How vulnerability and honesty with a few good friends changes our parenting for the better.
I was having one of those weeks. Parenting felt really challenging. I felt unbelievably exhausted, spent, and frustrated. It was only Wednesday.
After a few tears and a bit of a mom breakdown, I got away for a little bit by myself.
It’s often a challenge to silence the mom guilt, but I did my best.
I told the voices that said I should be doing more and could be better at this and needed to get back home immediately to quiet down, and I ended up walking down by the lake.
It was a path I hadn’t been on before and it had a beautiful view of the open water.
For whatever reason, the water was soothing for me that day and my anxious spirit actually took a deep breath and began to unwind.
It was then I noticed them, this little family of ducks.
Or was it a family?
There was a big duck, three little tiny guys, and another big one bringing up the rear.
The natural assumption was that it was a classic family.
This week, I’d been parenting solo for several days in a row, so I wondered otherwise.
Is this little “family” actually a mom, her two kids, and another mom with hers? Or maybe is it a dad and his sons and another dad with his?
What if these little birds are actually embodying what I needed this week and what I’d argue parents need every week: a beautiful parental community?
Where we lean on each other, learn from each other, teach each other’s kids how to swim through the tough things in life when mom or dad is just having a rough day?
I recently listened to a podcast from one of my favorite authors, speakers, and moms, Shauna Niequist, on parental community and how important it is for us as parents to have a group of people to do this mom or dad gig with.
My thoughts from her podcast as well as the week of mothering alone probably furthered my imagination that these ducks were truly acting out parental community.
She talked about how the experience of parenting is just better when we do it together with others.
She talked about how important it is for us to have other moms or maybe dads in your case, who we tell the messy truth to, who we don’t have to have it all together with, who we can be honest and confess when we’re tired or scared.
She talked about making it a priority to be in good community, scheduling it like you would a work commitment, and then putting yourself out there.
She said sometimes these friendships are even born out of these most painful times, like heartache, depression, or divorce and how we learn to carry each other and get each other through.
I left the podcast thinking about each of you.
Parenting is so hard in general. There are enough stressors just in the act of parenting, I know.
I also know what you each care most about is your kids. These precious little souls that you don’t want to feel hurt anymore.
I’m here to tell you: for the sake of your children, this kind of parental community is necessary… here’s why:
1. Your children need to see you investing in good friendships so they learn to make their own.
2. Your children need to see you carving time out for what’s important, so they learn to prioritize well.
3. Your children need to see you letting other people carry your burdens and you carry other people’s burdens so they learn how to love and listen well.
4. Your children need to see you practicing authenticity, vulnerability, and letting go of the perfect Facebook image we all create so they know it’s okay to be themselves and not have it all together sometimes.
5. Your children need you to appropriately set boundaries and share difficult issues with your friends instead of them so they learn to have and set their own boundaries one day as well.
It goes without saying, but I think the last thing we all want is to create tiny little people who have no friends, no priorities, and no boundaries who think they have to be perfect all the time and don’t know how to love and listen well.
Of course, that’s not what we want! What I want for my kids and what you want for yours, I bet, is for them to be healthy, thriving, loving, growing individuals with good friends and good boundaries succeeding in life, work, and relationships.
They cannot learn how to do that well without us modeling that for them.
What better time to model it than now?
This doesn’t have to look complex. It really doesn’t.
Maybe you just schedule lunch with one friend during your lunch break once a week and invest well then.
Maybe you can’t afford a babysitter much, but you can afford one one night a month – make that the night you have honest, real conversations to build that community!
Maybe it’s playdates or pizza dinner while the kids play in the background.
I don’t know what it is for you, but I know it’s worth it and I know we each need it, a tribe of people walking with us, knowing our truth, carrying our pain.
You want to know how your kids will know that they are worthy of things like rich community, good friendships, healthy relationships, and the place to rest sometimes? If you show them with your actions.
I’ve watched parents try to hold it all together and present a picture perfect version of themselves at all times and I’ve watched parents learn messy vulnerability and good community. I bet I don’t have to tell you which kids are thriving, ever growing in their own courage and resiliency.
So, take a step back, sit down with a pen and paper, and think. Maybe even make a list of who the people are who make up your community and carry your burdens in this season.
It doesn’t have to be long and it doesn’t have to always stay the same. Oftentimes, I think two or three friends, really good, honest, caring friends to be your community is better than twenty or thirty relationships that never really get at the heart of what matters.
The goal here is simple: learning to be gentle with ourselves, offering ourselves bounds and bounds of grace as we soldier through these tough parenting years with all the stressors of life that come along within.
Just today, we had a scare at the doctor. I had my son in the backseat and was driving to our next appointment afraid.
I grabbed my phone and called one friend, one safe friend who walks with me on the good days and the bad, and told her the news.
She didn’t fix it, didn’t have magic words. She just offered kindness and love and prayers and held our news with me until we got to our next stop. She was my community, my friend, my safe place.
I got to cry, admit I was scared, and be vulnerable enough to be cared for by someone else.
Then when we got good news at our next appointment, she celebrated with me on the phone too. What a gift, a good friend.
Where I could have turned that fear and anxiety into impatience with my son, I turned it into vulnerability and courage to reach out, and it calmed me down and got me through.
Though my son is little, it helped his day because he didn’t have to carry that stress with me. When he’s older, he’ll understand even more.
For each of your children, I hope you have the chance to show them how to have a good friend and be a good friend.
As the storms of life get louder outside within your divorce or regular old parenting struggles, it will be this community that shelters us and carries us home.
On the peaceful days like my little duck friends were having at the lake, it will be these friends who swim alongside proudly accompanying us and our kids safely to shore.
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