Friday, 26 July 2013

It takes a village?

You hear the expression all the time and the constant advice from other parents, experienced grandparents, know-it-all in-laws - it takes a village, no-one can do it alone, you need to rely on the people around you.

I disagree.

I don't see any reason why I can't raise my kids myself, without the assistance of the rest of the world.

It's not that I think there's anything wrong with the whole "it takes a villlage" philosophy, if you're that sort of person and you have that sort of family and community around you. I think it's a great idea. If you have dinner at your parents every Sunday night and send the kids there for a sleepover once a month, if you sister lives nearby and drops round for coffee twice a week and babysits your kids whenever you need a few hours, if your best girlfriend lives around the corner and you take your kids for park playdates together every afternoon, if you've set up a network of night-out babysitting exchanges with neighbourhood friends who have kids the same age as yours and that's what works for your family, then good for you. I sometimes wish I had that kind of community around me.

That doesn't mean it's the only way to do it, though.

My parents and brothers and sisters-in-law live an hour and a half away. Those of my friends who have started families - and most have not yet - have only just started and have children years younger than my own. I'm not the sort of person who makes new friends easily - casual friends, sure, acquaintances, neighbours we'll chat with out on the stoop, other moms met in the schoolyard or at the park or on the sidelines of the soccer field - but not real friends, not anyone I'd feel comfortable asking a favour from or trust to take care of my kids necessarily.

I also tend to feel a debilitating sense of guilt if I'm not absolutely around for and involved in every aspect of my children's childhood - I feel like as a mom, that's my job; if I'm not doing that, then I'm failing as a mom. Silly, perhaps, but it's how I feel and it has shaped much of how I've lived my life since having kids: what kind of jobs I've taken so I could still be home with them, how my husband and I spend our time together, how we all spend time together as a family.

My kids are only young once, and it's for such a short time. I want to cherish every moment. I want them to cherish every moment. I want to make enough wonderful memories of those moments with them to last the rest of our lives. And to do that, I feel like I need to be there for all of those moments.

I'm not saying every moment of Mommying is wonderful. There are days when I'm exhausted, when I'm bored, when I feel unfulfilled, when I feel like I've lost my sense of self completely, when I would practically kill for five fucking minutes to myself, when if I hear "MommyMommyMommy" one more time I might gouge my own eyes out with a fork. But none of that negates the amazing feeling of my boys wrapping their arms around me and telling me they love me, of answering their questions about the world around them, of listening to the stories they make up or what they think about the books they're reading, of playing board games for hours on end or cuddling up together for a movie night, of helping them with their homework after school or trying new bike tricks together, of watching them learn and grow and become ever more their own unique little people every hour of every day. I wouldn't miss any of those moments for the world.

So I'm a stay-at-home (well, work-at-home) mom. I've sacrificed a lot in order to be able to manage that. My husband and I have alone time and "date nights" at home, after the kids go to sleep. The only vacations we take are as a family - March Break at Disney, camping and cottaging in the summer. Anything I need to do, anywhere I need to go, the kids come with me - or it gets done late at night after they're in bed. This is what I'm comfortable with, and this is what works for us. For others, a full week without a "night off" of parenting when the kids go stay with Grandma and Grandpa and Mom and Dad get a date night as a grown-up couple would be unimaginable. And that's what works for them.

There's nothing wrong with the notion that "it takes a village" to raise a child - but if there is no village or if Mom isn't comfortable with creating or relying on one, there's nothing wrong with doing it alone, either.

You might also like...
Stay-at-home vs. working moms
The myth of the stay-at-home mom
It's the little things that matter
Precious Moments

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