A fellow stay-at-home mom (a.k.a. laundry-dominator, kid-chaser, house cleaner extraodinaire, nutritional snack czar, etc.) called me yesterday. We talked on the phone, which is in itself a small miracle, considering that children are drawn to moms on the phone like moths to a flame, except they're more needy (the children, not the moths). It's a natural phenomenon that I do not have the scientific credentials to explain. Even as her little ones bounced around her house and fought and needed things from her (Sam was at school and the babe was asleep, if you were wondering where my people were), we shared actual words of encouragement and words of understanding and words of wondering what it's all about, this life we are leading, shepherding small hearts and souls in our little homes from sun-up to sun-down and sometimes long after that sun has gone down.
And we hit on something in the midst of that conversation. Something that you have probably already considered or wondered about or maybe even acted on. We talked about the strangeness of raising children the way we do in this weirdly isolated society we live in. And I'm not just talking about the social media phenomenon that helps us keep up with friends who live across the country whom we haven't seen since we were twelve even as we don't know our neighbors or see friends who live only a few miles from us more than twice a year. I'm talking about the situation in which most stay-at-home moms find themselves in day after day, raising their babies in virtual isolation, tucked away in the solitude of their own houses waiting for husbands to come home and give them a couple breaths of relief from the unrelenting constancy of it all.
We don't live in community the way women did fifty years ago. You've probably noticed this. Our neighborhoods are full of strangers who we wouldn't recognize in a police line-up. Our children don't play with the kids down the street because we're kind of afraid they might sell them drugs (or equally alarming, trans fats) or join a preschooler gang. Our mornings aren't spent with moms who live next door drinking cups of coffee on the porch while the littlest ones who don't go to school play at our feet.
We drop older kids off at school and then drive straight back into our garages, retreat into our homes, and spend the day doing our usual stuff, disciplining children, cleaning bathrooms, making meals, paying bills, with the occasional guilty glance at Facebook as we wonder what other women are doing right now and hoping for some small connection with them online as we face another day alone.
Um...that sounds a little more bleak than I meant for it to. But, you know what I mean. Being a stay-at-home mom these days is, for the most part, kind of a loner experience.
And, so, this brings me back to what my friend (we'll call her Courtney, because that's her name) and I were mulling over. We want more than that. We want real community with each other. Community that's more than just a playdate at Chic fil a (although those are occasionally extraordinary). But, how on earth do we make that happen? And, are we even willing to be intentional enough to make it happen? My introverted self can occasionally choose to be alone when community would be so much more life-giving.
We need to be intentional about community with each other, but, I think we also need to be somewhat unconventional about it. Playdates aren't really community. Can we just be honest about that? Playdates make my brain want to explode sometimes. But, if we aren't living across the street from each other, can we even have the kind of comfortable, familiar, intertwined-life community that seems so out of reach? I honestly don't know yet. But, I really want to at least give it a serious try.
My friend and I talked about having family dinners together where everyone brings food, so that no one feels like the burden of dinner is completely on their shoulders. We talked about being intentional about driving over to each others' houses after kids have been dropped off at school to have a cup of coffee and talk for an hour before heading back home to put the baby down for a nap. We talked about going on walks in the evening and about being intentional to occasionally involve our husbands in our pursuit of community so that we aren't tempted to be exclusive in some kind of "No Boys Allowed" cliche.
I'm curious if it's possible. I think it is. I think we can create the community we were designed for.
We need each other. I need friends to speak truth into my life daily so that I'm not tempted to hide out in my house and allow the Enemy to convince me of things that aren't true. I need friends to walk with me consistently in this parenting thing because on any given day I can easily believe that I'm screwing it all up. I need friends to encourage me to be myself, to live out my purpose, to pursue gifts and talents that I'm tempted to put away until the kids graduate from college.
What would it look like if we made choices about where to buy a house based on where our friends lived? What if we took back our neighborhoods (so to speak) and created the community that we long for? I know that sounds a little far-fetched, but wouldn't living a stones' throw away from a dear friend be worth about a million double-sink master bathrooms? I'm pretty sure our quality of life would benefit from the friend across the street way more than the bonus room in that house across town. I say this and I currently live on a street where I know zero neighbors and I've lived here almost two years. And it's not for lack of trying to be friendly. I think real community just feels so foreign and possibly even outdated that maybe no one really tries anymore.
I want to borrow a cup of sugar from you and I want you to call me to remind me to pull my
shade at night before I put on my pj's (because, oops) and I want to know that you'll
water my flowers when I'm out of town for the weekend. I want to know
that you will drop by and feel the freedom to come in without knocking. I
want to feel like we're in this together. Because we are. We just don't
always realize it.
Let's be different. Let's pursue each other. Let's get all up in each others' business (in a good way, friends). Let's change this weird trend of moms locked up in their houses trying to go it alone. Let's figure out real ways to be intentional about unconventional community.
I'm in if you are.