Community as a Parenting Manual

I am the third-born of four sisters. Yet I cannot pride myself in taking on the “big sibling” roles like my oldest sisters. I definitely didn’t dream of being a mother or playing many parenting games as a child to practice for the future. However, as I grew older I knew that I had so much love to share and started a family. 

Once I was a mother I searched for ways to parent “perfectly.” My favorite phrase became, “Why is there no manual for parenting!” As a lover of reading, I found comfort in books like How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish, and The Conscious Parent: Transforming Ourselves, Empowering Our Children by Dr. Shefali Tsabary. Through a writing group, I discovered Raising Mothers, which wasn’t just a magazine about parenting but one for people of color like me. Reading about other mothers’ parenting challenges and finding the time to write was reassuring. And also seeing different women being authentically themselves was comforting. 

I’ve realized that many of us are very intentional about parenting and motherhood. In the process of mothering, we’re indirectly creating our own unique manuals shaped by the children we have, the societies we live in, the backgrounds that we come from, and the future we are forging for our families. Recently Sherisa de Groot, the Raising Mothers founder and editor-in-chief, contributed to 100 Diverse Voices on Parenthood. The book provides insight and information for new parents and parents who may be searching for a manual like I once was. 

In her article, “Parenting Groups,” de Groot talks about “how to find your people” and communicating your needs as a parent. Like her, I live far from my family, but through my children’s friends and their parents, I have found new friendships and communities that help me be vulnerable and build my strength as a single parent. 

I interviewed Sherisa de Groot about her contribution to 100 Diverse Voices on Parenthood, as well as finding community, how we adapt as parents, and expectations we create in motherhood.

Kya Mara: How and where online did you start to find a community for your mothering needs?

Sherisa de Groot: I read and penned blogs online for years. I started reading personal family writing blogs maybe in 2006. While that wasn’t a set community, I collected blogs on my RSS feed like Pokemon. In a way, that was my initiation community. My first community once I was actually pregnant was on Tumblr. I was attracted to the idea of being in a writing community in a shared space, unlike most else prior. I wrote about my pregnancy and found a community of new parents that I really connected with. Once my child was born I didn’t like the thought of chronicling everything my child did without their consent and realized I’m more interested in the stories of parents as people who mother rather than people who share their child’s lives. I didn’t like the invisibility it created. Later, a friend invited me to join a parenting group on Facebook that I stayed pretty involved with and am still a member of. 

Do you ever feel screen exhausted?

I am just coming off a long bout of screen (and other things) exhaustion. I took a seven-month break that ended recently. It was a great recharge for me. I feel like I’ve never been online more than I was during the pandemic and I listened to my inner voice and stepped away for as long as needed. 

Have you found parenting harder especially when it comes to the school needs for your children due to language differences? Did you need to learn a new language?

While I don’t speak Dutch, I understand it fairly well. I live in a very international city and many of the children are multilingual by default. I haven’t found parenting difficult in the ways that are usually discussed, but I have found it frustrating culturally. My husband is a native speaker. 

How different have your needs changed as your children have grown older? Have you found yourself seeking new parenting groups?

I have found that my independence is slowly increasing as their independence increases and it’s been beneficial for all of us. I haven’t focused on finding new parenting groups so much as I’ve grown with the parents I entered this journey with and my parenting mentors that I look to. 

What has been the one thing that you find has changed tremendously from what you first believed parenting or motherhood was about?

I was aware of the growth, but I didn’t realize how constant I would have to examine what I do and don’t want to incorporate into my own parenting journey. There’s so much to learn and I feel like it’s one part instinct and one part studying, but I’m fine with that. I am fortunate to have had wonderful mother examples in my mother and grandmother and my friends with older kids. I have had to learn that sacrifice is not my ministry, but I’ve been shown it in varying ways and I must keep on top of it. It’s become easier now as they age. 

What one thing would you wish to unlearn from things you did as a first-time mother?

My experience the second time around came with more ease and no anxiousness because it wasn’t brand new anymore. I know I was under the impression that I encouraged freedom much more than I did. Out of necessity, I’ve learned to let go more often. I think it’s something that came naturally since there’s a five-year age difference between my kids. I am also learning two ever-evolving personalities and how I change as a person as I age definitely plays into that. 

How would you want your children to remember you?

I want to be remembered as a woman who loved them openly and deeply. Someone who believed in them and made that known. I want them to remember that I never stayed in my feelings and I always apologized when I was wrong. I want them to remember that I encouraged them to be their full selves and to speak up for themselves and others. I want them to also remember that I am an example of how to live your life differently and find joy daily. There’s no one way to grow up and in a society that prides itself on homogeneity, I want them to embrace who they are and not who society tries to dictate for them.

Kya Mara is the inaugural recipient of Raising Mothers’ 2022 We Are The House: A Virtual Residency for Early-Career Writers. WATH is a year-long virtual residency for one BIPOC nonfiction writer dedicated to helping early-career, underrepresented writers who are also parents build their writing portfolio. To learn more about our residency, click here.