Raising Kids in Community: Advice from the Trenches

Photo courtesy of Rachel Kincaid

Motherhood during the early childhood years can feel lonely, for they are rife with sleepless nights, illnesses, tears, joys, food wars, developmental milestones missed and made, and thousands of questions.

One group of moms in the thick of it is thankful to be in it together. I recently sat down with them to ask about their group and raising kids. I also wanted to know if they had any advice to share with those who are in the trenches right now. Below you will find their humor-filled, raw wisdom.

  • Women: 9
  • Kids: 22 (and counting) with 5 more in Heaven
  • Ages of kids: 2 months-7 years
  • Work status of moms: Homemakers, part-time careers, in-home businesses
  • Years together: 5 years

How long did it take for you all to get real with each other?

Things got REAL fast which drove them deep quickly. “We’ve been through singleness, marriage, miscarriages, the death of parents and friends, substantial marital problems, infertility, foster care placements, special needs, divorce, anxiety, and depression.”

“When the days are difficult, and it needs to be over, I’ll send a text to the group. It’s nice to hear from someone, “You’re not alone, it’s not crazy.””

How many texts are sent/received daily?

[Embarrassed laughter] “Some days it’s hundreds. They cluster around naptimes or the witching hours (after naptime or school until dad comes home).”

What are some of the lessons you’ve learned from one another?

Perspective. One mom looked at her friend across from her who struggled for years with infertility and miscarriages. “Watching her parent her first baby with such joy those first couple years made me really consider my own attitude toward parenting.”

There’s no gold standard, besides loving your kids. Among the nine I heard from the full spectrum of mom types. The all-natural mom sat next to the one who feeds her kids exclusively hot dogs. The homeschooling mom learns how to educate her kiddos right alongside the ones with kids in public or private school. There are those who sleep train and those who don’t. Those who bottle feed and those who nurse.

No Judgment/Pride. Doing life with nine women who are all very different did wonders in breaking down judgment and pride. Being together offered the opportunity to witness a variety of approaches to things such as ways to feed, parent, discipline, and handle marriage and friendships effectively, developing humbleness in each of them.

A sounding board & being willing to say the hard thing. Amongst the hundreds of texts that fly are questions. Questions about sickness, discipline, if anyone else had a kid do…, friend issues, husband drama. “There is so much that happens in the mundane chat.” Another mom confessed, “They [the women] did something my husband couldn’t do for me sometimes.” Sometimes you just need someone to tell you, “Go home and have sex with your husband.” Not all friends will say that.

What advice would you give the mom currently hiding in the closet from her kids?

  1. Laughter is beautiful. You have to laugh at the hard times.
  2. It’s OK to grieve if your baby or life hasn’t turned out the way you thought it would. When this happens, take the time to process and grieve. Then begin rewriting the trajectory of what you thought your life would be to what it may look like from this point on by finding the joy and beauty in what may seem like the only trial at the time. (From a dear mom who didn’t know until she first held her son that he came with an extra chromosome giving him Down syndrome.)
  3. Constantly lower your expectations. For yourself and your kids.
  4.  Marriage is one of the hardest lots in life. Stick it out.
  5. For you to be able to regulate a kid, you need to be able to regulate yourself.
  6. You’re going to be late for the rest of your life.
  7. No black shirts (snot).
  8. No white shirts (coffee/wine).
  9. Dry shampoo.
  10. It’s OK to shower once or twice a week.
  11. It’s OK to have your kid in the bathroom with you while you’re doing your business.
  12. Be careful what you think, it might come out of your mouth.
  13. It’s OK not to like your children for a minute.
  14. Embrace stretch marks. And chin hair. And nipple hair.
  15. Take time for yourself. Being away from your kids is OK.
  16. Seek the truth in everything.
  17. Don’t buy the lies. You were meant to be your kid’s mom.
  18. Even in a group, you can still feel alone. People are wired differently for relationships.
  19. Be content in the moment.
  20. Be present.
  21. Don’t wish the moments away. (Well, there are some LEGIT moments, like barfing kids, when it might be OK to do some wishing.)
  22. You get to control the foundation of your child’s childhood. That’s enormous.
  23. Let the friends you trust help you raise your kids.
  24. If you’re married, prioritize your marriage over your kids.
  25. Don’t stay alone in a dark place (in your mind). Reach out.
  26. Be the person to love the lonely mom in your world.
  27. A “no” to do something today with groups or friends may not be a “no” tomorrow. There are seasons in life.
  28. If you want connection, be brave, find another mom or two and create a group.

One mom finished with, “I’ve heard people say the days are long and the years are short.” Truly the years with young children are trying, tiring, and maybe even a little torturous. Yet, I’m confident those who live through them will one day look back with a tender fondness and gratefulness for the moments and the people who joined us along the way.