S2E9 - How to Build a Village from Your Work Community

Episode 9 November 15, 2023 00:30:05
S2E9 - How to Build a Village from Your Work Community
Start to Finish Motherhood with Aisha
S2E9 - How to Build a Village from Your Work Community

Nov 15 2023 | 00:30:05

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Hosted By

Aisha Jenkins

Show Notes

In this episode, Aisha continues her series on building your Single Mother by Choice (SMC) village, focusing on creating connections and support within your workplace. She emphasizes the importance of intentionally seeking out meaningful relationships with coworkers, which can be a valuable source of support for SMCs. Aisha shares her personal experiences and insights on how to establish these connections, maintain boundaries, and build diverse relationships that can benefit your parenting journey. Whether you're an SMC or part of another community, these tips on connecting with coworkers can apply to various situations. Aisha encourages listeners to be open, respectful, and proactive in building their village within the workplace.

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Episode Transcript

Speaker A: Welcome to start to Finish Motherhood, a podcast for those thinking or already single Mothers by choice. Just looking for practical advice for navigating life's relationships. When you decide to have children on your own, it doesn't mean that you're completely alone. I'm Aisha Jenkins, and I'm partnering with you every step of your journey. Hi, everybody. I'm here today to continue our conversation on building your SNC village. The first installment was focused on building your SNC village from existing family members. And the key takeaway was don't just think wholesale that you're going to take all of your existing family members and make them village members to help support you and your children. They might not want that. They might not be expecting that, and you don't want that. You want to know who's going to be in your village. The second part of the series was talking about adding people to your village. That's from the larger single mother by choice community. The single mother by choice. Community is large. It's global. It was an encouragement to find your people. The main takeaway being to go out to events, connect with people, show up, be consistent, be intentional about adding friends from the Single Mother by Choice community to your village. And now here the third installment is another one that you might be, like side eyeing when I say this, but it's building your Single Mother by Choice village from coworkers. I mean, it makes sense. So hear me out. Hear me out. It makes sense because we spend here in the US. Eight to 9 hours at work or commuting or on meetings, and it makes sense that you're spending this amount of time with people. Why not adopt them as friends and make the relationships a little bit more meaningful? Now, I know I might get some pushback, and I've gotten pushback in my own melanated Single Mothers by Choice community on this topic, but I say listen to this episode with an open ear and also know that some of the tips that I talk about in this episode can also be applied to other communities. So if you're in a faith based community, if you volunteer, if there are things that you do that feel like a more natural fit, then you can also apply some of these tips to those communities and pulling village members from those natural places where you exist and spend time. Okay, so we get a lot of people in our community that say that they were surprised by who did not show up for them once the children arrived at home and who actually did show up. And a good number. My unscientific view is that about 40% of these people say the unexpected support and village members came from people in their work community. I found that to be true. It was the case for me, but I hadn't really sat down and thought about why I hadn't really sat down and thought about what was consistent in how I approached these different mean. It didn't make sense to me until I saw this meme. And the Meme. Was from Embody WUNC. It's another podcast show, Embodied, and the quote is, by Dr. Marissa Franco. And it says, so I think if you want to connect at work, you have to stop talking about work. You have to talk about your Hobies, your interests, who you are outside of work, what do you do in your free time, and then ask questions of other people and welcome them to share the same. So when I think back over my approach to pulling Village members from my universe of coworkers, I found that this rang true, but I had to sit with it for a few months to really process and tease apart what things rang true. I'll go through my list that I pulled together here, but the key thing here is to set the framework. I have been with my employer for 20 plus years, and so I have had opportunities to travel to different offices within my company. I've worked on different teams. I've worked on different cross company projects. And for prolonged periods of time, I've attended a number of conferences presented at conferences. So it did give me a unique opportunity to go deeper with some of these people. So I'll get into that more in the episode. So when I sat down to review my own experience, I'll go through from the start of my single mother by choice journey to where I am now. And so some of the names have been changed to protect people's circumstances, but I wanted to be able to tell a true and accurate story. And so first there was Katrina. Katrina was my manager at the time, and from what I could tell, Katrina was a really good mom. And I knew that Katrina