Thursday, July 18, 2013

Are You Tribal? (with pictures!)


Parenting can be isolating.
It's true.
You want something so badly and then you get it and you think you're finally 'just like everyone else' and you feel incredibly isolated and it's kind of like "whoa, that wasn't expected."

However misguided, in our early months we didn't have anyone over. I didn't have one meal delivered to our home. Instead, I cooked like mad before they came home and stored up as much stuff as I could and then we ate it all and what happened after that is actually a blur. I know we both lost a lot of weight but that was mostly because of stress and running (literally) everywhere but maybe it was because we didn't eat much. I joke that the best weight loss plan ever was to suddenly parent two kids at once.

I was so anxious as a new parent. I know that's normal. But I think mine was a little bit beyond normal. The truth was, I felt so out of my element I didn't want anyone observing me as a parent--especially another parent. I remember having one good friend over while the kids were napping and then basically shooing her out when they started to wake up--because I guess I was too afraid I'd do something stupid while parenting them in front her (the experienced Mom).

So we holed up, holed in, roomed in, stayed in, and besides a family visit or two here and there really didn't have any help or visitors. Some of that was good for bonding and attachment but most of it was just plain crazy now that I look back on it. We needed help. We needed a tribe.

We still feel--for the most part--alone. We don't have a tribe of close by folks who are parenting young kids as well, where we can zip in and out of each others' homes and lives and trade tips and borrow sugar and swap babysitting favors for each other.

I never knew how important that would be. Or at least in theory it should/could be--since I don't have it I realize I can only fantasize about how nice that would be.

When I was growing up there were four other sets of sisters on our street, all about our ages. We went between the collective five houses and yards all day every day. Everyone's parents watched out for everyone else's kids. I don't really remember the parents necessarily hanging out together but they were friends. And yes, I realize it was a different time, when your kids could run (wild) around the neighborhood, up to the park, down to the corner store, etc. etc. etc.

I recently read a tip on a parenting blog and it just said simply: find your people. Specifically, she advised "Find those who can take your kids at a moment’s notice, or whisk you away for an evening out, or who will squeeze themselves into a too small table in order to share a meal, no matter what food is being served."

That sounds so, so very luxurious and nice.

I've told you many times how much I used to love thirtysomething. I wanted THAT (and now I'm upperthirtysomething so I need to figure it out fast!). The fact that everyone was always in each others' homes, tending each others kids, eating things out of each others fridge, laying around on each others' couches..it all looked so normal and plain and nice (of course, I'm first to admit that I would probably be the overly anxious one, always worried what people were thinking of my floors, my food, my parenting, my everything. Damn.)

I don't have that. I don't have a tribe.

The very simple truth is: I don't want to create a new tribe, necessarily. I have people in my life that I love very dearly, but they are far flung. None of my friends live near me. My sister is nearly two hours away. Our neighborhood is somewhat devoid of other parents. I want all my people to magically appear within a one mile radius of ME. Geez, how egocentric is that? Sigh. Oh, and while I'm ordering up exactly what I want I do want a few new tribe members--those who were infertile and then adopted twiblings from Ethiopia. Or at least some transracial adoptive families in the mix.

My question is: do you have a tribe?

On a different note, my what a difference two years makes huh? Of course, I'm still in a Momsuit in all photos :)


PS RunningMama--what happened to your blog? I lost everything in googlereader because I am an idiot.

21 comments:

  1. Geeze, I know what you mean about the loneliness. My girl was such a mess when we first brought her home, such an uncontrollable mess, that every time I took her out I was sure everyone was looking at me and judging. It was very isolating. Didn't help that it came right on the heals of my secondary IF issues which are isolating enough on their own. Wow, what a horrible time that was.

    Luckily I am a member of FCC (families with children from China) and it has been a God send. I have a brand new "tribe" of people in the same situation as me. Transracially adoptive parents of Chinese girls (some boys too). It's been fabulous.

    You're not in New york are you? Good luck to you finding your people. I agree with you so much, you need that. We all need that.

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  2. We all need our peeps and it's hard if those around don't know what your situation is.

    I am lucky that I have my best friend that lives close to me and she has 3 foster kids.

    When I do finally get placed, I will have a tribe.

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  3. Well, hello there, old friend! I'm trying to find my way back to the blogosphere. ;) Boy, do I sure wish we lived closer. From long ago egg twins to now I-need-a-tribe-twins.

