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the crib sheet

Going tribal in the world of parenting

Brooke Nalle

We can all agree that it feels wonderful (well, usually, in most cases) to be included.  This feeling is instilled in us all at a very young age.  I can still remember the rush of being chosen for Duck, Duck, Goose or the comfort and joy of opening the invitation to a good friend's birthday party.  Call it petty, but my quest for inclusion has shaped most of my life.  Don't get me wrong.  I love my time alone.  I am good at turning inward, self-reflective and so on .... as long as exclusion hasn't forced me into that process.

Over the years, I got pretty good at being included.  If the popular girls didn't want me; I sought different social circles who were more my speed.  In New York City, post college, I jumped into friendships, nights out, trips to the east village for yoga or just to 79th and Broadway for supper club - our attempt to add food to our passion for weeknight white wine drinking.  I changed careers to feel included from advertising sales to teaching.  In ad-sales, the loss of a sale or the rejection from a client didn't upset me for monetary reasons - it should have - rather it made me feel excluded.  Why wouldn't they want to run their ad in my magazine.  When I turned to teaching, I chose a graduate education program that was all about group work and community.  I loved (well, not always) my group projects, group advisement, student teaching experiences.  I was almost overwhelmed by the inclusion that came with teaching - well, at least, where I taught.  I savored the quiet of my time alone but looked forward to the morning meeting with 21 12 and 13 year-olds the next day.

And then I hit parenting...

For me become a parent was like entering a vortex where I was left alone to figure out this beloved newborn.  My mother came to help, putting on Alistair's diaper backwards and explaining that she had forgotten everything because she had blocked it out.  Oh no.  I was alone.  How did mothers learn what to do?  I read Urban baby whenever I could, marveling over the breast-feeding vs. formula wars.  I read What to Expect in the First Year religiously.  However I still felt excluded from this world.  Feeling silly at a playground with a 4-week old, I decided to go looking for inclusion.  Each day, I put Alistair in his Baby Bjorn and marched over to Riverside Park where after many walks over many days, I finally met a friend.  And together we forged ahead, getting our boys to sleep, undertaking a pilgrimage to the Upper Breast Side to by Sweedish nursing tops, and joking about all of the therapy our boys would need one day based on what they were forced to listen to as we walked and slowly but surely figured it out.

Finally old enough for the playground, we headed there day after day lured by the siren call of the squeaky bridge.  I met more parents, got more advice, and found my tribe - mostly women who each had something to contribute about being a parent.  Let me be clear, at this point, I was not president of the playground.  Rather I often didn't know the mother's names; I knew the names of their children though.  It was enough for me to stand next to them, trading comments, as we pushed the kids in the swings or helped them up the steps to the squeaky bridge.  

With three children now and a move away from my old neighborhood and my beloved teaching career, I still have the same needs.  I need friends who are my tribal village.  I want to gather with them, take care of our children, trade information, anecdotes, and most importantly laughter.  I can't help but think of the women in Zambia in the documentary Babies who sit together chatting, biting the flies off of their babies' heads.  

As a sleep coach, I wish to create the same tribal-vibe that makes me happy.  I want to brainstorm, laugh, cry and celebrate the crazy things we do to get our children to sleep.  I also - as a sleep coach - want to feel included.  I love my work because while we are in the thick of sleep training I have the opportunity to be involved in another family.  Luckily my clients learn to sleep better and no longer need my help.  Rather than lick my wounds and make mix tapes for the family that no longer needs my services, I have been lucky enough to find a community of professionals who are thinking differently about women's health through childbirth and beyond.  Even better, they are going to include me in their network - Hudson Valley Birth Network.  I even got to attend their meeting last week and already have June's meeting on my calendar.  It feels good to be included.