My Village

Happy woman at officeJust a few short weeks ago, my aunt died. This was a woman who was among the first to tell me she supported me fully when I told her I wanted to become a Single Mother by Choice (SMC) … the woman who threw me a baby shower, the first person aside of my mom to come visit my newborn son, and the woman who told me she thought it was “awesome” how I was choosing to live my life. To say her loss has been huge to me would be an understatement.

She was clearly beloved in her community, as evidenced by the hundreds of people who came to pay their respects at her wake and funeral. But I had always known that and admired it about her. And this woman, who I so wanted to emulate for many reasons, had me wonder as she lay dying of cancer, “Would I have the same kind of community rally around ME in time of need?” The day of her passing, I found that answer was a resounding YES.

And you know why? Because it was my friends from Single Mothers by Choice (SMC) who were among the first to step up when I posted a plea for help with watching my son during the wake and funeral. Not only was it heartwarming, it also showed me just how different the composition of my village has changed in the past few years since I began my journey on the SMC path.

I have several longtime close friends, and dozens of casual friends, and yet when my aunt was diagnosed with cancer 1.5 years ago and I was absolutely devastated by the news, some of the first people I called to lean on were my SMC friends.

I do that a lot—think of my SMC friends first, that is. When I started to prepare an invite list for my son’s second birthday party, my local SMC friends were among the first people I thought of. I could go on and on about examples like that. I think of my SMC friends often–heck, all my non-SMC friends hear all the time about my esteemed SMC friends.

It’s an interesting thing to reflect on, as a woman in her 40s who recognizes how much harder it gets every decade to make new friends—even for someone like me, who is fairly outgoing and gregarious. When lives are busy, and infant care becomes isolating, it’s so easy to neglect to connect and bond with others. And yet, somehow, these relationships—which have become so vitally important to me—have thrived, even as some others from my pre-child life have drifted away.

I find myself amazed by how invested I’ve become in some virtual (nee, online) friends’ SMC journeys in the past few years, and by how some of the real-world SMC friendships have strengthened and deepened. While I have been called “complicated” by some people I have met in this lifetime, I just find that this particular village “gets” me.

I sometimes think of the women who gingerly put a pinkie-toe into the waters on our “Thinking” forums and wonder about this whole “SMC-hood” thing, and remember that it took me a solid year of thinking to get to the point of readiness to take action. SMC felt very foreign, very scary, very unknown, and very risky—what if I were rejected by the community at large? (Sidebar: In case you’re wondering, this has been an unfounded fear.)

The truth is, this once-foreign SMC village is a huge reason I feel I have thrived as a mom, and at times it’s such a big part of my everyday fabric that I tend to forget there’s other villages out there that don’t always understand or appreciate us for all that we are.

Whether I’ve been allowed to share in some small part of your own journey or been welcomed into your own village with open arms, I just want you to know how much I value you.

You ladies ROCK!

Jennifer Whitney

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