Last year around this time, I was in Guatemala. The families we visited had nothing but each other. The chickens ran through their dirt floored living rooms where the children played, huge smiles spread wide across their little faces. The women, draped in long skirts, wraps in their hair, dirty aprons tied around them tight, their expressions were less jovial. Creases in their brows told stories of strife and struggle, smoothing at the sound of their children’s laughter, or the promise of seeds for their garden. We drove past the one area in town that supplied running water, a covered area with cement tables for washing clothing and filling buckets. Women stood shoulder to shoulder, talking and smiling, all of them working in a line doing their own and each other’s laundry.
I think of these women often. I remember feeling envious of them, even. Me, a white American women encased in my North Face jacket, clutching my iPhone, not worried about my next meal or when I will shower or how I will feed and clothe my children. These women have something that I don’t, something that as Americans we’ve sort of lost touch with; the tribe mentality of helping our neighbors. The notion that we’re all raising our children together, not in competition with our sisters to be the smartest, have the most, excel infinitely, to be better than.
A friend of mine had her fourth baby last week. I don’t know her especially well, as we only met after I moved to Santa Cruz, I hadn’t been to her home before yesterday, and she hasn’t been to mine. I thought of those women in Guatemala though, and resisted the urge to go to her home and gather her laundry, do her dishes and sweep her floors. I did make her family dinner though, what felt like the very least I could do. I’m not even sure if her kids like lasagne, but it was actually good for me to at least try to help her, and to contribute to a collective goal of reestablishing the tribe. A couple of neighbors made meals for my family after Evangeline was born, it was overwhelming to feel cared for… To feel as though I wasn’t in this alone.
Motherhood is so much more about community than it is simply about raising one’s own children.
I began writing this blog way back when to serve as something of an online journal of our lives. It was for me, it was for my family. It still very much is.
If you’ve been reading for some time, you’ll know that I treat it that way, especially with my personal posts. It’s a place for me to dump my brain about the universe of my family that exists under my skin, because when it’s just me and my keyboard I can focus on them, and I can focus on what’s good for me.
Lately I’ve been finding myself in a bit of a tailspin. Between the travel, work, the kids and their activities and of course a new baby, I’ve really needed to figure out how to make time to care for myself. Writing is good for me. Taking photos of my children is good for me. As it turns out, taking care of others is good for me, too. The nights that I’m able to cook meals for my family and others are really therapeutic. The ingredients, the churning, the smells… I’m literally filling my home full of love and comfort and it is better to me than an hour at a spa.
What I didn’t expect, was finding such comfort in the community that has been congregating here with all of you. In a way, we’re all doing the laundry, shoulder to shoulder. Laughing, talking and sharing our stories. It feels like the village I never had.
The bond that we share as mothers and the landscape on which it commiserates is changing though, and while we might not be actually sweeping each other’s floors, we are connecting digitally and that’s a start. And I’m really grateful for that.
Photos by Ana Schechter