WHAT VILLAGE? IN SEARCH OF A SUPPORT NETWORK

EMOTIONAL, MOTHER OF ALL LISTS, MOTHERHOOD, PREGNANCY, BIRTH & BABY'S, THOUGHT-PROVOKING

We are told over and over again that it ‘takes a village to raise a child’. Which is all very well, but many not having access to a support network is precisely the problem.  Perhaps you are the first of friends or siblings to have a kid, maybe you are far away from family. Or grandparents aren’t as keen to be involved as you imagined.  Whatever the reasons it can be trigger feelings of resentment and sadness, on top of existing overwhelm and exhaustion. A toxic combination. Thank you Nikki for speaking up about it:

  • Picture the scene:  day 10 of completely solo parenting, usually the weekends are exciting because I can go to the loo alone but Kris had worked the full weekend before and I had a sick baby. 

  • A baby that was taking 4 hours to get to sleep each night.

  • A baby that had laid claim on my bed and was teasing me with the prospect of sleep.

  • Meanwhile, my almost four year old it loving life because she is allowed to watch so much TV but I was becoming increasingly guilty as the hours passed along with my rather idealistic dreams of raising a child with minimal TV time!

  • I shout at my partner whilst the baby is crying “what am I supposed to do when I’m burnt out and have nothing left to give?” knowing full well the answer was:

  • You’ve just got to keep going.

  • Sometimes I want to punch pre-baby me in the face for being so smug and thinking that so much of this would be in my control, and sometimes I want to hug her and say keep your ideals, this shit is hard.

  • I wanted so bad for someone to ring me that day and say how’s it going, do you need any help?

  • Can I take Erin out for a couple of hours so you can switch the TV off?

  • Can I make you a coffee because you’ve been stuck to the sofa breastfeeding most of the day?

  • Can I hold the baby for you so you can go to the loo?

  • Can I come round so you’ve got some company? So I take some time to zone out whilst Octonauts is on, and scroll through Instagram hoping one of the ‘inspirational quotes’ accounts I follow does just that – inspires me to get out of my hole of self pity.

  • I’m a big fan of quotes, they give me the buzz that makes me believe I can really achieve some amazing things for all of about 30 seconds and then I realise I’m knackered, and I have too many things to do like cleaning the loo etc etc, you know the drill.

  • Some quotes stick with you for better or worse, and I feel we live in this bubble where we are not allowed to be anything but positive despite the emphasis on mental health right now.

  • No one can be positive all the time right? And how about just calling a shitty situation for what it is without having to add a little gratitude at the end?

  • One quote or idea that pops up in some form another consistently is this idea ‘THAT IT TAKES A VILLAGE TO RAISE A CHILD’. I guess you can take what meaning you want from it but for me it means you shouldn’t be alone, you should have support.

  • But what if you don’t?

  • What if the only people in your village are people you don’t have a great relationship with?

  • I wonder how families cope that have no or very limited support to shoulder the burn out that inevitably comes from parenthood. Or even to step in every now and again so you never get there.

  • My family is small, and I now only have contact with my dad who lives the opposite side of the country to me. I made a decision to cut ties with the rest of my family for want of a better life for my children.

  • Yet the desperation I feel to not let my children have to battle to undo the effects of their childhoods like me, sometimes goes head to head with the desperation I feel to have a break. To feel like me again. To spend time with my partner again alone and contribute something more to eachother than just a function.

  • Replace him going to the tip with us going to lunch.

  • Replace me decluttering the house with us going to see a band like we used to.

  • And sometimes I question my decisions, are my standards too high, and would our lives actually be more enriched having a faulty family around that may help to relieve the pressure at home?

  • And then I snap out of it and realise that desperation takes you to crazy places!

  • But in any case we have no choice, we have to accept that it’s just the luck of the draw. But why does it feel like people are so ready to delight you with the news that they did it all alone back in the day in a way that makes your feelings about as welcome as a whistle in a party bag?

  • Is it even true, did they really do it alone? Or do memories just fade so much with time, with every passing milestone replaced by a new struggle to the point where empathy, encouragement and help just almost disappears?

  •   But if they do remember and they did do it alone as they say, why wouldn’t they help more?

  • Perhaps  I expected too much? I suffer a constant dialogue in my head that asks whether we expect or simply long for a breather.

  • Then I hear a stranger at a playgroup talk about their family members coming over to help with the kids whilst they go to the doctors or they’re having a weekend away  or even a couple of hours out and its hard not to feel envious.

  • And I know its always more complex that it appears.

  • And really its not surprise we  feel hard done by because, let’s face it, break or no break parenting is still the hardest thing we will ever do.

  • I was once told I was difficult to help and I think that’s true to some extent.

  • But then I thought,  I don’t remember you offering to help me with anything…

  • And then I realised, they wanted me to ASK for help.

  • Awkward – who WANTS to ASK?

  • So anyway, we took it onboard and we asked, only to realise we could only get help on THEIR schedule, not ours.

  • So here we sit, bitter? Yes probably.

