The Need for a Village: “Motherhood Is the Loneliest Thing I’ve Ever Done”Heather Neal
Let me fill you in on a little secret.
Motherhood is the loneliest thing I’ve ever done.
I acknowledge the absurdity of that statement. It’s the one thing that guarantees you’re with another human being — your own personal human being, in fact.
But crazy as it sounds, it’s probably my biggest complaint about motherhood. My biggest struggle. It’s not the tantrums or the lack of sleep or the need to cater to someone else’s desires; it’s the loneliness. The isolation of needing to be at home, of not having adult conversations, of not having moments to sort out the thoughts that are jumbled in my head because there’s a constant running commentary of kid-talk.
Because the thing is, you can’t do motherhood on your own. You need someone else. Several someone elses — lots of someone elses! A spouse can count, but chances are their life looks a little different than yours. And it doesn’t help that many of us parents have to take a divide-and-conquer approach to parenting: swapping kid time with hobbies, having one parent that works and another that doesn’t. There’s something unique about motherhood specifically that screams for connection, for someone else that can relate to you exactly.
The truth is, I have a village, but it’s not there 24/7 the way motherhood is. And when the village isn’t there, boy do I miss it.
While I love the luxuries and ease of modern life, during some of those darker moments of parenthood, the idea of a village in ancient times seems appealing. A village where families lived close together and neighborhoods were truly communities. A village where we didn’t have to drive to get to a playground or a park. If only I could walk out my front door and have a community like this, maybe motherhood wouldn’t be so lonely. To have someone else that can help parent your kids and pick you up when you don’t know you need picking up. To have people that understand you can’t make plans until 10 minutes before said-event because you don’t know if your kid will be napping or a tantrum will strike or illness will suddenly appear. To have friends that can’t see the disaster that used to be your living room because theirs looks just like it – covered in toys and crumbs and who knows what. To have someone you trust inherently if you need to drop off your kid at a moment’s notice for an emergency.
It’s like Bunmi Laditan of The Honest Toddler says: “I miss the village I never had.” I miss it even when I do have it and it’s just not present at that exact moment.
Too often we overlook the need for a support system to maintain our mental health as moms.
Sure, we’ve gotten pretty good at admitting that moms need to take care of themselves in order to take care of their kids in the best possible way. But we’re usually talking exercise or a girl’s night out here and there. We tend to forget about the daily ins and outs of motherhood and what that does to the state of our mental health. Taking care of our whole selves needs to be a priority, and we can’t do that on our own. We need people lifting us up, supporting us, and talking us down when we get too worked up or worried. We need support systems of multiple kinds. We need other moms, partners, and non-parent friends that help us set aside our all-consuming parent hats for awhile. We need mom groups, playgroups, and gyms with daycare. We need parents with kids the same age that can relate to the rapid-changing ages and stages. We need parents with kids that are older and younger than ours to give us a dose of perspective. We need a community that can help raise and teach our kids, while also teaching us to be better moms in the process.
These are the things we should be looking for as moms and parents. Finding the best schools, having the coolest toys, and belonging to museums and science centers is one thing, but having a community that we can fall back on — that will support us no matter what – these are the true riches of modern motherhood. The truth is, I could use a few more members in my village. I bet we all could.
Photo credit: Heather Neal