was divorced and that she had two children. But every day, like around 230, she would leave to go pick up one child and run them the soccer practice and come back. So she would take her lunch break, go pick up her child, and then come back and resume work. And so one evening, we had an opportunity to work together late on a project. And I just pulled her aside, and I said, you're such a good mom, and how do you do it by yourself? How do you juggle it all? And that opened up the door to a really deep conversation about her situation, her circumstances, and her approach to parenting. And I thought, like, wow. So during that conversation, I also shared, I'm considering becoming a parent on my own. And looking at you, it looks like it's doable. And so I got more details. So that was one instance of me just opening up, saying, hey, I observed this thing through listening to people's stories. I knew that Nancy and her husband, after their first child, they had encountered secondary infertility. So I knew that they had received in vitro services, and they ended up having twins as a result. So I asked, what did that entail? I got more information on the process and how they managed to juggle the two children. And so it was really out of a need. And what I did again, this was kind of like off hours conversation. I knew Nancy's story, and I had asked Nancy, hey, can you join me on a walk? And during that walk, I shared what I was considering. And she was just both Katrina and Nancy were both excited. They had no reservations on my abilities to be a good solo parent. Okay, so that was Nancy. And then there was Jane. Jane I turned to after my first loss, and I was devastated. And we just happened to be in the office at the same time. And I was just talking about what I was going through. She'd known that I had my first child through IUI, through fertility treatments, that I was a solo mom. And we had started to connect, really talking about the kids. But it was during this conversation where I was struggling, having my second child that she opened up, that while she was having her second child, she'd suffered a loss, they done, a termination, then they finally decided that they were two and done. But it was through opening up that I got to hear a bit more about her story. And so now we have a close bonded relationship where we talk about the kids, we don't talk about work stuff because I don't really know what she does, she doesn't know what I do. We just happened to be in the same geographic location at the same time for a few years, and then the friendship just continued on from there. And then there was Candice, who babysat my kids occasionally. She was awesome. Not kids, she babysat Noelle occasionally. I had left the one office while I was pregnant, returned to visit occasionally, and shared when I'd given birth, came to my baby shower and everything. And so periodically, when I would visit back in Pennsylvania, I would stop by, she'd babysit for a few hours, and then we would leave. And so then we just continued to build that relationship from there. And then there was my friend Tom, and Tom was just I managed Tom at one point, and we had started having conversations about setting up dating profiles because at the time we were like, traveling quite a bit. And so I would travel to do reviews, and then we would go, we'd have lunch. And so we got to talking. We set up a dating profile. Tom met his wife. They were older and older couples. So his wife and Tom was older, but his wife was about mid forty, s. And when they got married, she wanted to have kids, and so they were trying, but she had also set aside some funds just in case it got late in a game. And she ended up using donor egg and then had her kids around the same time that I had my Noel. And we had been having conversations and visits periodically. But then when I started trying for my second, she was one of the people that I shared with. And then when I knew that donor egg was going to be my path, I had conversations with her about what the process was like for her, roughly what the cost was, knowing that we were in different states. But it was so comforting to be able to turn to each of these people in my time of need, to be able to ask more detailed, more probing questions and get what I needed. And so that's part of the motivation behind melanated single mothers by choice and start to finish motherhood is that there are people who sometimes just need to sit down and talk with people who have been there, whether they are partnered, whether they are single, whether they are same sex, the need is still the same. It's information I need to know and understand how to navigate this new ecosystem that I'm about to enter into. And so those were the coworkers who supported me in the earlier stages of parenting, trying to conceive and really thinking. Now as I got further into my journey and I had my two kids, there were people who I pulled in as I grew and had different needs for parenting. I was getting more involved at work, I was attending conferences. So I had one coworker, we will call her Jennifer. We don't live too far apart. So at times I could ask her to run and pick up the kids for me and then she would pick them up. Or I could say, I have this conference, I'm not sure if I'm going to make it back on time or it's at a weird hour, can you grab the girls? And so it was no biggie. Our kids played well together, we'd had a number of play dates and so I felt comfortable making this ask. We had gotten to know each other really well. And then there's the quad that I met partially when I returned from maternity leave with my second