I had a women’s lunch today with extended family. It was hosted by the woman who is the closest thing I have to a mother-in-law. She’s the woman who all but adopted Howard’s younger brothers after their mother died. And while she was adopting people she extended that adoption to Howard even though he was already in college. At least once per year she hosts this lunch to gather daughters and daughters-in-law so we can sit around a table and catch up. I love these lunches. I love these women. They’re so good, and work so hard serving their families and communities. We went round the table giving a summary of how all our kids are doing and a status report on our lives. There is no pressure or competition to make our kids sound good. In fact, we’re just as likely to spend time talking about the struggle we’re having with a particular child mixed in with loving descriptions of why that child is amazing (and driving us crazy).
Most of the women are stay-at-home mothers with husbands who earn the household income. I might be the only exception to that. In other years I’ve included information about my work in my status report. This year it was nice to be in a space where I could set work aside and just talk about my kids in detail to people who were actually interested in all those details. I’d had a similar realization talking to a friend only a day earlier. My brain is filled up with minutia about my children and most of my conversations aren’t appropriate venues for airing that minutia. It was incredibly healing both yesterday and today to share a small detail and to have the listeners react in a way that shows they know exactly what that small detail means to me in my life. They rejoice for my kids accomplishments and grieve for their struggles because they know and love my kids. Professional spaces don’t give me that validation, not about parenting. And parenting spaces don’t comprehend how to validate my professional pursuits.
After the lunch was over, I thought about all the things we shared across the table. There were so many similarities between our children and their struggles. Possible solutions were offered and ideas were exchanged. I realized that what I’d attended was a small-scale professional conference between women who take their parenting seriously. Networking between parents is every bit as critical as networking between professionals working in the same field. Sometimes the village necessary to help raise our children is right around us, other times we have to seek it out and work to maintain it. Naturally this lunch was also a meeting of family, women who have known each other for decades. We have watched each other grow up, get married, manage toddlers, and now begin launching oldest kids into adulthood. These are my sisters though I have no genetic relation to any of them. I’m so grateful to my friend, the adopted sort-of-mother-in-law who knows it is important to schedule these annual lunches.