The Unexpected Perfectly Imperfect Mom Squad [Interview]
Mom squad. The people who get you. Your needs. Who are they? Where are they?
Squad life. Living as a group where all tasks are for the greater good. It has stick-togetherness feel. The premise of looking out for our neighbors and friends. And, as studies show our increased time on technology leads to a decreased happiness, I’d argue that your tribe must be in-person to be effective. Let’s consider new parenting, with some insight from Mary who embraced a communal lifestyle, just as she was starting a family. Different from your typical mom squad.
What Google Doesn’t Know
Welcoming a new baby is exciting. No matter how prepared you are, no one is ready for the challenges that arrive around the same time as the baby. Modern parenting affords us with information available to us 24/7 and, while we all have trusted sources, nothing can be more isolating than a Google search for "is my child's speech delayed" or "what is texture sensitivity?" Conversely, nothing is better than a support system that you can turn to for anything. Nothing rattles the old confidence cage better than a baby. "It takes a village" and "no single truth" take on new meanings, says Mary.
As you become more invested in relationship building, you may find that your mom squad is your trusted source. Questions that were once posed to Google as the all-knowing, are also posed to those you have come to know, love and trust as your own mom squad. Those that know and love you and your kids. Suddenly, Google is no match for the loving, supportive, warm and connected people you call your own. Your ever-trusted village on what worked for them, and what may or may not work for you.
“While pregnant with my first born, I read a book that both validated my personal feelings and communal lifestyle. TRIBE by Sebastian Junger explains tribal society and the deeper evolutionary connection that tells why we are attracted to a community. He specifically cites the many challenges that veterans face when transitioning away from the "closeness" of a combat zone, but ties in stories of tribal societies and western philosophies on parenting. Being all hopped up on hormones changes you forever and letting go of what I thought was 'normal' was both freeing and foundational to setting my core beliefs in stone,” says Mary.
She continues, “Junger spoke about one philosophy of 'self-soothing' and the concept of space contributing to loneliness and isolation, meaning the more space you have, the less happy you feel. Being married with roommates may have been strange to our family, and intriguing to our friends, but to us, it was abnormally normal. There were four of us. My husband and I, along with two male roommates.”
"We thought we were unique until one year later when articles about communal lifestyles started popping up in The Atlantic as a ‘millennial trend’. We also started seeing documentaries about dorm style communal living in the Netherlands. People need communities to thrive and building a squad after baby is purely about support and survival." Tapping into one large community of friends. Intriguing.
What Does It Look Like to Have Roommates and a Baby?
“My mom squad consisted of our two best male friends from college who chanted 'don't you know pump it up. You got to pump it up' when I went upstairs to pump. It was abnormally normal,” says Mary.
“Having roommates meant registering with two men who were not my husband. Their commentary on baby baths, stroller muffs, and wooden high chairs costing over $1,000 was priceless. I wish I had the Buy Buy Baby footage from that day. They found their way to the store after I dropped them off at Best Buy. Had I known they were coming, I would have filmed them.” It sounds like pure comedy. I think many women would agree, we’re all a bit jealous.
“It also meant talking through my postpartum depression with men who were nowhere near close to fatherhood. My PPD struggles included a baby that wouldn't latch on one side of the spectrum, then feeling incredibly fortunate, to tears, with the amount of love we received on the other.” Research shows that not being embarrassed by what you’re going through with baby blues and full postpartum depression is important. Much like Mary’s breast pumping story, male best friends not familiar with new mom issues may not be the optimal choice for everyone, but it worked for Mary. We all need someone we can talk to, whether it be a mom friend, a good therapist, someone you meet up with for stroller walks, or in Mary’s case, male roommates and besties. It is important to accept help from others. And, I think I speak for all women when there is again, a twinge of jealousy that Mary’s was constant in her home, and seemingly trusted, helpful and empathetic.