child. And then as that led into the pandemic and with the pandemic, I was hit hard and they were really my lifeline. And so when I think about my parenting journey and I think about how I want to raise my girls and how diversity is important to me, those people, it's a diverse group of people and they support my knowledge, my development and my growing as a parent as we continue to work together. And so we're doing amazing things in terms of supporting each other. I'm learning so much. And we range in age, we range in gender identity, we range in race and ethnic cultural backgrounds. And it's just a really sweet situation. And so I feel totally blessed. And I've thought about having them on the podcast, and I've thought about the different ways that I would incorporate just that blessing that they've been to me in my life. So that I can say a thank you and thanks doesn't even fully cover what they mean to me. And so while these are my coworkers, I know that our relationship might not last if somebody were to leave the company, might not last if circumstances changed radically. But it is enough for me and the friendship and the value that I have already gained from knowing them to be like, okay, I know that this is a momentary situational, deep relationship and friendship. And while it might continue into the future if we're lucky, if our circumstances change, for now, I'm in the moment and I'm leaning in, and these are my people at work. And so I'll get more into the details on that later. So given that all that I just told you, I am not an expert on relationship building. And I understand whether you build these relationships at work, whether you open up at work about your family life situation, the life that you have outside of work, it's a deeply personal decision and a deeply personal choice, but I just ask that you be open to it and you kind of hear it out. So given that I have had some experience building a village from scratch, you might be saying, well, what did you do? So I sat down and I really thought about it. And so, one, I've been curious about people. I don't necessarily like to talk about myself a lot. I'm more of a behind the scenes operation, production type of person. And so it is very easy for me to ask questions and then just sit back and listen and sip my coffee and really be involved and in the moment, in the conversation. So I'm curious about people. I'm curious about how people arrive at where they are at the time that we meet. And so I've just learned to ask those questions. Be intentional about seeking out people who are different from you. I'm adventurous in a lot of ways. Like I said, I've traveled a lot for work, so I've been in situations where I was an only person or I was new to the office, and then I had to kind of put myself out there, get to meet people. I've been an instructor, so I'd have a class of twelve to 15 people each week. So it's new people. So I got used to just asking questions. And people are so vastly different. And so it's just like, wow, you do that? Oh, that's awesome. And so anytime I get an opportunity to connect with some experience that's new and intriguing to me, I lean into that. So be kind and treat people with respect. That is almost a mainstay in my parenting journey. And I say that because that was how I've been treated a lot from the time when I lost my parents. People have treated me with kindness. A lot of people have treated me with respect. And so that is my gift, I guess, to society, is to treat people with respect and kindness. And that's my approach. I try to leave people with dignity. There are always things that you can say in the heat of the moment, but I choose to do less harm and just walk away or be silent and so see the humanity in others. I think that might be something that we've really gotten away from as a society in that we look at people as demographics. We look at people as data points, lines on a page. And it's just like, I encourage you that when you have the opportunity to really see people, you have to just really look at people. And I mean, there are times where it's a blur. It's a blur. But then there will be something where you stop and you actually look at that person and you see them, and then you see their humanity. So one way I do this is I'm always thinking, what? I don't really care for this person, but they have a mom and dad who loves them, and that allows me to pause in the moment and see their humanity. Okay, so find ways to genuinely connect. So when I was an instructor, I would have students for two to three days, five days at a time. I'm here. I'm in this moment. So I could choose to just be upset, bitter, flat, deadpan, and just have my time be wasted, or I could choose to lean into it and make the best of the situation. So I remember one time going to a conference, and at the time, we had roommates, and so I would be sharing rooms with people I didn't really know. And it's just like so I could come and go as I wanted, or I could lean in and have a genuine conversation. I could connect with someone, even if it's like, oh, yeah, I met so and so that weekend. We were in the conference, and we shared a room together. That might be it, and that's enough. Not always talking about what you do. So that was something that was really hard for me to adjust to when I moved to the DC area. A lot of people lead with, this is who I am. This is what I do. Now, who are you and what do you do? And that's always so off putting because I don't really know what I do sometimes. No, people don't know what I do. I don't really care what you do. Are you a nice person? Can I have a conversation with you at