    I purposely avoided all mommy and me types of things for the first year. Partially, I wanted to avoid the breast feeding and birth stories and how-did-you-lose-the-baby-weight-so-fast questions. Truth is that it was what would happen after these questions were answered that scared me more. I was the adoptive mama and I felt (not sure it is accurate of not, but it is valid as my feeling anyway) that I would be judged more harshly and studied more closely than if I had given birth. We came together as a family differently than everyone else and I think it can be a novelty for some people. Staying out of those groups was actually a really good fit for us, but the crap behind it probably wasn't??

    M and I are always talking about finding our crew. We have some really great friends, but they have adult kids (even though the friends are close to our ages) or they don't have kids (and don't want them, but love ours and tell us to bring her all the time - even though it isn't practical 99% of the time). It doesn't help that we aren't exactly overly social, but I have started making some effort in just making connections at our weekly Gymboree class. It's a very small start, but I definitely feel you on this post all the way.

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  4. Oh, and love the pics!! When did your babies grow up?!?

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  5. I don't have anything to add on parenthood and tribe, but I wanted to stop to say 1. your kids are so cute and grown up! and 2. that mom suit is adorable and you are rockin' it! twiblings sure keep you in shape!

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  6. Nope, I don't. I do'nt know how many people really do.

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  7. I have two types of friends at the moment. I have friends from the old life. We still try to do the same things. Except now instead of doing stuff as couples we do stuff as singles. All the girls go out to dinner or on a shopping date. Ocassionally we do dinner parties at each other's houses.

    I also have friends from my new life. I was really lonely in the beginning. I'm a SAHM so found myself really bored at home. I just started putting myself out there and introducing myself to people I saw regularly at parks and play groups. It was like dating! Scary. Now I have a group of mums who I can text if I'm going to hang at the park. It makes the park so much more interesting when you have someone to talk to.

    There is still hurt when hanging out with the mommies. They are all now having second babies. They say things like "oh, we started trying straight away as I'm getting older. But luckily we fell the first month". Oh I wish it was that easy.

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  8. Yes? No? I made some tribe members, and they live closer than you - but we still did (and do) a lot alone - and ohmygoodness I get the not wanting to be observed as a parent. I think it gets easier. And harder. I wouldn't drop E off at a neighbors at a moments notice - but I can think of three friends I'd call, you know, if I was bleeding to death.

    It does take a tribe sometimes, but sometimes your little family IS the tribe.

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  9. What I need to know is, where did you find your Momsuits? I love them all and need at least one.

    As for the tribe. I'm with Claud... I wonder how many people actually have that these days. I know of some who do, I know of several who do not. I, too, yearn for a thirtysomething situation. We have some moments, but it gets a wee bit more tricky when there's behavior/trauma/attachment challenges going on....

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  10. Love those mom suits! I need those mom suits! Seems that I'm not eating enough calories to actually lose weight while breast feeding. Sigh.

    I have a small tribe and love it, but it would be nice if they all lived in my neighborhood. Lol! I was just telling my mom that I didn't feel the need to have tons of friends (I'm rather an introvert), but I wondered if Elliot needed more interaction with other kids.

    P.S. I LOVE thirtysomething! I recently watched several seasons while on bedrest. For some reason though they seemed older than we are now...

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  11. We moved to a new country in January, and being as I'm an academic, most of my colleagues don't have young children (or any children). You'd think that I'd meet other parents of kids Gwen's age via her daycare, but in the 6 months she's been going, I can now identify parents of two of the kids in her room by sight, and don't know either of their names.

    I did have some experience of "tribe" recently, and it was awesome. Over the 4th of July weekend, my grandparents both turned 80 so the entire side of the family (everyone except one cousin on location in Shanghai) gathered together for four days, meaning Gwen was but one of 6 great-grandchildren (with two more on the way). There was always a cousin or an aunt or a grandma or a great-grandma -- or indeed, an uncle or grandpa or great-grandpa -- around to watch her, play with her, do things with her. I do wish we weren't an ocean away from the rest of our family, but that just makes it all the more important when we do get together.

    Long time reader, first time (I think), commenter.

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  12. I literally just wrote a post on this very matter. Here...http://itsjustaboxofrain.wordpress.com/2013/07/14/thoughts-on-self-acceptance-and-mom-groups/

    I used different wording but am exploring the same thing. We adopted V as a newborn, and I was too afraid to join a new moms group initially as I didn't want to discuss breastfeeding, etc... And now, I am a SAHM and it feels too late. I do have friends around but they aren't close. We live in the suburbs and they live in the city and it FEELS far for all of us. I too don't have a lot of friends in a 1 mile radius. I'd love to walk to the park and meet other parents. And I am a bit shy about putting myself out there.

