What if I don't have that village that's supposed to help me raise this kid?
“It takes a whole village to raise a child.” African Proverb
But what happens when you don’t have a village?
I remember one day when Marceline was maybe a month old and she wouldn’t stop crying. I bounced, I sang, I nursed. I looked around my house, my empty house, and I felt so alone. I had no one I could call to relieve me of some of the fear I had. No one to talk face to face to who would understand. No one to hold my daughter while I took a shower or had a nap or cried.
I’ve had many, many more days like that one. With our families hours away and no friends nearby, our family is on a bit of a proverbial island. It’s almost idyllic at times, bringing us together in a little cocoon. Other times, like during sickness, sleep regression, after months of not seeing any other adults outside of work or in passing at the store, it’s incredibly lonely, exhausting and depressing.
Motherhood is maybe the most alienating job there is. Whether you stay at home, work from home, work outside of the home. Your existence revolves around a small, mostly helpless individual who wouldn’t survive one day on their own (or one day without Minecraft… but I digress). We do this thankless job alone. We often can’t remember the last adult conversation we had with anyone besides discussing grocery lists and homework assignments. We give and give and give out of our own cup. One person carrying the bulk of the burden of the family squarely on your shoulders. But who is filling your cup? Who is helping shoulder that burden? Who is telling you you aren’t alone? Who is there for you?
Ancestrally, we lived in villages. We raised our children alongside our mothers, sisters, cousins, friends. There are some who still live communally or nearby their families, but as a whole, this is becoming less and less common.
For whatever reason, if you are missing a village, here are a few things that while they may not sprout new friends immediately or transport family members to driving distance away from your home, can make your day to day a little more bearable.
5 Minutes Of Self-Care
Some of you have already stopped reading. I know that this sounds like a difficult, nay, impossible task. But truly consider trying this: Carve out five minutes of self-care, once a day, every day. It doesn’t need to be a long soak in the tub (although, if you can do it, DO IT). It could be a hot shower. It could be making a tasty snack just for you after the kids go to bed (bonus points if your partner makes it for you). It could be a few minutes of guided meditation. Headspace offers some amazing guided meditations, many of them only three to five minutes long which is doable, even for the busiest parent.
If you’re struggling, ask for help. Whether it’s from your partner, a friend visiting, someone you met at your child’s school. It is ok to need help and it is ok to ask for it. I know it takes a lot of courage. I know for many of us, this may not be a viable option. But if you can, do. Ask for a play date. Ask for a half hour to take a nap. Ask if they’re free for coffee. You deserve a recharge. Reach out to those who are near to help you make that happen.
Growing New Friends
Most of us have parenting groups online and Facebook friends we love but have never met IRL, but did you know that there are apps that help you meet people from online in person? Like Tinder, without the hookups and awkwardly bumping into each other at the grocery store a week later.
Peanut is a matchmaking app… for moms! It’s a great way to make connections with other local moms and at a glance being able to see how many children they have and their ages as well as seeing what they may have in common with you! The only drawback is Peanut is aimed towards parents identifying as women and there is no counterpart for male identifying parents. Meetup is also a great program and really allows you to connect with people based on similar interests, location, etc.
Being without a village can be daunting. It can be hard and lonely and scary. But we see you. You’re a badass parent. And we’re cheering you on.