It was 4:02 on Monday morning. I was deep in a dream when I heard the phone ring loudly. Surprisingly, it was my usually hard- to-rouse husband who jumped up, found the phone, announced “It’s her”, and handed it to me. Eighteen minutes later, I was on my bike and headed to my good friend’s house 9 blocks away.
After holding my friend, great with child, through a few early labor contractions while her husband did some final packing and cleaning (“Honey, are you taking out the trash? Why?! Can we please go?!”), I bid them farewell, had a glass of milk, and headed up to their bed to sleep until their 2-year-old woke me up a few hours later. My husband shifted his work needs so he could take our 7 and 9-year-olds to school, along with the two neighbor boys. I called the expectant grandfather a few hours into the morning and made sure he was set to come in from Maryland and pick up the toddler by evening.
This is my village. This is my friend’s village.
And this village is how many of us have not only survived, but have cherished, parenthood.
I am so very grateful to my village. Without them, as a mom, I would not nearly be as….you name it – insert anything positive here! And my children… they have benefited immensely. My spouse as well. Not to mention my fellow villagers! I am so grateful.
We are not meant to do the parenthood journey alone. We don’t have to give up on the beauty of “it takes a village” to raise our kids just because we live in 21st century America. While modern villages are not the same as days of yore, or other cultures, they are JUST AS powerful and necessary. And since we live in a city, it is actually easier for us to find nearby connections than our fellow parents elsewhere (think suburbian car to garage to house without any human interaction – sometimes our close quarters really do have an advantage!).
Mamas, Create your Village!
Make it happen! And make it strong! Use each other! Your others may be your old friends who live far away but who you reach out to for advice and support by email and phone. They may be new mama friends you’ve met since becoming a parent in DC, from your pregnancy group, your preschool, or even at the park. They may be friends without kids. They may be neighbors with kids. They may be in-laws, folks, or siblings, no matter where they live. They may be hired help. And they most likely will be all of the above.
Whoever they are, KNOW without a shadow of a doubt that they are there for you, and that you are there for them. Ladies, I’m not just talking for emergencies or the rare child birthing of a friend (but, oh, they make for such fun stories!). I’m talking personal breaks when you’re at your rope’s end from the terrible twos. Or worse, threes. I’m talking date night with your partner. I’m talking weekends away with your best friends. I’m talking your exercise needs, doctor’s appointments, and sick days. I’m talking those days alone, as a stay-at-home mom, with minimal adult interaction. I’m talking creation of co-ops and playgroups. And I’m talking good ole city adventure and fun, together.
Call on your community
Force, not encourage, your village members to call on you. Believe me, you will have to do some forcing. Especially for our many female friends who have grown up with an ingrained sense of guilt over self-help. It helps to remind friends that yes, while they wish they were the ones giving this time….by accepting help from others, they are offering the chance for another to give. And worry not, dear friend. Soon enough, you will surely be the one giving.
Once you get into the village groove, there is no going back. I can guarantee all involved will be left with smiles on their faces.
I can’t count the benefits we’ve witnessed in our village, parenting together.
Listen to what we’ve said and heard….
- “She never lets us brush her teeth so easily!”
- “I can’t believe he ate lettuce with you! “
- “Wow. I couldn’t have made it through those first breastfeeding weeks without your advice.”
- “You know, without you, she wouldn’t have art projects?”
- “Thank goodness you like spiders and dirt, because, well, otherwise…”
- “I’m so glad it’s easier for you to tell her NO…. thank you. “
- “You taught him the rest of his alphabet!”
And the joy I feel when those village kids come running to me, calling my name, using my husband’s nickname so endearingly, making jokes with me, asking me to read to them… It’s invaluable.
Whoa. How can I forget the sharing of STUFF we do in this village life?! So much stuff shared. Another kind of invaluable!!
Create your village. No matter what year you are into motherhood. It’s never too late.
And if it’s already there, take a moment to appreciate it and be grateful for it. I know I am. Thank you, my dear ones far and wide. Thank you.