Your kindness is deserved; fostering a kind community.
I think that we are often sold a trope, a stereotype of what kindness in motherhood should look like. I ask you to imagine it, to close your eyes and think of the words “self-kindness”.
Is it bubble baths and facials, a spa day, shopping without children, getting your haircut, a massage? Or is it something more deeply nourishing than that?
Now think of kindness to others. Is that easier to imagine, is it more transcendent? I’d venture that the answer is probably a ‘yes’.
The discernible differences between kindness to ourselves vs the kindness we might share with others seem to come down to a sense of superficiality. Our versions of self care are often less deeply caring than those we might extend to others. We might think we are less deserving of kindness than others, or we may more readily share it with those who are in a situation we may see as more desperate or in need than ours. Do we extend a kind attitude to something another is experiencing much easier than we may do if it was us in those shoes?
Last month, I ran a five day challenge in order to encourage others to think about what a kind motherhood means to them. It was amazing, and so fulfilling, and utterly fascinating to read what others thoughts were on how kindness show up or not - in their everyday lives. And my favourite prompt, and the one I remain most passionate about, was actually focusing on community.
Because community is an integral part of being kind to yourself.
Your community might look disjointed, a collection of good people from different places within our lives. Or it might exist in a more formalised setting of groups and classes. It might just be a clutch of one or two people that you feel comfortable with. And sometimes you might have had to wish it hard into fruition.
Yes, we need to work on what self care might actually, really mean. And we need to be far better at showing up for ourselves on a daily basis. But, I believe that community holds the key to treating ourselves more kindly.
When we foster a community of others we are actually preparing a cushion for ourselves when we need it. The strength of many leaning on each other, over and over, is solid and mighty. We are creating opportunities for our children to meet others with different life experiences. By extending kindness - willingly and often - towards others we are setting a precedent, we are bringing our people in close, and, as long as we do it carefully and gently, we can often be filling our own cups up by helping others top up theirs.
Creating a kind community
Attend groups that take your interest, and then drop them if they don’t fulfil you or your children. You might meet like-minded parents there, or you might not. But showing up can really help in opening yourself up to friendship in places that you otherwise may not have looked.
And speaking of like-minded people, don’t expect to find someone just like you. I made the mistake of feeling increasingly lonely in the early days because I’d imagined finding other mothers with exactly the same values as me. We are all nuanced, and ignoring this might cause you to dismiss someone who may well be the very person you need in your family’s lives.
You may find it in the most unlikely of places, a supermarket queue or a snatched conversation on the bus. I’ve become much better at inviting people to find me on social media or just giving them my number, without feeling the fear of looking over-eager or ‘too friendly’. Parents are often just grateful.
Be prepared to put good boundaries in place, firstly for your own well-being, but also to set a precedent within your community. In doing so we can say loudly but softly; “we don’t have to do it all, and neither should you”.
Volunteer, if you can and you have the energy and time. My most valuable friendships were made in the small room of our local breastfeeding group, and helping out each week forced me to chat to other and gave me a sense of purpose which I really needed after the haze of the newborn days.
Create a collective in which you all gain from. Whether that looks like taking it in turns to have each other’s children so you can have that much needed date night, or creating an agreement in which you all gather around the mother who has just had a baby with offers of childcare or good food. These small reciprocal acts can amount to much bigger things.
Try to gather your community when you really need it by actually saying that you need it. Especially in the newborn days, especially when you’re ill, especially when you’re tired, especially when something has happened that means you’re feeling alone. Shout about how you’re feeling and ask others for their help. Most of the time, they will gladly give it, and as a side effect will be more likely to ask when they need it to.
And create your own kind mantra. I was my most judgemental as a new parent, part of a defence mechanism against my own choices perhaps, but I have since learnt that everyone has their reasons.
If you’re looking to create more kindness in your motherhood, my group course Kind Motherhood still has a couple of spots left. A community-based course of up to six mothers, the course is designed to help support you in creating life-changing mindsets in which kindness is treated with value as together we integrate it as a part of your life as opposed to an afterthought. It’s only open for booking until Sunday 15th September for a 23rd September start. You can click here to book on, and to find out more.