life but there is something that we know that we were missing. And it was such a big part of who we were before we entered parent-dom but through the willingness of just trying to survive, we forgot how to do life with other people.

We needed community.

I’m not talking about friends you see for the occasional birthday party or a girl’s night out. While I love a good girl’s night out (because nothing is wrong with a little tequila and laughter) we wanted deep, abiding community that could help us walk through parenthood.

Who we could talk to about how to parent in those deep in the trenches moments, or who we could laugh talking about how our child embarrassed us that day. We wanted a community who we could invite over for dinner and—in a phrase—invite into our lives for better or worse.

So that’s what we did.

We started inviting people over. We started to build our community back.

Parents, You Need Community: Reach Out and Invite Others In

It started last summer with the warm weather. I had made a list of all the things I wanted to do this past summer and I wrote “Have 5 Backyard BBQs.”

We recently redid some of our backyard and I wanted to fill it will people. I figured this was a great way to enjoy the backyard and quickly got excited for the potential for the fun.

But it was HARD.

I got nervous about inviting people into our “mess” or if people would even show up.

I wondered if it was all worth it.

We spent hours cleaning up the backyard and getting the food ready. I coached our toddler on how to not hit (still working on that one) and put on good mood music.

I would be so anxious that I would barely eat. I so badly wanted others to have fun, the night would be a blur for me.

But as we started cleaning up that first BBQ, one of our friends that had come came up to me and gave me a hug and told me that night they didn’t want to come. They’d had a long day and the last thing they wanted to do was be around a bunch of people. But she looked at me and said, “I’m so glad we came. I don’t think we realized how much we really needed this”.

Another of my girl friends overheard and echoed her feelings with, “I felt like I couldn’t come tonight because I didn’t feel like I looked good and our kids were a mess today, but I’m so glad we did come. This was so much fun.”

It all became so worth it because of my two friends letting down their guard admitting that they needed that night too. They needed community.

I realized then that it didn’t matter what our life looked like; messy, exhausting, difficult, whatever it was that made us want to hole up in the comfort of our lives, we needed to reach out and foster the idea of community.

That in parenthood we needed a band of people, not just girl friends or guys friends, but whole families that we could walk through life with.

Since then we have made an effort to host dinners and play-dates that are more than just sitting at the park.

We actually set the table, invite people over, and do life with them.

We have had tears in our living room over how to raise a child right, laughter in regards to our kids learning their anatomy, our children pretending together in the next room, and meals eaten in harmony.

Parents, You Need Community: Reach Out and Invite Others In

It’s more than just about presenting a “perfect” life.

We let our ugly show, whether that’s dog hair in the corners, runny noses, and pajamas. We want our community to feel like family.

This hasn’t been easy but slowly I have let go of my ideals about perfection and when I look at that mac and cheese stain on the carpet, I now see a room full of children growing up together enjoying their time.

When I have a zit on my face, I won’t reschedule a play date, but slap some concealer on it have a cup of coffee waiting for my friend.

I no longer see time with each other as something to worry over but get excited over what we will share and what relationships will deepen.

I see our dining room as “Holy Ground” rather than a nicely decorated space.

And most importantly, I want our little one to see and remember a house full of love, welcoming, and community so when he is older, he knows that community is safe.

It’s ok to be vulnerable and let others in because life isn’t meant to be lived alone, especially when you are trying to raise your own wildlings.

Parenthood is scary enough. Let others walk along side you. Invite them in and let them become family.

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