The Importance of My Village

I came across an article at work the other day noting a recent study concluding that ‘less happy’ new parents are more likely to have smaller families. While this doesn’t seem all that surprising, the general modal number of originally “desired children” is two. This already seems like a ‘small’ family relatively speaking, so it is interesting to try to find out why, comparative to the earlier desired number, many people end up having only one kid.

What the study found was that over 70% of new parents experienced a decline in overall happiness in the first year after the birth of their first child.  Of course, as the authors acknowledged, “it is taboo for new parents to acknowledge feelings of unhappiness about childbearing;” there’s a lot of pressure for new moms (and dads) to feel happier, and to project that happiness to the world, which can only exacerbate negative feelings like depression, failure, and worry.

It’s difficult to acknowledge feelings of unhappiness post-birth even to ourselves, because at the same time as life is unbelievably challenging in ways we couldn’t have imagined, there have also been, or at least there were for me, moments of unbelievable joy and love that I never knew before my son was born. There can be a pressure to focus on only the happy side, the wonderful side, and tell ourselves to ‘suck it up’ when the unhappiness rears its ugly head, because after all, this is what we signed up for and we know we should be grateful for all the blissful bits.

I’m personally still in the ‘two desired children’ camp, but when I look back on this first year, I know I’m probably only here because of my village. My village of people, mainly women, but with some pretty fantastic men in there, too, who sometimes felt like the only thing holding me together – like a trellis keeping a fragile, ragged vine from withering.

My village kept me sane. My mom and mother-in-law taking my babe for naps in his stroller or just holding him in the living room for an hour so that I could have a shower or a sleep. My husband telling me (even when he had to repeat himself and raise his voice to get me to believe it) that it really was okay if I just needed to leave the house and go for a walk; he had things covered. My sister talking to me every day, also on her mat leave, and being my daily contact with another grown up on days when I didn’t make it out of the house.

My village kept me safe. The mothers of a previous generation who were living proof that things really would be alright, but who still listened with sympathy and a shoulder to cry on. The few courageous friends who shared with me the details of their own dark, twisty motherhood times as well as their moments of light, letting me know that the roller coaster I was on didn’t make me a bad mom, but was just part of my ride. My husband who, even on the really, really, REALLY awful days, the kind when we were both at our worst and it was hard to even look at each other, was always there bringing water while I breastfed, making dinner, or calling me from work to see how my day at home was going.

My village kept me connected to who I had always been long before I became a mother. Friends came to dance class, encouraging me to get out and shake it off even on nights when I was tired or overwhelmed. Non-parent friends listened about the trials of birth and mothering the way they would have talked to me about any other topic before my life changed, even when I gave gory details they probably didn’t want to know. One particular non-parent friend called on me for urgent love and support when she was in her own dark place, giving me the gift of still feeling that I had something to offer my friends in return, that someone other than my baby still needed me, too.

Being a new parent can be really, really, fucking hard. It’s often said that we mothers have an inner strength that gets us through anything with a newborn because we simply have to, and I suppose this could be true, but for me, my village has been the difference between coming through able to believe I can thrive again, instead of just barely holding my head up.

~ Lindsay

Who We Are

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SHANNON SOMMERAUER DOUMA

I want this space because becoming a Mom expanded who I am and didn’t narrow it, because I struggle with trying to be Superwoman and  I’m not always very good at embracing help when it’s offered, and because I have always loved taking creative adventures with my little sister. I live in Ottawa, Ontario with my lovely husband Randy, our beautiful son Lucas, and feline buddies Sully and Maybee. I spend my working hours at the Canadian Parliament and my playing hours with my family, friends, and an ever-growing list of books to read, wines to try, and things to knit.


11537717_10102554839558330_79785188995071007_nLINDSAY SOMMERAUER

I want this space because I’m in favour of honesty over image and compassion over judgment. I want a place for thoughtful ideas whose speakers keep their minds open to the ideas of others. I want a space free of the judgment, competition, and glossy-falseness that are rampant in the online world of mommy-blogs. A place where we can celebrate our strengths, laugh through the little trials, and find comfort through the big ones. Where it’s okay to admit that you sometimes just want a break from your kid while other times you want to do nothing but be with them forever, and neither option makes you a bad or good mother. A space where we as women (who happen to be mothers) can offer each other support and solidarity, giving each other the benefit of the doubt that we’re all doing our best, and learning from our shared and different experiences.

I’m the mama of sweet little Arlo, partner to the wonderful John, and human companion to felines Kicsi and Koschka. I work at a university helping undergraduate students overcome their hurdles, teach dance fitness for my own creative and energy outlet, and wish I made time in my life for more yoga.

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