I was touched by a story I read this evening about a mother without a village on the mom.me website http://mom.me/baby/31807-moms-without-village/
Many of the things in this article resonate with me as a first time mum living in South Wales while my rather large family live in London. I don’t know what I was thinking when I moved away. No, actually I do know what I was thinking. I wanted to learn to look after myself. It felt the mature thing to do, to graduate from university, move out and get a job. Having tasted freedom for a short while during the university years, I was hungry for more.
Having met my now husband over 5 years on, I was elated to become a parent. But the responsibility and the isolation it came with was unexpected and unwelcome. Entertaining a baby who wanted to be carried and who either slept or cried was a reality I hadn’t been ready for. Without a close network of friends, I found myself alone, without any adult stimulation and my mind slowly turned into jelly with nothing more exciting to say at the end of each day other than to rave about my daughter’s poo’s and how easy or painful breastfeeding was throughout the day.
I secretly felt that my husband was rather relieved to have a job to go to each day, to get a break away from the stress of being at home. He was very supportive but there were no breaks, no time-outs, not even private loo breaks. Pumpkinella could and would not be without me for any length of time, and I couldn’t bear to leave her to cry.
In came the nurturing in-laws. ‘Have you had a bath today?’, ‘Have you eaten today’, ‘What have you had to drink over the last few hours?’. My responses were never very promising so like guardian angels, they flew in to the rescue, taking Pumpkinella from my arms and giving me the space to breathe.
As someone normally quite hyperactive, full of life, and child-like, caring for a small child felt like a whole new ball game. I wondered where my friends were when I received no calls or text messages asking about our family’s well-being. It was during the days where I would have a migraine and my in-laws weren’t available that I came to the realisation that it really does take a village to raise a child. Having people you know who you trust not only with your emotions but that can help with the smallest day-to-day things; where were they?
I blamed myself for not being friendly and open enough to make strong enough connections with people who they cared about me even when they didn’t see me. I blamed myself again for being too so far away from my family that it wasn’t practical for them to come and visit regularly.
You see, the thing is that we all need a village, and a tribe; people that can help to take the pressure off parenting. They can be shoulder to lean on, the reprieve after we’ve had no sleep for 3 days straight, and the voice of reason when we we’re too critical of ourselves.
I see now why it’s so important to have a network of friends and family close by you.
I was given a spa day by my colleagues at work to enjoy just before giving birth or in the first months of being a new mum. However, I had no-one to go with and didn’t want to go with my husband as we had no-one to look after Pumpkinella during those early months. I leaned so much on my in-laws that I felt it was too much to ask of them.
The moral of this story? Reach out to people when you need them. Never take it for granted that they’ll be there when you need them. Take the time to build multiple support systems; friends you can be yourself with; friends that will wipe your tears on a low day but will equally celebrate the seemingly insignificant achievements like the baby’s first spoonful of yoghurt, just to make you happy.
Finally, cherish and be gracious for the in-laws who would go to the moon and back for your child, their granddaughter. They love her nearly as much as you do and will be there if you need them. Ask for help, even if it’s just for some adult company and a cup of tea. Don’t expect that these people will know when you need them; but they will always come to the rescue if you ask them to.
Thank you Nanny and Tadcu Lewis – you are both awesomely outrageous and we love you to bits!