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by Renee Rose Currier
Portland offers a truly unique and appealing social dynamic, making it a mecca for new families seeking abundant community resources, progressive like-mindedness and outdoor adventure. New groups open on MeetUp and Facebook daily, helping folks reach out for play dates, mommy dates and community events. Motherhood and parenting powered by social media are extreme sports in our city- with-a-village-vibe. Yet, have a brief conversation with just about any mother within arm’s reach and you’ll find a common thread: one of social disconnect.
How is this possible with so much available at our fingertips? Our handheld computers bombard us with notifications, suggestions and photo-shopped, filter-perfect photography of how to spend our days. New parents transition into familyhood with unrealistic expectations, the result of a dizzying array of information and social pressures to find a modern-day tribe.
So what exactly does it take to find real connection in the Rose City?
First, we must realize that many of the pressures we feel are internal, and genuine connections begin within our home. None of us are perfect parents, and simply being a suitable parent can sometimes feel so far out of reach that the mere idea of crawling out of bed throws us into a fit of tears. Rather than reaching for that social media fix for an “attagirl” thread or supportive meme, the answer may be slowing down, stepping back and turning our attention to what lies in front of us. Throwing caution to the wind and eating almond butter off the spoon with a handful of granola for breakfast, or sitting down to a satisfying dig in glorious Oregon mud with our little ones can be exactly what’s called for on a frustrating day.
Ultimately, our children are the beneficiaries of all things warm and fuzzy. The priceless gift of connection is free and gives you a huge boost of parental confidence. Our training is on the job and there is no reasonable expectation of perfection. Give yourself permission to use paper plates before stress hits its peak, or forgo a hectic bath time for a simple rubdown with coconut oil and telling stories in bed. Realize there is no one way life should or must be. Your presence, a kind voice and listening to your little one’s story one more moment that you think you have patience for will create an anchor of kindness which resonates.
Defining personal boundaries is also essential. In terms of social media, this can often bring into play controversial posts engaging hundreds of people. How can one help but feel lost and disconnected? However, when we approach things quietly, with resolve and personal daily affirmations, we become more confident in saying “no,” accepting compliments and speaking out to have our needs met. All of these not only provide a model to our children, but give our inner child a sense of balance and serenity. If you’ve ever comforted a little one by reflecting back to them the traumatic situation, you might find this an excellent way to explore boundary-setting in private. Journaling to affirm things for which you have zero tolerance, or to clarify what you choose to attract into your life is a cornerstone of self-care.
The realization and verbalization that we don’t have to do it all ourselves and burn out needlessly is sometimes just what we need to feel amazing and confident in our unique parenting abilities. We can be accomplished, unapologetic and well-put-together women without having to live a Pinterest-perfect life. Delegating responsibility to children old enough to pitch in for chores is, in fact, quality time. Turning the television off and blasting some music makes it more fun and can help open the lines of communication. Realize that shortcuts in domestic life don’t make you a bad parent. They make you realistic. As a new mother, I called my mother crying when I had run out of homemade grass-fed buffalo meat puree for my son. Immediate acceptance of such unrealistic absurdity would have done me a world of good. Every professional knows that hiring out a specialist or delegating gets more accomplished than trying to do everything yourself. Parents can take advantage of this mentality and create pockets of time for the good stuff. Giving yourself permission to step back and embrace your own version of controlled chaos is empowering. So it takes you an hour to make a peanut butter and jam sandwich because the kids are fighting? Shifting that responsibility to a partner or even an able child can provide much-needed personal time and teach valuable life lessons. Be kind to yourself and realize these moments — the bickering, the tattling, the general discord — can be sidestepped. Mommy can have a time out, too.
The early recognition of an overwhelming feeling creating persistent or inhibiting personal issues is key. Simply disconnecting to reconnect with ourselves and our loved ones is a process requiring personal forgiveness and acceptance. It’s a great way to embrace your personal power and reclaim self-care practices. But what happens when these strategies are just a band-aid for serious habitual issues? Even the best of us can get dragged down into depression and physically debilitating stress. The great news is Portland is a city with ever-abundant resources. Local pediatricians, family physicians and even media outlets like Portland Family magazine have a pulse on professional assistance available to parents. The best part of approaching these resources is the privacy afforded and their ability to offer more than the armchair insight you’re likely to find on social media. They know the area and service providers intimately and can guide you to vetted modalities available for every budget and in all areas of town.
Finding our inner peace — and our tribe — is a lot simpler than most of us think. Through our children, our partners and the best versions of ourselves, we are abundantly provided the deepest and most satisfying social connections. At the end of the day it just takes some time disconnecting in order to truly, deeply connect—and to give ourselves permission to embrace a perfectly imperfect life.
Renee Rose Currier is a mother of two, owner of PDX Eco-Mommy lifestyle management and teaches at NE Village Homeschool.