“Space is comfortable in our apartment, but not abundant. We choose to fill our rooms with a supportive group of parenting rookies, aka single men, who counterbalanced some of the crazy found on Google at 2 AM. Space is a topic in TRIBE which helped ease my mind of sharing a room with my daughter long term. I worried that she would be too attached, or struggle to sleep, but in the book, they discuss families from all over the world who share bedrooms or living rooms that convert to sleeping areas. It allowed me to let go and stop comparing myself to 'normal' families,” says Mary. We can all relate to the ‘am I doing this right?’ of motherhood and parenting. And, the pressure is to compare ourselves to what others are doing as our measurement. We respect Mary immensely for her ability to find her truth and reality in her unique situation and take a more global view of what is right for her family.
“These same men went on an adventure with my husband to pick up a hospital grade pump in what compared to a drug deal; they handed the money over for the rental and the man slipped the breast pump through the car window. These men babysat while we went on a date, put diapers on backwards when we sold our car, taught our daughter secret 9-step handshakes, put her on the potty when "pee pee is coming" was shouted, encouraged us when we needed it, and called us out when our daughter watched videos of other children playing with toys.” As an outsider looking in, this sounds nearly perfect, Mary. We all can use a little levity and humor in parenting, with more than a sprinkle of flexibility, emotional intelligence and acceptance of much needed help.
“Our crew and our stories are the makings of a sitcom or movie, too bad the title of "three men and a little lady" is off the table. For now, we will stick with ‘three bros and a baby’.” Sounds like a great title to us! Your mom squad is strong.
What are The Takeaways for You?
- Take support where you can get it.
It may be allowing the outlaws to babysit the kids, in their way, or it can be finding someone to support your brand of crazy. For example, should I go to China for a wedding with a baby? Or is it crazy to stop breastfeeding before my planned stop date? Should I take a new job pregnant?
- Advice is thick, but support is more difficult to find.
Sometimes a sounding board is difficult to find. That’s a special group of friends. Plenty of people will look at societal norms, be quick to say ‘no’ to things you feel is your brand of crazy. Hold onto those who help you to think through the plan. Those who know what you need to hear to make an informed decision on your own.
- Enjoy light heartedness.
Relying on men to discuss latching issues or explaining what nipple butter is, may not be familiar, but it sure lightens the mood, and pressure, that being a parent brings. And taking in the light heartedness from any friend, family or moment; well, just take it! Plant it. Grow it. A little levity in parenting will go a long way.
How about the rest of us? I don’t live with my besties. Where is my squad? It seems like every new mom has them. I don't want to relive being the 'middle school girl feeling left out' again. Help!
Breathe mama. Just breathe. It sometimes feels like starting over when you have a newborn. You become a different version of yourself. Still ‘you’ to the core but wearing different hats. Lots of them. After an exhaustive pregnancy and an equally exhaustive 4th trimester, it can be difficult to rally. But rally you can!
Broaden your circle. If you broaden your circle, you will realize that you are not alone. Others are going through similar situations. Even if you don’t initially believe it. You may have to reach out to mom fitness groups, baby and me classes, breastfeeding support groups, tummy time classes, church or religious groups, library or community centers with newborn classes, and/or ask your pediatrician for their suggestions. Walk to your local park with your stroller. Hang out and chat. And, of course, there's an app for all these things too. Your mom squad will come naturally in some senses, but you also must be brave enough to put in the effort to seek them out.
Give yourself some grace. Is it worth getting out of your cozy home, taking a shower, nursing in public, dealing with colic or crying with an audience? It is. And I'll tell you why. They won’t notice. At least not in the way you think they will. You are in a new club now. You have their backs. They have yours. Plus, everyone is so wrapped up in their own newborns, you don’t have an audience. You have empathy. Because, I promise you – they know what it took to get there, and they could be just what you and your baby need.
Try, try again. It’s not easy to get yourself out of the house. But the more you connect with others, the more normal you feel. You will learn from those you meet, and you will be a teacher, too. Believe it. Confidence and community are good for the soul. Cherish the mom squad you create.
About Hummingbird Infant Hummingbird Infant is a product and parenting company grounded in warm, calm, connected parenting. Baby Buzz is our online blog celebrating daily moments in the new parent journey; and the Warm Hug Bath Swaddle is Hummingbird Infant's signature product celebrating warm, calm, connected and HAPPY infant bathing. Both are uniquely simple in approach. Sign up for our free confidence-boosting weekly Baby Buzz email, coming soon, for insights to help you in your parenting journey.