Community > Stress. Absolutely.

I wrote this post in 2011 for Salt & Nectar and it is still so, so true. The only things that have changed are my floors (now clean thanks to the Roomba!) and our food scene, which is super-exciting!

So, here’s the thing. I’ve got stress. Law school loans out the ying yang and other financial concerns. Career conundrums paired with zero free time to address aforementioned conundrums. Baby weight, potty training, sleep deprivation, a kitchen floor that is filthy ALL the time. I’ve got stress.

But community? Community. I’ve got in SPADES and I’m not going to lie—it makes everything in the previous paragraph seem totally and completely manageable.

First, I live down the street from my parents. Both of my grandmothers and several members of my extended family live in the area. I can honestly only name one time that Griffin was babysat by someone he was not related to. I can’t put into words how grateful I am for my family’s presence in my children’s lives. Not only because it makes my life so much easier but because these relationships will form the basis of who they are as individuals in a real and positive way.

Now, I understand this is not a reality for so many. However, I do resent the implication that I am “lucky” to have this arrangement. I am not lucky. I gave up a lot to have this life and I convinced my husband to give up even more. I argued that our lives as parents and their lives as children would be better if we lived near family. I still believe I was right.

BUT, I do truly believe that community is not composed solely of family. I have an amazing group of friends in Paducah. Some of my friends I’ve known since childhood and we just continued relationships that have existed for years. However, some of my closest friendships were formed because I encountered a fabulous woman at yoga/a party/church, marched up to her, and said, “Let’s be friends.” Literally. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t. But either way – after two years back in Paducah—I now have an awesome network of girlfriends that I can go to for support and encouragement.

My family is amazing. My friends are fabulous. But when I was thinking of my community and why it plays such a positive role in my life, it really went beyond just my inner circle of support. My community is also the town I live in and the culture it perpetuates.

Living in a small, Southern town isn’t always easy. There isn’t a lot of diversity. My politics don't always align. I wouldn’t exactly call the food scene exciting. But I live in a place that values children and values community.

People around here LOVE kids. Perfect strangers will stop and dote on my boys as if they were his or her only grandchildren. The first thing someone asks you upon meeting isn’t what you do for a living (or worse WHO do you work for). They ask if you have any children. Then, they want to know their names, ages, and if you have any pictures. It is a wonderful thing to feel like your children are an asset in your community instead of a burden.

More importantly, I feel like people around here value the role of community in children’s lives. “It’s a great place to raise kids” isn’t just a trite refrain. It’s the truth and I know that because I grew up here. In some ways, I feel like Paducah was my third parent – supporting me, protecting me, giving me opportunities to succeed. It wasn’t perfect (what parent is) but I couldn’t have asked for a better foundation.

I just didn’t realize how truly important that community was until it came time to have children of my own.