The Myth of the Pioneer Woman
Stoic, unflinching--rifle-in-hand--warding off bears and wildcats.
Remember Ma from Little House on the Prairie? Can you think of anyone more idealized? She had tons of patience, home-making skills, doctor, childbirth and child raising skills. She took care of cows and chickens, and fed her family. She quilted and made clothes for her family. She prayed and sang and taught her children. She was good at almost everything. But there was one thing she wasn't good at.
Ma wasn't good at was making friends.
Because she was a Pioneer Woman, wedded young to a man she barely knew, with 3 children before you could say Kindergarten. Ma and Pa set off with small children in a covered wagon walking across miles of prairie. She was the wife of an ambitious man who wanted land, and lots of it. And she didn't make friends mostly because there weren't any to be made.
We don't really know how Ma felt about things.
Her idealized story was told by her adult daughter many years later. Could she have been lonely? Of course she was! Loneliness is a common human experience. Could she have regretted her decisions? Most likely. Most people do. Was she ever a little 'postpartum?' Could be!
She had a stong religious faith and in the years they were near a church, it was an integral part of her life. Faith is an essential piece of a heathy life.
But her life was hard, especially by our modern day measure and mostly, she faced it alone because she had no choice.
When we are going hours or days without being able to share your feelings or talk to another adult, we can feel a little postpartum and blue. We can feel overwhelmed by listening, problem solving and entertaining babies and children all day.
And, sometimes...you are exhausted and something in you snaps!
You may find yourself in tears in a full blown pity party because it's the umpteenth week of sick. Or yelling at your baby or child because they won't stop whining or crying. And, you feel ashamed. And, you don't know what to do about it or how to stop yelling at your poor child. And you don't know how to stop feeling so sad and overwhelmed.
If we remember Ma, and all the other prairie women, so patient and stoic...
then we feel worse because obviously something in us is flawed and awful because a sick and whiny child is not locusts or bears or masked marauders. It's just a whiny child.
Ma didn't have a choice, but you do.
Being in a funk doesn't necessarily mean therapy or medication, although that can be helpful.
What you probably need most of all is some friends. Someone who has a child just your child's age who is going through what you are going through. A kind person who can listen nodding her head, offering support and empathy. Before kids, you may have been content with casual acquaintances and your partner. You also had time to drink deeply from your creative well with your work, hobbies and other enjoyable things.
Now that kids are your work, your hobby and your everything you may feel like you are in a deep funk. A lot of it is because you don't have any friends. When we feel connected, we don't feel lonely. Friendship makes any challenge easier and more enjoyable.
That's easy for you so say but...It's not so easy to find a friend!
I've been hosting social circles for two decades. It's the truth--mothering in the suburbs can feel like you are in the middle of a a prairie in Nebraska. But we aren't in the middle of a prairie. Women and children are everywhere and nearly all of them feel lonely. And many feel awkward doing anything about it. But to have a friend who is going through the same things as you is worth a hundred bottles of Zoloft. We all need friendship.
Please take a more relaxed look at friendship.
- Start like it's dating - "Let's meet at Café Mama."
- Accept awkward - There was this time I went on a blind date play date and the mom answered the door, picked up some food off the floor and popped it into her mouth.
- Be flexible - If you and your mama soulmate love each other but your children don't play well, text each other often, but meet at the playground.
- Cultivate different kinds of friends - Prenatal yoga pals, baby friends, hike buddies and middle-of-the-night besties. You need all of them.
- Be proactive and be a friend - Give out your phone number, and follow or friend request on social media.
- Assume good intent - if you get stood up, stay calm. Most likely a diaper blowout, a super-nap or rough night is to blame. Reschedule!
It's my heartfelt wish that no mama be lonely. I've done much of the ground work for you to find friends. A consistent schedule, age and interest matched and lots of publicity. Hundreds of women have come to New Baby New Paltz and made friends at Cafe Mama. Funny thing is that many of them have been modern day "Ma's" here with their ambitious husbands for a year or a career, because somehow moving makes is obvious that you need to make friends.
But the groups only work if we all show up- so lets do this!
Having friends really is that simple.
My love to you and your family. --Donna