Did you know that as human beings, we are hard-wired for connection?
Research suggests a sense of belonging and security is crucial to our wellbeing, and I find it fascinating that in addition to our natural competitive tendencies, we also possess a layer of complexity that reaches beyond the individual. This means we are naturally able to cooperate with those we might otherwise view as competition and flourish as a society.
When I think about how this relates to the motherhood experience, I conclude that if we can get past our natural urges to be judgmental in motherhood, we might find that we are better off with our "competition" as friends. In otherwords,
Moms need other moms. More specifically, we need to form "Mom Hives."
I first learned about hive psychology back in graduate school when Jonathan Haidt himself lectured on the matter. In the academic environment, Haidt's Happiness Hypothesis resonated, because I felt connected to the 39 other students in my class by our shared experience. Through a year of intense studies and travel, we forged a bond of support, which allowed us to flourish as individuals. Eventually, our studies came to an end, and our hive dispersed as we went our different ways in the world to apply the science of happiness to our lives and careers.
This is around when motherhood came knocking at my door, and before I could blink, I was a new mom without a hive. I had a healthy baby girl, my husband, family, and friends, but I felt completely isolated and lost. I've been through a lot in my motherhood experience, but those early days of motherhood were some of my hardest.
I recently started taking my youngest to a mommy and me class where I stand out as the more seasoned mom of four among this group of new moms. Over a few weeks of scattered conversations, I have noticed a theme of loneliness and isolation is unanimous in their new mom experiences. Interestingly, they look at me all starry-eyed as though I am supermom with four kids, but I continually find myself saying,
“It was harder when I was where you are. I would never go back. Hang in there, it gets easier.”
Yes, my motherhood experience is completely chaotic with four children to care for under the age of eight, but it's still not as hard as early motherhood. I can point my finger at a lot of things that make early motherhood hard, but I do think a large part of our struggle relates to hive psychology:
I wouldn't trade the mom hive I have now for a single precious moment of early motherhood. I am so much better off with a ton of mom friends, way too much on my plate and not enough hours of the day to conquer it all.
Ladies, we NEED a mom hive not only to survive, but to THRIVE.
I believe this substantiates the importance of things like mom's night out, and I do have a small group of mom friends I confide in about everything and escape with for dinner every once and a while. Breaks like this with special friends are crucial to my mom wellbeing, but I also feel understood and connected to women I know in varying levels of intimacy, simply because we've had authentic conversations about our motherhood experiences.
These exchanges revolve around a theme I'll generalize with, "I suck and my kids suck too sometimes." After this acknowledgment, it just takes nod or glance when I see this mom again, to know I am not alone in my struggles and surrounded by someone I count as a part of my hive.
Nearly a decade deep into motherhood, I can't count these connections I've made, and they emerge randomly in my daily experience: a carpool offer, a hug, a glance, a stolen conversation at preschool pickup. These small moments of authenticity always leave me feeling better off than I was, and as a collection, they foster my strong sense of belonging to the larger organism that is motherhood.
This might mean that if we can take off our mom judgment/shaming hats for a second and bond fellow moms we meet, we become more resilient, perhaps even happier.
I believe the first step to finding your fellow "honey bees," and building your Mom Hive, is being real. You must be willing to bare your soul, and admit your struggles to find the sort of connection that can sustain you on the hard days. I know, vulnerability is unnerving, and not every mother you encounter will be willing to meet you there. Still, as a mom with a vast and diverse group of women in my hive who lift me up, I'm going to insist you put yourself out there; it's worth the risk.
Nowadays, I actually think it's easier to find your Mom Hive, because more opportunities for authentic connection are surfacing online. Maybe you just need to turn on your computer, and search for things like "motherhood" "postpartum" "the struggle is real"...
A search like this might lead you to something like The Raw Honey Project. Yes, I happen to love the name of this particular motherhood support group, given my affinity for hive psychology. Further, I do have a personal connection to Molly, one of the founding members, so I was more open to this cyber hive when I first found it.
Still, I haven't spent enough time with Molly or her friends to really know any of them. But Let me tell you, from what I see online, these are the kind of moms I MUST have in my hive.
Molly and her friend, Julie, started writing to survive their early motherhood experience. Their honest and raw confessions about things from postpartum depression to stomach stretch marks attracted a group of moms who are now sharing stories of the "real, raw motherhood experience" and finding support. What they are doing is downright awesome, and I think they are onto something powerful:
Our hope is that through shared stories we can begin to realize that there is no "right way" to be a mom. It is in this phase of life that we need each other most. Let us build each other up & support one another. Let's start to be honest & raw about the good, bad, ugly, & beautiful because there is nothing to be gained if we can't be real, whole people with those walking a similar path. Great friends make the tough times tolerable. Stories & shared experiences help each other feel normal in a seemingly isolating time in our lives.
The founding Raw Honey Mammas, Julie and Molly, are heavy on my mind this week. These mammas are captivating with their authentic posts and growing success, but also because they are at heart, military wives. With Memorial Day upon us, I want to acknowledge the extra resilience raising a family in the military lifestyle requires. I can only imagine the intense uncertainty that comes with constant relocation, and the added stress of having a husband who is absent for long stretches of time.
I suspect this was the inspiration behind The Raw Honey Project, and what they have made of this adversity is nothing short of inspiring. Through their shared vulnerability, Julie and Molly ignited a larger movement that I believe has unlimited potential to inspire and support other moms.
If you are a mom who is craving connection, you can connect with them at www.rawhoneymammas.com.
I'll sign off now with a renewed sense of gratitude for the Mom Hive I have found over the years. I'll also say that if you don't have a hive....go work on creating one NOW!
To the moms out there who are immersed in a military lifestyle, thank you for supporting the men and women who sacrifice for my safety. You inspire moms like me with the resilience and strength your role requires.