It takes a village to raise a child. Everyone's heard it. Oh the cliché.
We know in reality it actually doesn’t take a village. Children are raised all over the world without a village. They are raised by two parents, four parents, grandparents, step parents, foster parents, single parents, and no parents.
But what if you just happen to be lucky enough to have a village? To have a community that is instrumental in your child’s upbringing? To consider these people family and look at their children as you would your own? And have the honor of having more people love your child than just you?
We have such a village and oh we are the lucky ones indeed.
We have a group of families who have babies ranging from 6 months to 24 months. There is a subset of this group who have baby girls who are approximately 1 month apart. First is Baby A. 3 weeks later came my Baby O. 6 weeks later came Baby B.
I gravitated to Baby A and Baby B’s moms when we were pregnant. We would go to yoga and giggle at how awkward our forward folds had become (think sumo wrestlers trying to gracefully bend over). We would sit on our mats afterwards and chat away until we were kicked out of the studio. We would take walks and talk about our upcoming births, both excited and scared. We would commiserate about heart burn and gas and bloating.
And when the girls were born, our connection continued and intensified. We talked about everything brand new mom’s obsess about. Poop. Breastfeeding. Sleep. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat again. You get the idea.
The bond we started and share each day has been irreplaceable. I always have an outlet to ask a question, share a story, log a complaint, enjoy a laugh, swap a picture, shed a tear and seek reassurance. I find support each and every time I talk with these mamas. And we talk every day. We have since the girls were born.
An added bonus to having our village is the best photo ops ever! Our families and friends and co-workers love to see pictures of “the girls.” When it’s been awhile since a facebook picture has been posted, I get polite requests for more. People love the idea of the girls hanging out and growing up best friends. And we do too.
Having a village may appear to be more about luck than by design, but there are a few things that have made our village as strong as it is.
- Don’t assume your friend/co-worker/neighbor/fill-in-the-blank has their own village. Often times, we are struggling through this thing called motherhood alone. We think all the other moms out there don’t need a village or already have their own. Being sleep deprived and on a totally new routine can make you a little insecure. If I can stress one thing over any, it would be to make that connection. Try stepping out of your comfort zone and trust that if you put yourself out there you will be received with open arms. You will probably be pleasantly surprised to know that the woman at the park with the little boy the same age as yours is just dying to swap stories about sleep training, baby led weaning, teething, and what tips and tricks you have for gas!
- If you already have a village, make sure to take care of it. It’s the thing we all struggle with the most: take care of yourself first so you can take better care of your others. It’s the airplane flight oxygen mask analogy: in the event of a sudden change in cabin pressure, secure the oxygen mask on yourself before you secure the mask on your children. Yes it makes sense. And yes it’s a great idea. But… no, we rarely make this happen. The village is not just about having someone who can watch your baby in a pinch, but it’s also about providing you with support, friendship, companionship, and camaraderie. Making time for the Village is important but hard to do when there are 43 things on your list for that day and you only have time for 35. What I try and do is double-dip. My Village and I happen to have a lot in common, so when I head to yoga, want to grab a coffee or breakfast on the weekend, go shopping for baby supplies, lace up my shoes for a run, head out the door for the pumpkin patch, or cook dinner, I think: I wonder if the Village would want to join? Many times it works out, many times it doesn’t. But I always think of them and I always ask. They do too. It feels nice to reach out and be reached out to.
- Be open to more members to the Village. And we have more members of the Village in an extended way – other friends with babies, friends without babies but who love ours, family, neighbors, co-workers. The Village isn’t an exclusive club… that’s kind of the point. While we have our inner circle for sure, the Village extends pretty far out there, and we have found we really need it at times. Like when you’re desperate for a sitter because you’re thinking to yourself “if I don’t brush my hair and put on lip gloss and go out with my partner for a meal and a cocktail, I'm going to lose it!” The usuals are not available, the babysitter is booked, your mom is sick and you're stuck.
Having a Village is new for me. I am the type of person who has always been able to "do everything on my own." But as I get older and definitely after I've had a baby, I have come to appreciate that while I could in theory do everything on my own, it's much more enjoyable not to. There is a respect that comes in asking for help and support and actually receiving it. There is a bond that comes in being relied upon and following through. There is a trust that comes in that interaction which carries forward to our families.
Do you have your own version of a Village and how have you made that happen?