  • Understanding that people have their own lives and can’t do something if they’re already busy? Absolutely!

  • Wondering why if someone really needs me I would always look to rearrange what I’m doing to help, but they can’t do that for me? Kind of…. and I’m not talking about rearranging plans so I can go for a coffee.

  • Most of the time these thoughts will only creep in from time to time, despite the unintentional sound of violins aggressively accenting this list as I write.

  • But some of the time like now, at the back end of an illness these thoughts will occupy my brain more and more.

  • I’m certain there’s lots of us out there in this position, and sadly that’s a comfort to me and gives me strength on days when I lose my shit.

  • But what is the reality of not having a village? Well for me and my partner it’s knowing we have no one to call when we hit rock bottom,

  • it’s never having time together alone outside of the house.

  • It’s arranging a date night in the house only for the kids to wake up or be ill.

  • It’s taking our frustrations out on each-other.

  • It’s not being able to step back and miss our kids.

  • It’s not being able to take a breath and gain perspective.

  • It’s using my partner’s holiday for a household chores that we can’t quite get round to.

  • But it’s also empowering, to feel proud of what you achieve alone.

  • It also means you have some pretty great kids that are unfazed watching you shit yourself with nerves at the dentist or that ask Alexa to play your favourite song and do a dance when you cry because you’ve just had enough.

  • And the reality for me is a work in progress to be kinder to myself, knowing that I’m doing the best I can just like everyone else.

  • It’s reminding myself that we’re not fully alone, that sometimes those schedules align and we have that break, appreciating that some people truly are alone in every sense of the word.

  • Knowing that everyone’s going through something, this is just my something.And then back to reality on ‘Day 11 after 10 alone with the kids’: Kris booked some holiday, I shower, I let the baby sleep in my arms longer, Kris takes Erin to softplay, I manage a couple of hours on my own because baby is feeling better.

  • I feel so much better I could cry through relief.

  • It’s a feeling I’m familiar with and very early on I knew I didn’t want my kids to feel this way, I don’t want them to have to get to this point.

  • So I started a list to remind me of each milestone and what that brings for every parent. A list I can revisit.

  • And I hope many years down the line when I’ve loved every inch of my kids and done the best that I can do, that one day I will be lucky enough to have grandkids, a good relationship with my children and that I can offer help without being asked, because I know how hard parenthood can be.

  • I know that sometimes even when you’re really desperate, asking for help seems impossible.

  • And just because I did it largely alone, it doesn’t mean my kids will have to. 

  • This is for my friends, few but fantastic, who I know often feel the same.

  • Always there to vent to, always there to offer support.

  • Even if we can’t help each-other out to the degree we would probably like to because we know we’ll make each others kids ill or we’re too far stretched ourselves, sometimes just hearing someone say “I’m right there with you” helps.

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9 Comments

  • Reply Layla June 11, 2019 at 8:39 am

    Wow I can relate to every word of this. I wish I could give you a hug and a break for a few hours because I’m in the same boat.

  • Reply Leanne June 11, 2019 at 10:08 am

    Omg! It is like your in my mind! Thanks for creating this. I thought this was just my life and not other people. Desperate for a village

  • Reply Charmaine June 11, 2019 at 11:10 am

    Thank you for this list, very relatable, so so hard! No words or wisdom just all the strength!

    • Reply Meg June 11, 2019 at 1:09 pm

      I hear you! I find that help is offered so readily but can be difficult to actually obtain because everyone is so busy, we are all caught up in our own lives (including me, I could be a better friend myself and I’m working on that). I do know in an absolute crisis, there are people who’ll be there but when I’m feeling burnt out, I have to soldier on. It’s difficult to stay patient when you feel like you have no time for yourself. ♡

  • Reply Rachel June 11, 2019 at 3:04 pm

    Or when you’re village is actually not well enough themselves to help support you, you have no one to turn to as you don’t want to burden already burdened people! I think the village is a great concept, I doubt very many people have it! For every second either myself or my partner doesn’t have the children (i.e. we are are at work) we are paying someone else to have them for us.

  • Reply GM June 11, 2019 at 7:10 pm

    Totally relatable and comforting to know others are in the same situation. Hopefully when we are older we can take comfort in the strength we have now!

  • Reply Jade June 11, 2019 at 7:14 pm

    Your words & experience are not on their own. From another with no village to call her own. Sending love & good vibes. X

  • Reply Tara June 12, 2019 at 10:56 am

    Thank you for this . Struggling so much without my village .. they are thousands of miles away. Whilst I sit at home with a sick baby on a rare day booked off work to look after myself … i am yet again pouring from an empty cup. But reassuring to know i am not alone. May I remember the mighty strength I possess when my children are older and don’t need me in the same way xxx

  • Reply Rose June 16, 2019 at 8:27 pm

    Wow. We have no village and i am incredibly sad about it. I have not met anyone else that is in a similar situation. I wish there was some way of meeting others in similar situations to feel a bit more ‘Normal’. My children are now 9 and 11 and I am utterly exhausted

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