    Then too, sometimes I feel like even if i joined I would never feel really a part of things because of how our family was nontraditionally formed. I don't want to be observed like a science experiment, which is how it can feel as an adoptive parent.

    Anyways, yes, this resonates with me a lot. It's making me feel a lot better to know I am not alone in these feelings, though, uh, still alone.

    Awesome suits, I wish I looked that good!

    (Ps- my former blog was a little blog about the big infertility, not sure if you are familiar with my new blog.)

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  13. Super cute mom suits!

    I'm working on my tribe and it is slow going. One thing we've done is found a meetup group of transracial adoptive families and occasionally go to the events. It helps to be around similar families.

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  14. I totally hear you. When I first had my son, I was too afraid to take him out....what if he cried and I didn't know what to do and he kept crying? That was very isolating. Looking back, I wish I had more confidence to just be out and about with my son, but I didn't. Because it took us so long to have one, my friends all have older kids. I would love to be part of a group of a few friends that all have kids the same ages, but that's not the case. We do have one set of very close friends whose kids are 5+ years older than my son. Neither of us have family in the area, so we do trade baby sitting services from time to time, and that is wonderful. It is so nice to have people we trust and then not having to pay feels like a wonderful treat! I think you mentioned in a previous post you were considering or having them go to a Montessori school? Have you met any other diverse families in that environment? I've been told that as my son gets older, I will meet other moms through school and eventually develop a "tribe" that way. I hope so! It is tough. Good luck to you and know that you are not along. Gorgeous pictures! Thanks for sharing. Heather

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  15. Oops, I meant to say that you are not alone (not along). Heather

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  16. I've never really been a "group" sort of person. I've always had one or two close friends that were in different social circles. Never a huge interconnected social circle. I think that's because I have a unique personality type and I'm drawn to "dig in deep" with people. I don't really do small talk and superficial relationships, which is what tends to happen with larger groups of people. My tribe is all over the country, but we also have some amazing local friends and neighbors that were totally there for us after our son died. I mean, I didn't have to cook for a month because our friends did everything. People were constantly stopping by and bringing food and reaching out to talk about our baby. Losing our son made me realize how strong and amazing my tribe is, even though I might not have called it a tribe previously. But, I don't have that 30something eat at each other's house type scenario. I think it would be hard to have all of your friends be able to live (and afford...i.e., be in the same pay bracket) in the same place. We have been lucky enough to have some amazing neighbors with really similar values that we have built a friendship with. But, the type of thing that you describe...I'm not sure that exists for people like me.

    Love your bathing suits, but girl...you totally should NOT be wearing a mom suit. Some day you are going to be 80 and thinking that you should have been strutting around in a bikini!

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  17. PS--my blog is: www.moreroominmyheart.blogspot.com

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  18. I get it so very much my friend... I was so worried about not having a tribe either- all of our friends had kids back when we started this whole IF journey. Now those kids are 10. I was stunned when two close coworkers announced pregnancies last fall and had no idea how I was going to deal with it. Little did I know that I would be blessed to have Q placed in our arms just weeks before they also welcomed their little ones. So I guess my point is that I am so thankful for my tribe of new moms that I have been blessed with. I really thought that was going to be one more thing that IF robbed me of. It's not the tribe I expected, but I am forever thankful for them. I don't have a relationship with my family at all- and that makes me a little sad. But that's another story all together.

    Hope you are able to find a tribe... or create one close to home. I am forever thankful for the virtual tribe that the ALI community creates for us. Thanks for being part of my tribe!

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  19. Mama, we are not so far from one another you and I. I would be honored to be part of a the tiny seedlings of a tribe.

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  20. We don't have a tribe of other parents, but we do have immediate family close by, and we're thankful for that. R's parents take Miss A for at least a few hours most weekends, which helps us get stuff done. R's siblings don't have kids of their own yet, although since Miss A was born, his sister's fiancé has gone from saying "if" they have kids to "when", so maybe she'll have cousins someday.

    One thing I have found that seems to kind of isolate us a little bit is our age. Since it took us 10 years to have her, most of our friends have kids that are in junior high or high school. Nothing like seeing a FB post from one of your elementary school friend's little sisters, who is commenting about her youngest getting ready to start high school! So, age is an issue, and also not being much of a social butterfly probably contributes to it too...

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  21. I've a small tribe as well as find it irresistible, however it could be wonderful if they most existed in my area. : )! I had been only telling my mother that I didn't wish to get a lot of friends (I am fairly a good introvert), on the other hand thought about in the event that Elliot required more conversation with little ones.Gold für World of Warcraft
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