I’m breaking this answer down into four parts:
Sense of Community: The Mister and I often have conversations that revolve around Community – those who have it and those don’t. When we talk about community we talk of a sense of community. Some people get it from their church and as non-religious as I am I understand how that can be important in peoples lives. The Mister has been a Scout leader for a long time and through that we have both developed a sense of community on the local level and, the inevitable added bonus, some really good friends. Before I got pregnant with Moira I was researching volunteer opportunities (with the elderly because I like old people) but having children has put that idea on hold for now and so I like to go to as many family Scouting events as possible (meaning, not to the meetings or – yikes! – winter camping). I honestly believe people who don’t have a sense of community feel empty inside and will fill it up with activities that don’t actually fulfill them – like shopping or excessive TV watching.
Local Community: It seems as though the age of knowing your neighbours has long past – along with the age of living near all of your relatives. And while we can’t do much about where our relatives live we can do a couple things to create a community around us. We can, for starters, talk to our neighbours. We can also build a family of friends around us. One day while the Mister and I were working on The Bungalow before moving in the woman across the street came over and introduced herself. She told us all about the people who lived around us; naming names and pointing out houses. At first we thought she was a busy body but she wasn’t, she was just friendly and neighbourly and that is such a rarity that it took us by surprise. We also live in a neighbourhood with a lot of old people and student rentals so, I have learned through the grapevine, when a young family moves in that looks like they want to stay it is a very exciting event. After the baby was born the busy body brought over some banana bread. The old woman who lives behind us knit Fionnuala a sweater and brought over some extra curtains she thought might work for us. I barely know her. This community is still really new to us and in a way we are still mourning the loss of our old one but I plan on inviting both of those ladies over for tea soon. You can’t build a community around you if you don’t make an effort.
Mothering Community: Is there any group of individuals who need a community more than new moms? Or even not-so-new moms? After the initial “OMG I had a baby WTF?” feeling wears off and things start to calm down you are inevitably going to want some adult conversation again and preferably with someone who doesn’t mind if:
a) you whip out your boob repeatedly or
b) you haven’t showered in days and have spit-up on your shoulder
Of course just because two people are new moms doesn’t mean they have anything in common. When Moira was born NONE of our friends had kids and so I really had to throw myself out there and go to playgroups or storytimes (often held in community centres or churches) and eventually found a couple women whom I clicked with. I have two good mom friends now that we see on a regular basis – one was a friend of a friend who had a little girl a couple months after Moira (hi Jen!). Our mutual friend (a guy) kept telling us to get together because we both like to sew. It worked and the girls get along great – except that Moira likes to hug Evey a little more than Evey would like (but we’re working on it). The other is a friend I met at playgroup who had a little girl two weeks after I had Moira. The girls get on great and Moira likes to go over and “eat all Phen’s food!”
Online Community: I’ve said it before and I will say it again – blogging has been one of the best things I’ve ever done. Once upon a time it gave me a virtual community of friends when I didn’t have a physical one around me. I’ve also gotten work through blogging. But most of all having an online community gives me a sense that I’m not so alone because it is easy to search out other people who have similar interests.
For a while there I was thinking of selling my iPhone because I’m not working, but even though finances are tight the Mister told me to keep it because it helps keep me sane. On days when I have no adults to talk to and a toddler screaming at me I can log in to Facebook or Twitter and vent my frustrations – and often someone will comment back telling me to hang in there… and so I do.
Community goals for 2011: To get to know the new community we live in. I’m going to start this week by writing out Christmas cards for the lady across the street and the old lady who lives behind us and, yes, invite them for tea.
As far as online community goes I have dreams of going to a conference like BlogHer someday because I like the idea of improving my blog writing and some of the speakers are fantastic (to be honest though, I don’t really follow any of the BlogHer stuff). However, it isn’t in the stars for this year – or anytime soon. I know that in the last year I have lost some of my online community because it has been a hectic year and blogging has fallen by the wayside – but what’s done is done. All I can do is keep writing.