Find Your Tribe

I went to the doctor yesterday. But my health isn’t what I’m writing about today. During my appointment, I had an interesting conversation with the doctor. He asked how I managed to keep up with four kids. And I told him the truth. Basically I feel like I’m drowning. All the time. There isn’t enough time, there isn’t enough money, there isn’t enough space, there isn’t enough of anything. Well, I didn’t really say all that, just the bit about feeling like I’m drowning. And his response was, “I feel exactly the same way.”

My question to us as a society is, “Why?” Why is this normal? Should being a parent really feel like you’re treading water for so long that you sometimes feel like letting go? What has happened to our culture that has made life so incredibly difficult? I know I’m not the only person who feels this way.

The truth is, I think most of us feel this way and I don’t think it’s about being a parent. I think it’s about parenting in an increasingly socially disconnected world. Humans are necessarily social creatures. The increase in rates of loneliness, death (in general and from suicide) and depression, I think all have a common ancestor: the breakdown of community.

So many of us are parenting without the support of extended family, and I don’t know about you, but I’m doing it without a surrogate family as well. I have plenty of friends. Most of them I see once a year or less. I chat with them on Facebook or exchange an occasional text as I run from one commitment to the next. If your friends are anything like mine, they are also too busy to find the time to get together on a more regular basis, because, well, life.

But I want to propose a challenge. Make a commitment to someone besides your nuclear family. Make a commitment to those friends you don’t see very often because life gets in the way. Pick a few, who could be that surrogate family to your kids because, if you’re like most of us, your family doesn’t live close enough to have those regular relationships. And remember that commitment involves action, not just thoughts. Thinking about something shows interest, but if you really want to make a change in your life, your kids’ lives and consequently, the world, you have to make a commitment.

Our family that lives in Texas gets together every week for dinner and to catch up on each other’s lives. It takes time, it takes commitment to squeeze that in with everything else going on in life. But it’s vital to healthy, deep relationships. With families so spread out around the country, why does this type of commitment need to be limited to blood relationships? Wouldn’t a surrogate family accomplish the same goals of community support and bonding?

Humans used to exist in groups or tribes that formed their community, and provided the support, love, comfort and wisdom that we all need to be productive, successful humans. Do yourself and your loved ones a favor. Make a commitment. Find your tribe.

If you’re already connected to people who are not your family in this way, how did you make it happen? How do you maintain it? Do you have any secrets you can share?



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