Where Is My Village
“It takes a village to raise a child.”
We've all heard this quote at one point or another. I'd heard it long before I ever had my son. It’s the cute idea that parenting is challenging but that you're not alone. The idea that the responsibility of teaching a child, supporting a child, and creating a successful person wasn't solely on the people that brought said child into the world. The idea that children, although of course primarily the responsibility of their parents, are also a group effort. Your "village" will be there for you because creating the best possible next generation is a job for not just the family, but an entire community.
Now here’s the thing; as adorable as that quote is, I never believed it was anyone else’s responsibility to make sure your kid turns out okay. That’s on you. You make the rules, you hand out the consequences, and if someday your kid is the one that sets things on fire to feel joy, you might’ve messed up somewhere along the way. That being said, as I got older, I figured out that everyone is somewhat responsible for the future of our planet and like it or not, that rests quite heavily in the hands of the little people wiping snot on their mom’s blouse right now.
So when I had my child, it was a bit of a blow to look around and realize no one was there. Before my family reads this and attacks me, yes they help in the ways they can. I can ask them questions and they’re happy to be “baby holders” when they’re around. But my nearest family member/helper is located 2.5 hours away from where I live so generally speaking, I don’t have help.
I get up every morning and my husband is already gone for the day. I do the day to day “stuff” solo with my child in tow. If I have to be somewhere, he’s coming with me and even the simplest activity that forces me to be kid free, requires massive amounts of planning as opposed to a quick phone call or text message to a family member or friend.
Another thing that happens when your “people” are far away is that visits are so much work and such a challenge to the routine, that it really isn’t helpful anymore. Packing bags, driving for hours, missing naps, and adapting to new environments is a lot with a baby. Then you arrive and your baby doesn’t see these people often enough to be comfortable around them so it’s just a lot of crying. At some point you realize that going through the effort of having people around to help is more work than it’s worth.
But the thing is, when I say I don’t have “a village” I’m referring to an overall lack of support and not just a lack of help. Our family and friends are far away. Making friends who understand you as a young mother is extremely challenging since more and more women are waiting until their early 30’s or later to have children. Programs designed to help parents out with anything non-medical are few and far between if money is tight (and let’s be honest, if you have a baby money is usually in short supply.)
We spend a lot of time talking about the way support is lacking for new moms. It’s not new information. That village that we were all expecting sometimes simply does not exist. And what I realized as I was sitting on the couch with my 6 day old baby in my arms, my husband off at work, and no one to so much as bring me a glass of water much less be an emotional support system - is that the issues aren’t going to be fixed for us anytime soon.
Before my son was born, I honestly believed I would never feel like I needed help. Then, when I realized I did but it wasn’t coming in the way I maybe felt it should, it was a tough pill to swallow. It was easy to be bitter about that. It was easy to feel like the world owed me something, like it owed my child something. But that’s not how it works.
I had to admit to myself that whether I liked it or not and whether I wanted it or not, this was my life. I was a mom and I had a child who needed to be raised right. Most importantly, the village I was promised wasn’t going to be coming through for me. So I could either dwell on that and how hard everything was, or I could figure it out and do better for my son.
So yes, some days I literally don’t have a moment to myself. Some days I feel like I am JUST a mom and not an actual person. Sometimes my baby cries and I can’t figure out what he wants and no one tells me so I just comfort him as best I can until the moment passes. I can’t remember the last time I got eat in peace or get dressed without a baby staring at me. My house is a wreck most days and I have discovered the disgusting, questionable land of microwave meals. But I am making it work.
Yes, it’d be nice if at some point a solution was made everything was peachy but that’s not how life works. In many situations, we need to figure out how to do it on our own. We need to make a decision that we won’t let less than perfect circumstances stop us from being the best moms we can be.
It’s time to admit and accept that motherhood simply will not look like we expected sometimes. It’s time to be realistic instead of idealistic. It may seem harsh but the fact is that when the village doesn’t show up, you still have to.
We’re going to screw up. We’re going to get tired and lose our patience more often than we’ll ever let anyone know. But with our best efforts and the grace of God, our kids are going to come out generally fine. We might not have a village. We might not even have a neighbourhood for that matter, but maybe we will be okay after all.