It’s Maxim Monday! Now featuring a post on a parenting.

I have decided to jump on the blog themed day bandwagon and use Monday for the Delphic Maxims. Here’s today’s:

Help your friends.

This doesn’t sound like spiritual advice to me. It sounds like standard human behaviour. Help your friends. Of course. But at its core this is what community is about, and community, in my mind, is a spiritual value. As the parent of two young children (4 and 19 months) and as a stay at home mom, I see the priceless value in helping and being helped.

I try to keep politics off this blog, but as I am a woman, everything I do, say and think is political. (Which gives you some ideas as to my politics.) As a parent I also feel politicized. Allow me a little wiggle room to wax political; it relates to today’s maxim.

The nuclear family is a myth and a lie. So is the ‘family values’ movement (particularly here in the US). Nothing about our lifestyles and society actually supports families, and may all the gods help you if you are disabled, care for some one with special needs, are middle class or ‘lower’, are a single parent, queer parent, non-traditional parent (polyamorous or perhaps grandparents raising children), not white, have limited English, etc. The mainstream model of a family is a unit that owns a house, at least one parent works and the (usually) mother stays home, or both parents work and make enough to afford a house and daycare. What it does is alienate people from avenues of support: mainly other people.

I am so very grateful that my family has been able to configure our life as we have. Adam works from home and I run the household: I plan and cook all the meals, do all the laundry, do 90% of the cleaning, and 80% of the childcare. It’s an even trade. I’m very happy. But I also get adult conversation throughout the day. We all eat lunch together and talk about what we’ve been thinking about or working on. We own one car and that allows me to get out with the kids.  But for all of that, it’s still isolating and often boring. Profoundly boring. I used to be a professional! I was a PhD student! And now I read ‘Where is the green sheep?’ three times in a row, wipe butts, and get told I’m stinky because I won’t let the boy watch ANOTHER cartoon.

I’m not alone in this. There are many trials and tribulations in parenting, and we willingly take them on. But I get a sense that this is not the way humans have been parenting for the vast majority of existence. (Ok, I know for a fact, since I read some books, but I can’t remember the details nor the books to cite, so I’m just leaving it alone for now.) I don’t think every parent of small children is supposed to be a preschool teacher. I think kids need a lot of stimulation and movement, snuggles and interaction – but not all from one person. I really think that communal living is what is supposed to happen.

So when a friend asks me for a small and easy favor, something she needs to care for her family, of course I say yes. I help my friend. I want to help my friend. I’m in a good place right now, I don’t need much in the way of help, but I have in the past, I probably will again. It’s absolutely enlightened self-interest; it’s also putting my spiritual values into action – it’s walking my talk. It’s helping my friends. It’s creating the community I want to live in.

In addition to being fed the myth of the nuclear family we are told not to ask for help. That it’s weak. That you need to do it all yourself. Don’t rely on others. And that is the biggest lie of them all. OF COURSE WE NEED OTHERS. Sometimes I need help when we move. Sometimes my partner has an important project and I need someone to watch the kids while I go to an appointment. Sometimes I just want a friend to listen. Sometimes I want some one else to cook.

So we help each other. We listen, we love, we laugh together. I loan my neighbor all the cloth diapers I don’t need for her soon-to-be-arriving newborn. I host a weekly dinner with another family, when her husband works late. It’s doing a better job at organizing play dates so the kids and my fellow parents can betogether. It’s donating to charities. It’s picking up a friend’s kids from preschool when she’s running late. It’s helping my friends. It’s being in community.

 

About Niki Whiting
  • http://twitter.com/ThornCoyle T. Thorn Coyle (@ThornCoyle)

    Nice thoughts on this.

    I was having a conversation on an airplane a few months ago, about the nuclear family being an aberration and not traditional at all. The person I was talking to just stopped cold. Couldn’t even get his head around it, saying we had to go pretty far back for that to be true. I replied that yes, certain very wealthy people in the last 200 years didn’t live with extended families, but others certainly did!

    In my opinion, the nuclear family + suburbs have ruined the US in many ways.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/awitchsashram myownashram

      I couldn’t agree with you more! I actually had to reign myself in on this post. There’s also the feminist part of me that hates my choice of family life (heterosexual union + kids) being used against me/us, as in ‘family values look like X.’ Stop using my family to advance your agenda! I don’t agree!

  • Elaine Parker

    Gemeinschaftsgefuhl! Being part of the human family means belonging, contributing to life on many levels, from care of self to valuing our place in the cosmos, via relationships, friends/community, work….. Niki, I love your post and so agree with it. xxx

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/awitchsashram myownashram

      Gesundheit! :)

  • http://www.everydaylifemagic.com Rebecka

    I think there’s much to be said about sharing your wealth with those you love. None of us are meant to do this all alone and choosing not to would relive so much pressure! It’s such a relief to know that I have friends who shine in ways that I don’t and that there are ways I can help my friends that they need, too. I seem to forget that when someone helps me, they’re saying ‘I love you’.

    And on that note: I love you.

  • Niklas Gander

    My life as a child is so vastly different from my life as an adult. Living in a small New England town in which not only all of my immediate family lived but by grandparents, my father’s extended family (my mom’s family stayed in the old country), is vastly different from life in a metropolitan center, with self-made community. In some ways I miss my childhood experiences – when I conveniently forget that they were all up in everyone’s business. There has to be a balance.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/awitchsashram myownashram

      Absolutely, but right now my life, and I think the lives of most families, is tipped too far to the isolation side of things.


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