Last week, I had the honor of spending a day with my new friend, Barbara and several of her girlfriends, all self-proclaimed hippies who met in Colorado in their 20s and who have managed to remain “thick friends” through the years.
Barbara (first in the lineup) lives part-time in Colorado and part-time here in Tulum. She and her husband have an off-grid, solar powered home in the jungle community my husband manages. Barbara is a gem. She and I hit it off from day one, swapping stories about the cultural norms of our respective eras, the struggles unique to mother and womanhood outside the box and the threats to thriving communities both then and now.
So when she mentioned that her girlfriends were coming to town — the very ones she’d communed with in the early 70s when Crested Butte was little more than an affordable escape to the land and from the establishment — I was there like a hungry hitchhiker at a protest potluck.
After the first few minutes of feeling me out following Hunter’s preface that I was “writing a book about motherhood,” they all relaxed a bit, realizing that I was neither A, in search of the holy grail of parenting perfection, nor B, about to share with them the wealth of wisdom I’d acquired, having read everything ever published post-Dr. Spock.
By the time it was obvious that Christine (my own dear friend, current house guest and fellow mother-of-four) and I had already long-since had our theories chewed up, spit out and handed to us on a fast food napkin, it was on. “Yes, we’ll share our perspectives, yes you can take notes, and about those parenting experts…”
What an amazing bunch of women. Their energy, their humility, their depth of connection and their sense of humor were a true gift, and one I’m so pleased to be able to share with you.
Never having conducted a proper interview before and preferring the cadence of casual conversation, I simply took notes as we chatted. Here’s what I gleaned over the course of the day, followed by a few words of wisdom from each mama to you.
On Nurturing Ourselves
On What’s Different About Raising Kids Today
Toward the end of the day I asked them each a final question, “How would you advise the current generation of women and mothers trying to live and parent against the mainstream?”
Here’s what they said:
“Parenting is hard, and more complex today than ever. It’s so important not to stay isolated. Talk to others moms, find or build community. Your doubts and questions are shared by many. You’re not in it alone.”
“Relax, enjoy your kids and let them BE as much as you can. Try not to be so uptight, not to worry so much. Much of it is out of your control and that’s okay.”
“Most importantly, be good to yourself and keep a sense of humor. A sense of humor is essential.”
Vicky — flight attendant, mother of two boys
“Women grow up with Disney-esque perspectives, thinking that true love, a man and a family will complete the portrait of our lives. No one tells you how real and challenging it actually is to raise a family, so we end up thinking we’re doing it all wrong. The truth is, we’re doing fine, life just isn’t Disney.”
“Stress is mostly a new concept. Our kids didn’t feel stress like kids do today. Kids pick up on their parents’ vibes, so it’s really important for parents to take care of themselves and do what they love; to show children how to create their own happiness by example.”
“Kids want you to parent them. They need you to say ‘no.’ You aren’t doing anyone any favors by giving in to whatever they want. Spoiling your kids with stuff is not the same as loving them.”
Christy — simplicity and organizational coach, single mother since age 17.
“Teach your kids simplicity. Don’t overwhelm them with stuff. As someone who helps people simplify their lives for a living, it’s fascinating to see how much people acquire for their kids because they think they should or that it will make their children happy. Kids develop “needs” for and dependency upon things largely from their parents. Kids need space to be and to play without the distraction of tons of toys. When we teach them to want and expect so much from the time they are little, it affects them the rest of their lives. You are actually doing more for your kids by not giving them everything they want.”
“As for being a single parent, I have no idea how I would have done it without a strong community. We all supported one other.”
Perhaps the most refreshing thing I experienced all day was each of their reactions to having their photos taken fresh out of the swimming pool. “Well, I’m not getting out of my bathing suit,” and “Hang on, just let me pull my hair back,” were followed by total indifference when I showed them each their head shots to make sure they liked them. “Yep, that one’s fine.” “Oh sure, looks great,” and “Whatever, that’ll work.” Not a one of them fussed or requested redos or made critical comments of themselves. Their beauty was truly enhanced for me in that moment by their confidence and self respect.
Since that day, I have thought of so many more things I want to ask them — about raising kids in the 70s, about feminism and how things have shifted, about utopic ideals and how they soften with age. Our time together reminded me of how valuable women’s stories are and how important it is for us to foster relationships cross-generationally and intentionally within our unnaturally divided and age segregated culture.
The need for community seemed, in fact, the common thread woven throughout their reflections. Looking back, their sentiments very much support a favorite quote of mine by Wendell Berry…
Mil gracias Barbara, Vicky, Christy. Your wisdom, strength, passion and beauty are not lost on me.