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Where Is My Village? – Why Modern Day Parenting Sucks
We love listening to music in our house, from classical to metal; Country to Reggae; and everything in between. A good jam can lift your mood, fill a void, and be a good excuse for cardio. So when I first heard James Brown’s “The Boss” driving to work; I couldn’t wait to play it LOUD in my living room, rambling with my kids. However, I’m learning that kids have a way of shredding your good intentions. They really know how to screw with your dreams. When you try something fun that you think they’ll like, they won’t. OR what they actually take away from the activity is not what you planned…
So I played the song; be-bopping and a good time was had by all. I sang along to my favorite line: “Look at me! You know what you see? You see a bad mother! a bad mother.” Groovy, isn’t it? Until my almost 3 year old started babbling about ‘Bad Mothers’ – How they live in the woods, say “Rich” and are generally very scary animals. Swell! With me, I’m already a bit insecure and overly concerned about what people think of my parenting.
So I was (seriously) joking around with everyone. I told them about “The Boss” and that if they hear my child talking about a bad mother, she’s not talking about yours truly. Hee-hee! Sweet! My lack of foresight aside; the situation is a bit poetic. Why do I feel like I’m not doing well enough? – Although when I think about it, I’m doing great! My children are smart, healthy and joyful. We have a happy, normal family. So why the remorse? Why do I feel like I’m under scrutiny?
It was a process of getting rid of insecurities. I’m learning to recognize and expose thoughts of inevitable failure, self-criticism created by comparing myself to other moms. My children are happy even if we don’t do a crafty project every day. I’m just as good a parent as one who has more time to garden and preserve food. I definitely can’t cook: but I can learn.
On social media we want to show off our best, that’s pretty much all we see from other moms and dads. That’s why I compare myself to people who don’t exist! – They are mine ideas about what the ‘perfect parent’ would be. Although these reasons make me feel insecure, I am alone with my children most of my life. Maybe if I had more friends and family in my everyday life, I would have more real examples and experience to base my parenting on. – Not to mention timeouts for me and not only my children.
It takes a village
I know I’m not the only new parent who feels this way; I have a hunch about one of the reasons why: Parenting is much more difficult than we expected, and we have lost our proverbial ‘Village’.
Everyone knows the saying: “It takes a village to raise a child”. The phrase is thought to have originated in Africa; others believe it has its roots in Native American culture. Either way, this well-known proverb comes from a time and place where people lived together. It was a world where neighbors were also close friends and family; where everyone played, worked, mourned and celebrated together – always together. Today our society is divided. Most families are islands, because we generally have an every-man-for-himself mentality. I feel that the community is sorely lacking and it makes us all the sadder.
I long for the long gone times when families lived and worked together. As a kid from the 80s, I honestly long for the not-so-distant past: when neighbors and friends gathered for barbecues and card games. – Before the internet, TV and smartphones ruined everything. Please understand that I’m not against technology: it’s a wonderful thing, especially as a new parent, to have all the answers at your fingertips. Support groups and forums can be very helpful. However, it’s no secret that while having these tools has reduced the great distances between us all, it can also drive a wedge between people in the same room.
We still need our aunts and uncles, cousins and grandparents. They have been replaced by digital nannies. It used to be “Come play with your aunt while mom does the dishes.” Now it’s “wanna watch another movie? OK, I guess…”
It’s tiring to go see people. I have to plan. Dress up the kids in cute clothes, bring accessories, bathe them and load them up. When we get to other people’s homes, I spend most of the visit chasing and scolding the kids. There is very little sitting or continuous talking (So needed adult kind). Chaos ensued. We come home grumpy and exhausted. I’m temporarily giving up on leaving home until they start high school. Having a healthy social life is very difficult with multiple young children… and I’m lucky enough to have more help than most.
All the help I can get.
I am one of the lucky ones: I have a great husband. I know many people don’t have that lifeline as they tread the unexpectedly difficult waters of parenthood. (To you single parents: I tip my hat.) We are extremely grateful to my in-laws who live right next door. They are always there and eager to help. I am also grateful to my mom: she lives a few towns away, but she will always come to my aid: whether I have to go to work or just have a bad day. These people, among others, make up my “tribe”.
Even though I know I have a lot of support, it’s still not enough. There are days when I want to pull my hair out. I just don’t want days -mom- for a while. I mutter: “What was I thinking I have no patience for this, I didn’t know anything about children then I had two too close to each other, I’m smoking this…” I lost my temper. I shouted. I led her by the hand to the time-out chair. I growled.
That’s why I apologize. Time and time again I ask these beautiful little monsters to forgive mommy. She does her best. She is nothing like the mother she imagined herself to be when she was ignorant. She asks, “Where is my village?!”
Realize that the struggle is real
I saw something funny like: I was a perfect parent, before I had kids. I couldn’t have said it better myself. I know that I am judged most harshly by people, those who do not have small life sentences. I know this because I used to be one of those people. “When I have kids, they’ll never misbehave because I’ll be firm and consistent. That’s all right?” I thought: “People far more ignorant than I, have children every day – we have this!” I didn’t know about the lack of sleep, the last drop of patience was exhausted. I didn’t plan on potty and public disobedience. (I also didn’t plan on developing a debilitating chronic illness, but that’s a story for another article)
At the beginning of my pregnancy with baby number two, I knew a woman who also had two girls 15 months apart. When I told her I was pregnant again, she had a very worried look on her face. She told me I was overwhelmed. Because she was so frustrated, she screamed at her children. “OH MY!” I thought, “I will NEVER scream at my babies!!” Huh. Ha-ha. Huh
Another close friend had a minor breakdown one night: she left her home, without saying anything to her children or husband, got into her car and drove away. She checked into the hotel room and thus for a moment checked out of life. It was a difficult time that she survived since then, great… But I ask: Where was her village?
I propose a Solution
I think as mothers we are afraid to ask for help because it is like admitting our inadequacy. We don’t want people to know that some days we are too high. We absolutely cannot admit for a second that we are not super-mom 24/7. We get angry: we become sad. Many of us take anti-depressants/anti-anxiety medications.
I want to do something about it: I am setting a personal goal to invite one friend to my home once a week. I used to complain that people never came to see me, until I realized that maybe it was because I wasn’t actively inviting them. My priority is to visit a family member as often as possible (even if it is exhausting). I’m going to start promoting group activities focused on doing scary projects:
Window washing parties
Chopping wood and piling extravagance
Yard Work Shenanigans
Bring wine and chocolate. Bring beer and bratwurst; whatever occasion and society require. Next week, go to someone else’s house and help them with whatever project is weighing them down. Just do it together. Not only do “many hands make light work,” but connecting with real people to achieve goals, no matter how big or small, is good for you, your family, and your community.
I will spend less time on social media. It makes us feel like we’re connecting – but we’re not. I phone and send cards. This is the task I set for myself this summer: to encourage each other to get out of our houses and do things together. Let’s make a village.
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