Thursday, July 18, 2013

We need each other.

Motherhood has eaten me alive this week.

I feel behind on absolutely everything. The house is a mess (mostly because every room that I straighten is immediately torn apart by a child while the other two are busy wreaking havoc in another corner of the house). Lucy has stolen my deodorant seven times, and when she finds it, she eats it. Nora has put three toys in the toilet (and one set of keys). SuperSam has rigged up four different contraptions by stacking furniture together that he can jump from in an attempt to touch the ceiling, and he's been pretending to be a narwhal for most of the week (which means he only makes "narwhal sounds").

I know they aren't really teaming up to defeat me, but it still feels that way.

Our oven has been broken since we returned from vacation. It might be a fuse- we're not sure- but until it gets resolved, there's a lot of slow-cookin' going on here. I thought it would be fine (after all, it seems much too hot to bake), but I hadn't considered that we couldn't reheat pizza or melt cheese under the broiler or heat up pita bread to eat with our hummus or make our frozen waffles more than two at a time.

(Maybe we need a bigger toaster.)

Anyway, I've been running (figuratively) all week without making any noticeable forward progress. My brain feels stopped up from not writing enough, and the laundry baskets are full of clean clothes (some folded, some very far from folded). I missed a run on my marathon training plan because I just couldn't get it together enough to find time to do it. We had to cancel one playdate for a sick child who turned out not to be sick so much as she was just run down and tired. (Kind of like her mama, I bet.) We had dinner guests last night, and I completely forgot to serve them dessert or offer them coffee after dinner.

I'm a hot mess, as my friend Bev would say. (She probably wouldn't say it about me, even though it's true right now.)

Haley wrote beautifully about praying with your feet, and I tried to shift my attitude toward everything with mixed success. I had a total meltdown at George on Tuesday night that ended with me leaving the house in a rage without my shoes or my phone to drive aimlessly around the county until the sun was going down. It was out of character- very irresponsible, which I almost never am!- but I was at the end of my rope and hanging on by my fingernails, and I just let go.

It's been a tough week.

Slipping & sliding in solitude...not today.
Today, I combined the chaos of my week with the chaos of two dear friends and their families. Together, we three mothers have ten children (and one of us is 39 weeks pregnant today). It's a rowdy bunch, ranging in age from "due any day now" to 8 years old. (I think that's right.) We have babies, toddlers, preschoolers, and elementary schoolers, who ran each other ragged around the house and out back on the Slip n Slide until they were all worn out, soaked, and hungry.

I didn't take a single picture.

I was too busy appreciating the warm, fuzzy comfort of two women in my kitchen who know exactly what it's like to survive this kind of week. Over salads and fruit, we talked about communal life...what it would be like to share our food, our chores, our possessions, our children all the time instead of just occasionally.

Today was not the first time this topic has come up with friends of mine. Many women I know think that living together in groups would be desirable...if not in the same houses, at least near enough that we could holler at each other from our porches and have our kids run back and forth for cups of sugar.

Why are we so drawn to the idea of living in community?

There is a common feeling of totally-completely-overwhelmed that sometimes chases us, mows us down and crushes us with its weight. It happens because we as modern parents of young children are trying to do it all. Our society expects us to work, take care of our families, our houses, our yards, our cars, all the while trying to make as much money as possible so that we can buy more (bigger, better, newer) things.

What if less was really more? The idea that we could step back from that constant push for more and actually use less is appealing to a lot of us, I think. The idea that we could share what we have with someone else (and that both of us wouldn't need to own a lawn mower, a play kitchen, a grill, or a swingset) is fascinating. The idea that we could do what we do best and combine it with what someone else does best and make a life together where we don't all have to do every single thing is liberating. 

Doing and being everything is too much for one person.

There's more to it, though. The desire to live in community is born of a longing to know and be known, to share burdens that go beyond the practical ones about what we're having for dinner or who is going to cut the grass. It's about finding someone who can relate to your struggles, who can share your journey, who can be vulnerable with you as you find ways to ease each other's burdens.

My friends and I combined our crazy families just for a morning, but what we got today was worth so much more than the sum of our chaos. In each other, we found encouragement, an understanding smile, an empathetic ear. There is something so refreshing and normalizing about talking with someone else who gets it. Even if nothing changes at all, things seem better.

We weren't meant to do this alone. We need to find ways to help each other out.

Short of moving into a commune together, what can we do? I've thought about trying one of those meal exchanges with friends (where you cook enough to share so you don't have to make dinner every night), but I've never gotten organized enough to make it happen. We shared a riding mower with friends for a while, but it eventually broke. I share hand-me-down clothes with some friends' children, but I feel like I could do more. These things don't always come naturally in our "everybody for herself" culture, so sometimes it takes some creativity and flexibility to find ways to make sharing work.

Is it possible to share life in community with each other even if we are separated by great physical distance? Is "online community" a myth, or can we create true community with people we have never met face to face? I'd like to know what you think.