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Where Is My Village? – Why Modern Day Parenting Sucks
A Bad Mother
We love to listen to music in our house, from classical to metal; Country in Reggae; and everything in between. A good jam can lighten the mood, fill the void and be a good excuse to do some cardio. So when I first heard “The Boss” by James Brown driving to work; I couldn’t wait to play it loud in my living room, tearing up with my kids. However, I’m learning that kids have a way of crushing your good intentions. They really know how to destroy your dreams. When you try something fun, you think they’ll like it, they won’t. OR what they take away from the activity is not what you planned…
That’s how I played the song; be-bopping and good times were had by all. I sang my favorite line: “Look at me! You know what you see? You see a bad Mother! A bad mother.” Withdrawn or not? Until my almost three year old starts babbling about ‘Bad Mothers’ – How they live in the woods, say ‘Scream’ and are generally very scary creatures. Blow up! With me already somewhat insecure and overly concerned about what people think of my parenting.
So I (seriously) pranked everyone. I told them about “The Boss” and that if they hear my kid talking about a bad mom, she’s not really talking about yours. Hee-hee! Cute! My lack of foresight aside; the situation is a bit poetic. Why do I feel like I’m not good enough? -Although when I think about it, I’m having a great time! My children are smart, healthy and happy. We have a happy, normal family. So why the guilty conscience? Why do I feel like I’m being watched?
It has been a process of getting rid of uncertainties. I’m learning to recognize and let go of thoughts of impending failure, the self-criticism born of comparing myself to other moms. My children are happy even if we don’t do a crafty project every day. I am a good parent as the 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 put our best face forward, that’s mostly all we see from other moms and dads. That’s why I’m comparing myself to people who don’t exist! – They are mine IDEAS of what a ‘perfect parent’ would be. While I feel insecure for these reasons, I am also alone with my children most of their lives. Perhaps, if I had more friends and family around in my everyday life, I would have more real examples and experience on which to base my parenting. – Not to mention vacations for ME and not just my children.
It takes a village
I know I’m not the only new parent who feels this way; I have a bias for one of the reasons why: Parenting is much harder 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 widely believed to have originated in Africa; others believe it has roots in Native American culture. Either way, this well-known proverb comes from a time and place where people lived communally. It was a world where one’s neighbors were also close friends and family; where everyone played, worked, grieved and celebrated together – always together. Today our society is divided. Most families are islands, as we generally have an all-for-ourselves mentality. I feel like the community is missing a lot and it makes us sadder and sadder.
I long for the old days when families lived and worked together. As a bona fide child of the 80s, I also long for a not-so-distant past: when neighbors and friends gathered for barbeques and card games. – Before the internet, TV and smart phones ruined everything. Please understand that I’m not anti-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 extremely helpful. However, it’s no secret that while the possession of these tools has closed 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 babysitters. It used to be “Let’s play with auntie so mommy does the dishes.” Now it’s “you want to watch another movie? OK, I guess so…”
It’s tiring to actually go see people. I have to plan. Dress up the kids in cute clothes, bring extras, bathe them and load them up. When we get to other people’s houses, I spend most of the visit chasing and scolding the children. There is very little sitting down or uninterrupted conversation (The much-needed adult type). There is chaos. We return home groggy and exhausted. I temporarily hold off on leaving my house until they are in high school. Having a healthy social life is very difficult with many young children… and I am lucky to have more help than most.
All the help I can get.
I am one of the lucky ones: I have a wonderful husband. I know many people don’t have that life preserver as they tread the unexpectedly difficult waters of parenthood. (To you single parents: I tip my hat.) We are extremely grateful for my in-laws who live far away from us. They are always there and eager to help. I am also grateful for my mother: She lives a few cities away, but she will always come to my aid: if I have to work or I’m just having 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. Days I just don’t want – Mom – for some time. I whisper: “What was I thinking I have no patience for this, I didn’t know anything about children, then I had two of them very close, I’m sorry for that…” I lost my temper. I screamed. I took her by the arm in the lounge chair. I groaned.
That’s why I apologize. I keep asking these beautiful little monsters to forgive mommy. She is doing her best. She is nothing like the mother she imagined herself to be when she was ignorant. She is asking, “Where is my village?”
Understanding the war is real
I saw a funny one that said something like: I was the perfect parent before I had kids. I couldn’t have said it better myself. I know the people who judge me the hardest are the ones who don’t have small life sentences. I know this because I was one of those people. “When I have kids, they’ll never misbehave because I’ll be tough and steady. That’s all right?” I thought: “People far more ignorant than me have babies every day – we got this!” I didn’t know about the lack of sleep, it was draining the last drop of patience. I have not planned for small training and public disobedience. (I also wasn’t planning on getting a chronic debilitating illness, but that’s a story for another article)
Early in my pregnancy with baby number two, I knew a woman who also had two daughters about 15 months apart. When I told her I was pregnant again, she had a very concerned look on her face. She told me she was shocked. Being so frustrated, she yelled at her children. “Oh my!” I thought, “I will never yell at my babies!” Ha. Ha-ha. eat
Another close friend had a minor breakdown one night: She left her house, not saying anything to her children or husband, got in her car and drove away. She checked into a hotel room and thus passed away for a minute. It was a difficult time that she went through, with bright colors… 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 inadequacy. We don’t want people to know that we are in over our heads some days. We absolutely cannot admit for a second that we are not super-moms 24/7. We get angry: We get sad. Many of us are on anti-depressant/anxiety medication.
I want to do something about it: I’m making a personal goal to invite a friend over to my house once a week. I used to complain that people never come to see me, until I realized that maybe it’s because I don’t actively invite them. I’m making it a priority to go see a family member as often as possible (as exhausting as it is). I will start promoting group activities focused on the realization of awesome projects:
Window washing parties
Wood splitting and collecting extravaganzas
Shenanigans Yard work
Bring wine and chocolate. Bring beer and bratwurst; regardless of the occasion and the company. Next week, go to someone else’s house and help them with whatever project is weighing them down. Just do it together. Not only does “many hands make light work,” but joining 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 networks. It makes us feel like we’re connecting – but we’re not. I will make phone calls and send cards. That’s the task I’ve set myself this summer: To encourage each other to get out of our homes and do things together. Let’s build a village.
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