One truth I’ve discovered: Every child needs a village… and every mom needs a tribe.
We all know the age old adage “It takes a village to raise a child,” but seldom do we engage in conversations that focus on the importance of surrounding moms with that same village support. As an aunt, godmother and former teacher, I’ve always seen myself as part of the “village” of children. However, it wasn’t until I became a mom that I realized how isolating motherhood can feel when you aren’t surrounded by friends and loved ones who are intentional about showing up for you as you rediscover your identity as a mother.
During my initial foray into motherhood, I was a fairly new transplant here in the cities, without a solid village of friends or family to lean on. In search of building my own community of #momfriends, I frequented spaces like story time at the library (which my daughter and I both loved before the pandemic stole it away) and different events for moms and kiddos happening around the metro. As great of a solution these activities seemed to be, there were times that I left feeling even more ostracized and isolated. Where was the diversity? Where were other people of color?
Going back to earlier this year, there’s no need to recap all that has happened in our nook of the world since the murder of George Floyd, or even the racially charged atmosphere that’s ensued since. But one result that I do believe is necessary and essential to bring up is the importance of continual candid conversations in order to truly shift the nature of our culture, state, and even country for better. So many of us are trying to figure out how to effect change in meaningful and authentic ways, and it’s so important to understand that often, change is an inside job. Essentially, how we operate within our own bubbles has a huge impact on the world around us.
This topic is actually something I’ve never discussed publicly before, most likely because of how personal and impactful it was to me during my early days of motherhood. But I’ve decided to be courageous in starting the conversation because my experiences are important – and not exclusive to me.
For so long, each time I attended a motherhood meetup, story time, or fitness event geared towards moms, I was almost ALWAYS the only mom of color. Of course over the years, I learned to push past the confusion of not seeing anyone like me (and the stares when I entered as though I wasn’t welcome) and I’ve been able to make great connections with some incredible moms. However, there were many times I couldn’t help to think…do I even belong here? And while I completely understand the demographic makeup of our state, it’s still such a jarring experience to almost NEVER encounter diversity when I link up with other mommies!
In a recent article, writer Michelle Silverthorn talks about how we are still racially segregated as a nation – even now. I found it so poignant to learn from her that 75% percent of white Americans do not have a single non-white friend. Michelle’s approach to redefining our mom tribes was simple yet profound. When well-meaning White Moms reach out to her for advice on how to teach their children about race, she encourages them to first examine what is happening within their own lives. It’s that simple.
She also included lots of great tips and self-reflection questions for moms who have recognized a need for change and are ready to do the work. (In fact, I highly encourage a quick read as it only takes about three minutes!) But even if you don’t, I encourage you to reflect on the mommy spaces you frequent – before quarantine that is, lol – and compare your experience to mine. It’s an important first step.
Some questions to ask yourself as you consider your mom tribe interactions:
- Is it easy for you to strike up a conversation with another mom?
- Or, is it common for another mom to initiate conversation with you?
- Did you feel welcome? (Or did you feel judged or “othered”?)
If you answered “no” to any of those questions, I hold space for you, and I see you. If you were able to answer affirmatively to them, think about how great that feels! But now, try to imagine how challenging it would be if you weren’t comfortable in those spaces.
Reflecting on my experience in Mommy and Me spaces, I realize that maybe I’ve never discussed my own discomfort publicly because it felt embarrassing to care about feeling so unaccepted as an adult. However, I’ve come to realize there’s nothing shameful about wanting to be a part of a community, wanting to connect, and to feel valued. We ALL want a tribe to call our own!
Moms are so much better when we build authentic relationships as we navigate this crazy, special role of mom! I have been so fortunate to open up my mommy world to other mamas who look like, live like, talk like me AND those who don’t; and I’ve been blessed by the friendships of them all. I encourage you to think of ways to do the same!
So as we begin to reimagine our worlds in order to cultivate a better space for our children, why not start here? Motherhood is our power. Let’s use our power for collective good. The change starts with us!