this moment in time? Do you smile? Are we having fun? So don't always talk about what you do. And that's where the world I climb mountain, I do rock climbing. I go skiing. I do dog sledding. I'm a gardener. I restore retro cars and just things like that. I'm a designer and it's just like I'm an artist, a photographer. And it's just like, who are you? And that's the joy and the surprise of people have realistic expectations for the relationship. Like I said, I really thoroughly enjoy the people that I spoke about earlier. They are my friends. But what I moved from one office to the next, those friendships, those connections become thinned and then they are no longer a connection. And that's okay. That's the nature of meeting people at work, is that it won't always be a forever type of friendship or a forever type of situation. But for what it is now, for the 8 hours that I have to spend with you, for the ten years that I've spent with you, it's been enough. And if we never speak again, I know that I gave my best to that relationship. And those experiences that we share together will be memories that I have forever. So that's a gift. Never miss an opportunity to get contact information. Get somebody's email address. Hey, let me send you some pictures or let me follow up with you after this event. Get their business card, get their email address. Connect with them on LinkedIn. Connect with them on the socials if you feel comfortable. But don't miss an opportunity to get contact information. Bring your full self to work or as much of your full self as you feel comfortable. I know as black women or people with marginalized identities, that is hard and it makes you feel vulnerable. It was something that I had to grow into. And as I started having these conversations and once I became a parent, the floodgates just opened because the humanity, the rawness is just there at some point. It's hard to hide the emotions and so it's just out there and that's okay. So to the extent that you feel comfortable, try bringing your full self to work. And then maybe not to everybody, but bring your full self to some of the people that you really like and have connected with and so believe in the goodness in people life can throw some of us for a loop. And it can make us feel that this telescopic view of the world is all there is and that people are just cruel. Because that's what's in your social media feed. That's what you see on the news. That's what you're consuming. But I will tell you, probably for the past six months, I have stopped watching the news, I have stopped watching political television, and I have really started just engaging with the people that are around me. And I find that there's more good than there is bad in the world. And that's what I've seen. My childhood, my upbringing wasn't always the easiest. And in a lot of times a lot of cases I was really vulnerable, both physically vulnerable and mentally and emotionally vulnerable, financially vulnerable. And the world has shown me kindness and that is what I project when I can and that is what I hopefully can put back in the world. So believe in the goodness of people. And so I know some people might think that sounds really Holly Anna ish, and that if you're a marginalized identity, that the workplace can sometimes be confusing, can sometimes be traumatic, but I say, what do you have to lose if you try to find your people and then only share what you're comfortable sharing? So I get it. Now, that being said, I still believe that you can make friends at work. So some of the keys to me doing that is keeping boundaries in place. And so, as I mentioned before, most of the conversations that I've had have been outside of the office or in my off time when we're having the more personal conversations. And so three things that I try to keep in mind is that I never put people in a position to compromise or jeopardize their employment. And so I'm never going to ask anything that's going to get you in trouble or share out anything. When we have the conversations, the understanding is that they're deeply personal and that they are confidential to the two of us. And so not to share out that information without asking first, but really just don't, okay? Don't share anything that you're embarrassed with having made public. And so while my single mother by choice journey is personal, it's nothing that I'm hiding. And so I feel comfortable sharing that. And I trust the person or people that I'm talking to that they will handle that information and that knowledge with care. And then I only share what and with whom I'm comfortable sharing. And so I've never been in a situation where any of these people have asked me anything uncomfortable. Okay, let me preface that without saying, can I ask you something so that I'm prepared that they're going to ask me something deeply personal? I know being vulnerable is really scary. And so take all of that with a grain of salt, take what you need from the conversation and then leave the rest. Okay? Now let's get back to the meat of the podcast, creating village members from the pool of your coworkers. So in more detail, I talked about being curious about people be intentional, about seeking out people who are different from you. So I will say that the pandemic and the pandemic and the murder of George Floyd really opened up a lot of deep conversations for me at work. And that's how I met up with my quad of people. We were learning together. We were in the trenches together. Being virtual allowed us to remove any of the barriers that are put in place by time zones and not being in the same geographic location. And so that