A while ago I posted on the Single Mothers by Choice (SMC) private online Forum about “building community”. My post went something like this:
This is something I’ve been thinking about for awhile — how to build a “community” for my son and I. I have terrific support from my parents, who live in town. I have several close friends, but our kids are different ages, different schedules. We live in neighborhood with either very young (toddler) kids or older (middle school kids).
I’ve left the church my son was baptized in (and I was confirmed in). It has become super conservative and not the place for us. Finding a spiritual home is top on my list, but my son is not so thrilled. The problem with selecting a spiritual home is that even then, I’m not sure how much of a community it’ll be for us as we live in a very traditional area – marrieds, with 2+ kids.
I’m hopeful to build on some of the relationships we started last year in kindergarten, but that would be for my son more so than me. I’m going to – hopefully – join the PTO. I attended a few meetings last year and it seems kind of clique’y. Hoping to crack that code! I can’t really put my finger on something that is “wrong” as much as something that I want to grow, if that makes sense.
As always, the online SMC community provided helpful and thoughtful responses. The replies ranged from the tactical (volunteer, use Meetup.com to find a single parents group or consider scouting) to the bigger picture of the investment of time and effort required to build a community. I took each and every response to heart.
And that had me reflecting on the “season” of communities. Why suddenly did I feel the need to build a community? Haven’t I had that all along?
When I was trying to conceive, I had a small, but very close community of friends and family who knew what I was doing and were with me along the way.
While I was pregnant, my local support grew as I could share my excitement and great news with even more friends. People were excited for me and helped me prepare for the arrival of my little guy.
Once my son was here, I felt isolated in some ways from that community, as I tried to do it all on my own. People who were so supportive during the pregnancy blended into the background, while others, especially parents who had “been there, done that”, became extremely important – I had so many questions!
As he became older, my community changed again; now families from his daycare became allies and our lives revolved around school activities: field trips, holiday parties, fundraising, birthday parties and sharing our children’s milestones.
And now here we are, in grade school. I realize I posted that question on the SMC Forum because in a lot of ways I felt like we were starting over. My son’s school has almost 500 students and it is easy to get lost in the crowd. Kindergarten was a blur and the transition was difficult. The tight-knit community of daycare evaporated. This year, I knew I wanted something different.
Now, a while after posting that question, I find myself building the community I had been looking for ― we’re growing relationships with families at school through Cub Scouts and school activities. We met with a great new group of local SMC members, and for the first time my son was able to meet children who were conceived like him. I find myself saying “yes” more to invites (when I may have said no in the past) and I always end up being glad we went.
Recently, at our town’s fall festival, we ran into a family from my son’s daycare. He was thrilled to see an old friend and they had a ball playing games and picking out pumpkins together. The parents and I easily picked up where we left off – chatting, sharing and catching up on our kids. I also ran into one of my best friends from high school. We lost touch when she moved to California after college and yet here we were, talking like we hadn’t lost a day.
There’s something powerful in reconnecting with people who know you. There’s something promising in connecting with people new to you.
Seasons of community.
As I looked back at the responses I received, this one stuck out the most.
It’s definitely work to build a community for ourselves and our children, and harder if one isn’t comfortable putting oneself out there (as I am not). I feel very grateful that we have formed strong bonds with a few families. Now that my child is in high school, I’m actually working on building myself a new community, one that isn’t primarily defined by my daughter’s relationships. It’s going to be a little challenging, I think.
Building community has neither an end nor a beginning. It is a constant state of being.