I am sitting on the ground, clad a simple dress, kneading bread dough in a wooden bowl. Sitting across from me is my friend, who’s sudden, boisterous laugh startles her nursing infant awake. My friend’s mom, eyes wet with tears of laughter, had just finished sharing a story of her own new motherhood experience. In that severely sleep deprived and desperate state of new motherhood, she said, she had tried everything to nurse her poorly latching baby, even leaning over it like a cow.
“Nursing is a big learning curve for mom and baby,” she laughed, returning her attention to the pot of beans over the fire.
My own mother, sitting next me me, could not stop giggling. The nursing cow image had called to mind so many of the silly things she also did to get through those early years of parenting.
My friend had just settled her startled baby when her three year old boy raced toward her and flung himself onto her lap. The baby began to cry again.
I gently reached over and picked up the boy, pulled him onto my lap, gave him a stick and encouraged him to draw on the dusty ground. He happily scribbled away.
“Thanks,” said my friend, as her baby finally settled and drifted off to sleep.
I shake myself from my tribal daydream. My reality is this picture above. My days are filled with meeting other people’s needs. I am nursing the baby and taming the wild beast that is a typical two year old from 8 to 3 pm. Once school let’s out it’s like playing 5 on 1 basketball. The numbers are stacked against me. I am going to admit it. I am often pretty tired and worn out. Weak. There is never enough of me to go around. The spread thin feeling often results in either flashes of anger or hot tears depending on the day.
I have probably completely romanticized it, but there are times when the tears roll down and I want to give up the comforts of air conditioning for the closeness of daily living in step with other women.
How great would it be to walk over, steaming cup of coffee in hand, to my friend who lives ten feet away to grab just a snatch of adult conversation. I’d be unhindered from the modern day barriers of driving there or worrying that I might disrupt her day or that I don’t have enough time in mine.
How liberating it would be to have a terrible night of sleep with the newborn and the toddler and hand them off to someone else immediately? You would be able to send the toddler off to play with the kid tribe, and hand the baby to a friend and rest for a couple more hours.
How nice would it be to make meals with other women? To divvy up the chores? To laugh together, or be quiet together, but still have a sense of togetherness?
How wonderful would it be to be an older mom or a grandma, a soft place to land for each other and the younger mothers? A wise woman who would be there to gently spur us on when the child rearing season of life feels unending and exhausting.
All these things would be wonderful because tribal life is what we were designed for. What a dangerous lie I believe when I start to think I can carry the weight of motherhood alone. I can’t!
In a during wonderful sermon on Psalm 89, my pastor asked us to reflect on a really good question: “How am I actively asking for help?”
If I am overwhelmed with life, kids, job, whatever, I am probably feeling shame that I can’t do it all. The more I deal silently with my struggle to be self-sufficient, the more shame I have as I fall further and further behind my expectations.
Feeling needy, on the other hand, is the opposite of feeling ashamed. It’s counterintuative, isn’t it? Asking for help FEELS HARD because we feel shame that we cannot be strong and independent, but showing our neediness actually frees us from the shackles of striving after what is unattainable. It opens the door to allowing others to know and love you more deeply.
A couple days ago, I had a very hard day. My to do list was crazy long, my kids were all snippy and not particularly obedient, and the baby just wanted to cry/nurse. I tried to tackle the to do list, but I didn’t get far, and what I did get done was done poorly.
This particular day, we were also invited over to have dinner with a new family in our congregation. In my hustle to get my bickering kids and crying baby in the car, I forgot swim diapers and my own make up. I had tried so so hard and yet had fallen so short. I began to cry in the car. I was just so frustrated with how I kept sorely missing the mark as a parent, wife, friend, as a ministry leader.
We got to the pool, and I still had a huge lump of ugly cry in my throat, but I tried to choke it down as we were greeted by our new friends. I felt tears prick my eyes as I asked my new friend if she had a swim diaper we could borrow. Ugh, my incompetence was putting another person out again.
Yet as the evening went on, God faithfully gifted me with the ability to share with my new friend the weaknesses of my day. Had I not had a horrible start to my day, I could have come into this new friendship with pride, bravado and the appearance of “got it together-ness” that I often feel the need to project. Instead, I found myself sitting with a fussy baby in my lap and our toddlers eating watermelon while my new friend and I went “tribal.” We bared our hearts about our struggles, particularly in motherhood. At the end of it all, I felt so refreshed. No longer buried in my frustration with wanting to do the “best” and forever falling short, but saturated with the reminder of God’s sovereignty, even in the midst of my constant shortcomings. (Big, long exhale.)
What is part of God’s design for women in particular? One facet is need for relationship. God said it was not good for Adam to be alone, so he made Eve for relationship, to help him.
Women need a tribe, we need deep, soul baring friendships with each other to thrive. It’s hardwired in our very DNA.
Don’t believe the lie that you are self-sufficient. You are needy. That is OK.
Embrace that. Find freedom in it. “Go tribal.”