really helped me to help us with opening up and being able to talk to people in different parts of the country. This was the time where there was anti Asian hate, so we got to talk about that. This is the time where there was talk of putting up a wall. So we got to talk about those issues. [00:24:29] Speaker B: Of course there was a George Floyd. [00:24:31] Speaker A: Murder and all of the racial recognizing that opened up. And so a lot of transformative things, thoughts came out of that time period for me and my group of friends. For me, I found that there was a lot of value in being vulnerable and just being raw and having the conversations, creating safe spaces, demanding safe spaces to be able to do that at work. So when I came across the quote, and I'll repeat the quote again, it's from Embodied and it says so I think if you want to connect at work, you have to stop talking about work. You have to talk about your Hobies, your interests, who you are outside of the workplace, what you do in your free time, and ask questions of other people that welcome them and ask them to share the same. And that is by Dr. Marissa Franco. And this has truly been the mainstay of how I built my village from work and this was how I did it. And so I would say there you have it. So to recap you're with these people anywhere from six to 10 hours a day, five days a week, 50 weeks out of the year, why not take advantage of the fertile ground? And so to recap that list of the ten things that I do to identify village members from friends at work is to be curious about people. Be intentional about seeking out people who are different from you. Be kind and treat people with respect. Be the humanity in others. Find ways to genuinely connect. Don't always talk about what you do. Talk about who you are. Have realistic expectations for the relationship. Never miss an opportunity to get contact information. Bring as much of your full self to work as you feel comfortable with. Believe in the good in people. And I know we get a lot of single mothers by choice. Like I said, the single mother by choice space is super white. Your workplace is going to be the one place, depending on where you're located geographically, where you're going to have a lot of people, a lot of diversity. Work in college is where you'll have the most diverse groups of people all in one place. And I say don't let those opportunities go to waste. Use them as opportunities to connect with people in a genuine way. Because you don't want it to be that when you're trying to be a better parent or if you are trying to raise a multiracial child, that you get to the point where you actually need other people. You need the diversity so that you can better parent your kid. You don't want that to be the point where you start reaching out to people, because then it seems really solicitous like you need something from me and you don't want that to be the case. So make meaningful connections. But the workplace is where you're going to find a ton of diversity. And if you're going to be intentional, be intentional about building meaningful relationships. So that when you do need to ask somebody like, hey, can I talk to you for a minute? Can we go for a walk? Can I share? May I ask you a question about that? They're more open to it. You primed the pump, you put enough into the bank in order to make a withdrawal. So there you have it. That's my approach to finding village members to support my single mother by choice family from my pool of coworkers. [00:27:49] Speaker B: So over these three episodes, I talked about how a person can go about. [00:27:56] Speaker A: Building their single mother by choice village. [00:27:58] Speaker B: Build a village that supports you, a village that supports your kids, and a village that supports your family unit. And I say keep in mind, building a village requires knowing what you need and who the people are in the pool that you get to choose from. The same way birds build a nest by selecting out specific twigs to help build that nest. That's exactly the same approach that you want to take to building your village. You want to be selective about who gets to be a part of that village. You also want to know what you can expect from those people. And so hopefully you found this series of three really informative and hopefully helpful. And like I said before, take what you can use and then just leave the rest. Every situation is different. People feel comfortable in different ways. And I say take the approach that feels natural to you, but do lean into connecting with people because you're going to need people in your village. This is just one approach, and mainly to get you to think about being intentional and really think about the different places where you spend a lot of time and ask yourself, could you be. [00:29:14] Speaker A: Part of my village? [00:29:15] Speaker B: Send me an email. Let me know who's in your village, what are some of the different ways, or the people who surprised you as village members? And until next time. [00:29:29] Speaker A: Thanks for listening. To start to finish motherhood with Aisha. If you want to keep the conversation going, follow Start to Finish Motherhood on Instagram or email me at [email protected]. If you love this episode, please share it with anyone who's thinking of becoming a single mother by choice, anyone who's already parenting as a single mother by choice and just looking for advice on navigating it all, or a friend or family member who's looking to support someone else's single. Mother by choice journey. Until next time. Bye now.

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