Recently an article popped up on my Facebook page that tugged at my heart strings. It was titled, “In the Absence of the Village” and the author wrote about going through motherhood without her family around. For those of us that witness this kind of lifestyle, we get it, and it’s nice to know we aren’t alone. Because often it feels like we’re failing miserable at life. I’ve taken most of the points from her article and reflected on them from my perspective as a mother away from my “village”.
I kept seeing our children develop so differently than my sisters’ kids. I felt I was lacking enormously, because my kids are slow to crawl and walk, their speech was lacking early on, and ultimately they seemed less mature.
It didn’t take me long to realize our children weren’t getting that constant interaction with grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, great grandparents, and all the other extended family (We’re from a small town, you usually see someone when you go to fuel up your car). My husband and I both grew up with loads of family around us.
Trying to pick up the slack from not having that community, we knew so well, around us everyday made me feel hopeless for a short while. I wondered if our children would be lacking most of their lives. Luckily, that feeling didn’t last long (though it creeps in and out occasionally). I could eventually notice the areas my children were successful in such as fine motor, problem solving, and confidence among people outside our home.
I learned a quick lesson… well two. First, I refreshingly realized my husband and I deserve more credit than we were giving ourselves. It was not necessary to try and be the entire community for our children. The second lesson, comparing children is like comparing apples and oranges. Babies, toddlers, and children cannot learn everything at once. If we chose to teach them to be social first, then of course they would be lacking in another area. We needed to cut our kiddos a break and give a little more grace to ourselves as parents.
This one still hits too close to home. We’ve been in Tulsa, OK for over six years and have met many wonderful people, couples, and families. Though we still struggle to feel like we understand what’s expected of us as parents in the kids’ school, as members of the church, as a family living in the city, and so on. The list really does go on and on. Our hometown security blanket is gone.
How silly though, when we tell our children to be themselves and not to worry about others’ thoughts as long as you are doing the right thing. That need of being accepted into the “tribe” is real though. I can be an outcast in some areas, but I definitely don’t want to be an outcast in all areas. I don’t want to be shunned from the group entirely.
Before we had kids we had loads of time to meet people and find the perfect friends (It’s like couples dating, really). We just had a hard time finding the right friends. You don’t always hit a homerun on the first pitch. From our days before children, we’ve really only kept in contact with one couple.
After babies arrive your time outside of your home begins to seep away. Sometimes your nights out of the house need to be just a regular old date night for the parents. After you have three kids (and some of your “friends” only have one, maybe two) the invitations to gatherings become less and less. Perhaps they feel we’re too busy, or perhaps we have Tasmanian Devils for children, either way… it just fades away too.
Thankfully, our kids attending school has brought more friendships to our lives, but now it’s no longer “couples dating”. You’re dating the whole family. Do the kids get along? Do we have similar interests to keep conversations going? Are we too uptight? Are they too invasive? It’s a process! A process that becomes more like work because our energy level just isn’t there. Probably, those other families think we’re boring, or seem a little worn out. We’re probably not at our best selves.
You know what? I think I’ll leave this one to your imagination. Let’s just say… “Guilty as charged!”
I’ll work on it.
Even though our neighborhood is really great, I can’t let my children play in the backyard alone. I’ve done it before, because I was a little naive. The trouble is, we don’t know all our neighbors. If any of you know where I live, you may think I’m being silly. I assure you, I felt the same way when my husband said I shouldn’t let them play without me sitting outside (I thought I’d be fine sitting inside by the window where I could see them).
I’ll tell you a scary story though. One day I walked out my front door to take the trash out to the bin. The kids were sleeping, though we had intended to be outside this day but some whining and crying made me think otherwise, so we napped. While I was outside I noticed a helicopter circling my house constantly. Looking closer I realized it was a police helicopter. I darted inside, locked the doors, and decided to peak out my back window.
I never expected to see what I saw. Only a few yards away, just on the opposite side of our chain linked fence was a woman hauling around a shotgun yelling at the cops. My heart sank into my stomach as I thought “what if”. What if we had been outside. What if I had decided to watch them from inside and not noticed in time. How could I have gathered them all to safety? I can’t thank our Heavenly Father enough!
Every single day, I question myself. Though, I think it’s slightly natural, but it can get bad. There’s no joke in the phrase, “comparison is the thief of joy.” but sometimes other families make you wonder if you really have this or that figured out. Can we do better? I’d hate to think I’m not doing enough. Hopefully my children know how much they mean to me.
Like I wrote above… with everything you decide to focus on, there’s a different area of your life that sits and waits. I could give you loads of examples, but this one is profound enough to get the point across: We focused on our kids sleeping through the night real young. They learned fast and slept soundly, but one thing we didn’t expect and really wrestled with as parents was our babies wouldn’t fall asleep in our arms. They weren’t too keen on cuddling at four or five months old. We realized that lesson in church and while on airplanes.
You just can’t have it all! Therefore, you can’t be right all the time. So it’s best to realize if you’re trying at all, you’re doing enough.
Amen to this! We struggled a bunch and occassionally we still do. Thankfully we have also learned to cope a little better, but my husband can tell you the horrific scenes he saw when I was pregnant, finishing college, and trying to secure a babysitter. It got worse after I graduated, because working meant even more hardships.
I just wanted someone to lean on.
Even now, I usually bring my kids to my doctors’ appointments. Scheduling time to see the dentist is a circus. It’s hard not to think how life would be easier if you just had that little bit of support. “Hey mom can you watch the kids so I can go to the doctors?” You know she would. And if my mom couldn’t, I had at least five other people to ask.
This is probably the main reason I started this blog. Once I realized what I was capable of and regained that power, my life changed drastically and it has stuck! I’m very confident in this area for sure, but it was hard to get here. It was something I did with just me and God. And now, when I start to feel that pressure I now have some tools in my tool belt that allows me to take a step back, inhale a deep breath, and then step back in calmly and with a clear head. I’ve learned to give myself grace.
Ooooohhh…. this is embarrassing to admit. Again, ask my husband how often I went to target and picked up some unnecessary item. To break the habit of purchasing items, I’d walk around and put things in my cart then train myself to put it back on the shelf. Now I browse for fun without any intentions of buying, but again, it’s filling a void.
Some days just feel empty, or lonely. I have to text little inside jokes with my sisters because I won’t see them later that day. Joke’s aren’t as funny through technology. It takes to long to type it as opposed to saying it. Then an hour later they laugh. Their lives are busy too, and sadly we’re just not all on the same schedule.
It’s sort of like with the inside jokes. Something funny comes to mind, and I have no one to tell it to because no one knows the back story and telling the back story isn’t really that impressive. I find myself saying things only to stop myslef with, “nevermind, it’s really not funny anyway” or “shoot, I forgot what I wanted to say, oh well.”
My husband has been very burdened by my need for community. I try to talk with him like I would a sister, or a friend, or even a coworker. He’s already “talked out” from work so interacting with me isn’t ideal right when he gets home, so you know he doesn’t want to hear me “girl talk”.
There’s other things too, because relying too heavily on one person will make you feel let down if they can’t perform every duty you ask of them. We ask each other to wear all these hats. If he’s tired or I’m worn down we can’t be expected to be relied upon for the little things. And we all need the little things too.
I’m afraid this happens with or without a village. Anyone offering advice in the beginning made me feel like they thought I couldn’t manage without them. That’s just our insecurities talking that literally push away anyone wanting to be apart of your village. Help yourself by listening with an open heart.