“You need a break, Mama!”
“Leave that baby with Grandma and enjoy your husband!”
“Make time for you!”
“It takes a village!”
How many times have I heard well-meaning statements like these? How many times have I poured out my heart and soul on the Internet (like an idiot, I know, but it’s so convenient!) on the trials and tribulations of motherhood, only to be told that all I need is a little help in my life?
But that’s not always realistic.
I won’t disagree with anyone who says that raising children requires a village. Of course it does. I’m just one person and I can’t be all things to my children for the rest of their lives because babies grow into toddlers who grow into small children who grow into big children who grow into teenagers who grow into adults.
That’s a whole lot of need in a lifetime.
I’m grateful for the people my children will encounter in their lives, from the teachers that will help cultivate their minds, to the aunts who will inspire them, the uncles that will make them laugh so hard they can’t breathe, to the many friends that will whisper secrets and mend hearts and possibly even break them.
I know that growing up, my children will probably create their own village and I know that’s a good thing for all of us. But right now?
That village isn’t very wide.
Right now, my children are pretty young and their world does revolve around me, their mom. As much as I love it and struggle with it most days, that’s the truth. Especially during the baby years, their sole existence has hinged upon me in every single way and for whatever reason, I have a hard time with the oft-given advice that moms just need to chill out and “accept help” like there’s just hordes of people knocking down our doors to do our laundry or hold a baby or make us a freaking sandwich.
Sorry, but it doesn’t always work that way.
Call me crazy, but I’ve always had the thought that if I was going to have these kids, it was going to rest on my shoulders to raise them, not this elusive village. So when I do get help, you had better believe that I am so, so grateful for it.
Yes, our children have grandparents who love and adore their grandchildren, of course, and they are involved in their lives, but it’s something I don’t take for granted.
In some ways, I have more of a village than a lot of people, living right down the road from my parents. I know in a bind they can help me if I need it. For instance, my mom often picks my daughter up from school when I can’t and my sister is actually watching my children as I write this. (But don’t worry, I pay her well.) And yet, those are things I feel like I am privileged to have and I am always worried about inconveniencing other people, even my family, with some of the responsibilities of our family’s life.
Both sets of grandparents work full-time, one has a chronic health condition, and one is admittedly just not a baby person. There’s a very finite limit to the amount of time they can “help” with my children, because let’s face it — four children is a lot for anyone to handle. Grandparents are great, yes, but they are a gift to me as a parent, certainly not a right I should demand of my village people. (Ha.)
The truth is, creating a village sometimes just isn’t possible and there have been many times as a mom a “break” isn’t realistic. Balance, thriving, creating time for you — sometimes, those helpful tidbits tossed out to drowning moms just make me feel like yet another thing I’m failing at.
If I don’t have a village, isn’t it my own fault?
I don’t know, but I do know that some days, I wish for more of a village even while feeling grateful for the village I am lucky to have. And I know that I’m not the only one.
To the breastfeeding mom whose baby won’t take a bottle, to the mom who doesn’t live near family, to the single mom just trying to survive, to the mom who can’t afford a babysitter, to the mom who bears the brunt of solo nights and a traveling partner alone, to the moms who desperately want the village, but can’t find it …
You are not alone.
Here’s to finding our villages, wherever they may be.