A homeschooling mom recently expressed her confusion as to why so few families participate in local support group activities but so many women lament being lonely. I was reminded of this post that showed up in my social media feed a while back:
We have lived in [a fairly small city] for four years now. Four years.
In that time, I have tried to get involved with several local groups of moms and tried out numerous churches, trying to find community. I have planned events. . . . Most of them have gone unattended.
I go to others’ events when I’m able. I have participated in meal trains and arranged childcare so that I could help clean homes for other mamas who were too ill to take care of their own houses.
In these last four years, I have had another baby, a surgery, and two traumatic miscarriages, including one that nearly cost me my life. We received just two meals, and no offers of help with the boys, with the exception of my mom.
Last week we were invited to join someone at the park. It was the first time someone actually extended an invitation to me. The first time in four years. Four years.
Look up from your screens, world, and look around you. Real people are nearby and they need your friendship and support. Human-ing is hard. Parenting is harder. Mothering without support is nearly impossible.
—Anonymous; used with permission
This sweet, young mother of three littles wasn’t complaining; she was grieving the decline of relationship in our society.
I know I’m “dating” myself when I tell you this, but when old timers started homeschooling, we had to connect with other local families if we wanted any interaction. We didn’t have the internet yet, and homeschooling was new enough—and outside-the-box enough—that our kids didn’t have opportunities unless we made them happen.
Well-meaning family members and friends told us that we could avoid all our problems if we’d just put our kids back in the local school. We connected with other homeschooling parents—moms in particular—out of a need for self-preservation.
We needed someone to call who would understand, who would not condemn our weariness or self-doubt as “what we deserved” because we made this choice. We became a sisterhood, a family—our common bond was our desire to honor God through our families and the education of our children.
We were deliberate in being there for each other. We provided meals for new moms or bereaved families, watched each other’s kiddos, did laundry for sick mamas, helped young widows make funeral arrangements. We took older siblings on field trips with us so they didn’t have to miss out when mom had a newborn, and we took meals to a chemo mom twice a week for 18 months.
We had park days, learned to bake bread together, and our children were friends. We provided informal co-op classes among families, and we celebrated births and graduations and year-ends with each other. We made memories together, and we made lifelong friends—because we lived life together.
Life is messy; homeschooling is messy; friendship is messy.
In a recent newsletter, we discussed hospitality. Relationships. Open hearts, open homes. Transparency and real-ness. It’s less intimidating for us to take steps toward this on social media, where we can safely peek at life over our keyboards. But as our anonymous young mother also exhorts us, “we stay glued to our screens, asking for help and answers via Google and Facebook groups, when we could get help and answers and the connection we so desperately crave if we would step away from the computer and into a ‘tribe.’”
This month, I encourage us (I’m speaking to me, too) to look around and see the needs in our local community. Maybe it’s just a short note on social media—a reply or private message—acknowledging that we hear that person, we recognize her need, her hurt, her joy. Perhaps it’s talking to a young, frazzled mom in the grocery store. Maybe it’s connecting—or re-connecting—with our local homeschool group, or creating some new opportunities.
In cultivating these relationships, not only are we building each other up, but we are modeling for our children what it looks like to invest in people.
“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.” —Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 (NIV)