Finding your Tribe(s)
Finding your tribe. It’s something you hear mentioned often, particularly when it comes to motherhood. Because ‘it takes a village to raise a child’, as the old saying goes. We all have our tribes, whether familial or otherwise. We get comfortable amongst them. The task of finding a new one is daunting, to say the least.
I knew during my first pregnancy that I was going to have to do something about the upcoming transition from career to parenting. I did my best. I joined many groups and classes. From some, I gathered a couple of friends who sailed on ships that didn’t ultimately travel in the same direction for long.
But we offered each other friendship and empathy for the time that we journeyed alongside. Then we slowly drifted apart, amicably. Some are still present online to varying degrees. All played their part in making my journey what it has been.
My parenting tribe though. I eventually found it. I found them. Online, I found my Irish Parenting Bloggers tribe. Mostly virtual, almost always available. A source of vast knowledge and great wisdom. A patchwork background of age, location and stages of parenting. Some I’ve met, some I may never see outside of the pages of their blogs. The ultimate example of modern-day life.
You can’t always hide behind a keyboard though. Offline my parenting tribe was a particularly active and well-run branch of the national parenting support group in Ireland – Cuidiu. This wasn’t as easy a tribe to join, but offered so many benefits over the years.
Joining this tribe involved the fear of putting myself out there to find others. Of walking into large rooms full of noise and cliques I wasn’t a part of. Persistently going when it felt easier to stay with my baby in our safe home. Building a presence. Making connections. Oh so slowly feeling a little more comfortable in new social situations.
From these events, I found a large group of kind and supportive mothers who looked out for each other and provided not just online support. They were also physically present for each other. A group just large enough for you to drop in and out without obligation, but to always find a core support structure waiting there when you needed it.
The most apt description I’ve heard was a friend describing the unconditional support of weekly coffee mornings in the various homes. For those days when you were struggling so badly that you just didn’t have it in you to engage with others. But you just couldn’t stay at home. Alone. Just you and your child.
To have a destination to go to on those days where you have nothing left in you is invaluable. To be welcome to sit and let the conversations flow about you without the requirement to participate. To feel apart from that madding crowd of mothers and children that surround you, yet still a part of the group. Belonging. An anchor to cling fast to when you felt you were losing your way.
Things change. Life continues to pull us in new directions. I had to say goodbye to that tribe… to MY tribe. It saddened me. It worried me. I resisted the steps of starting all over again. But not for long. If not for my sake, for the sake of my child. That tribe had taught me that we needed the support of a local village.
So we started afresh with another branch. It wasn’t the same. It was different. It was still a tribe. It became my tribe also. It absorbed us as one of their own and we belonged once more. It welcomed my second son. Then. We left. Again. Looking back at these tribes and wishing they could come with us.
New home, new city, new continent. Where to start? What groups to try? The parenting groups were different. The expectation was that my children would be in full-time daycare as soon as possible. These groups didn’t fit us at all. The only similar groups to the ones we knew were the homeschoolers and unschoolers. It was somewhere to start.
I went back to my online tribes and found local connections there too. It made all the difference for easing into groups in a brand new environment. We’ve relied on those groups to see us through the early days and will continue to for however long we, and they, are here. A group of others in the same situation as us. Also looking for connections.
Then came the tribe I hadn’t anticipated. The one I wasn’t looking for. Other women who have relocated to this city for the same reason. Their partner’s job. Ones who have an even wider and more varied background. Older, younger, different nationalities, grown children, new babies, no children. No ties to Ireland or parenting bind us. Just the commonality of being right here, right now. Having different experiences in the same place. And this tribe feels right for us too.
If there’s one thing I’ve learnt from the past few years, it’s that you don’t need to look far to find ‘your’ tribe. Then when you find it… keep looking. There’s more than one out there for you. You need more than one because that’s where you find your sense of belonging, something that grounds you. Something more crucial than you’ll realise until you float away from it.
The people that make up your tribes will change along the way. The most important thing is that you have those tribes. As you sail your sometimes lonely journey across the sea (or fly to far away lands) all you need is one passing ship to float alongside for each part of the journey and help navigate your way.