Building up the sisterhood

“Be a woman other women can trust…. Successful women have a tribe of loyal and honest women behind them…. Be a woman who lifts other women.” —Sophia A. Nelson

I don’t know if it’s my youngest turning into a teenager or me turning another year older right behind her, but the stars have aligned in such a way that the universe is sending signals urging me to take notice of something I can now identify as “sisterhood.”

I hadn’t labeled this thing—sisterhood—until the hostess of an online jewelry party used the word in a thank-you note to the party participants.

This particular jewelry company, Trades of Hope, works with female artisans from underprivileged countries, giving them an opportunity to sell their wares and support their families. In a nutshell, it’s women (hostesses) helping women (Trades of Hope entrepreneurs) helping women (the artisans.)

The word “sisterhood” felt powerful and it just made sense.

In this tumultuous social climate, women helping women is taking center stage. Large movements like #timesup and #metoo are demanding attention, as they should be. But equally important and identifiable with every girl and woman every day is the foundational need for a vulnerable, empathetic support system.

We need to look at other women in our lives as being equally capable, misunderstood, hopeful and resolute as we are. Because we all are. We all have our moments and at the very least, we’re sisters in that. We’re better together.

I consider it a blessing to have women in my life who are within reach. I can rely on a call, text, hello or inappropriate gif on a regular basis. There’s always a laugh and dogged acceptance, thank God.

It’s said that as we get older, friendships begin to tighten and our circles shrink, with an emphasis on quality over quantity. It’s true. But even as we learn to push against the misconception that we need approval or acceptance from everyone, our smaller circles can still link and find ways to build each other up.

To me, and maybe to others who have older kids starting to build independent lives separate from ours, this realization begins to feel like a sort of shedding, dropping protective layers built up over time.

I liken it to the feelings I had the day my dad died, specifically the afternoon we drove to the funeral home to make arrangements. It felt like standing still in the silent eye of a tornado. I looked out the car window and saw the world was still going on, fast and furious, as if nothing had changed. But everything had changed.

The difference in this case is that the stillness brought from tightening our circles and shedding unnecessary expectations feels right. We’re standing in the middle of a tornado of activity and volatility but that new stillness brings a sneak peak of clarity. Nothing has changed, but everything has.

Our roles as moms (of girls, in these times), friends and “sisters” become sharper and more focused in the center of clutter.

I can’t speak about previous generations of parenting, but I think we’re in a particularly challenging era of raising humans. The only thing I know for sure is in unsettling times, the women in our lives are more than a convenience, they’re critical.

Writer Deborah Cruz said, “I used to think being able to bring a human into the world was a miracle but raising a human from scratch is an even greater one.”

Every kid, just by existing, should make a mom want to be better. That’s what our linking circles could do too. Make us better at real life, better as sisters, better alone and unquestionably better together.

Shelley Plett is a graphic designer for the Free Press and Kansas Publishing Ven­tures. She can be reached at shelley@hillsborofree­

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