Hello, Village.... Are You Out There?
"It takes a village to raise a child". That's all I ever heard growing up. To be honest, I don't even know where I first heard it, yet origin unbeknownst, we are all familiar with the commonly said phrase.
So on February 13, 2012 when I gave birth to my daughter, I waited with arms open for my village to arrive. I waited. And I waited. I opened the front door a few times to look out onto the street... maybe the number on my house wasn't obvious enough. I considered buying one of those waiving inflatable-armed tube men so the village could find me. Perhaps my cell phone was interfering with the "spidey sense" this village was supposed to have when one of their own had a child. Whatever the reason, no one came. I was a village of one... an idea I was not prepared for, and boy did I suffer for it.
Now that I'm pregnant with number two, it started me thinking about my village expectations once more.... what were my assumptions or views five years ago, and what are they now?
Let's Talk: Changing Our Village Expectations
Okay, so I'm a loser and did some research... I needed to know where this proverbial village came from and why I had never met anyone from it. According to some of the articles I looked into, the idea of an entire village raising a child comes from the African proverb, "Omwana takulila nju emoi", whose literal translation is "A child does not grow up only in a single home". A similar African phrase stated, 'Omwana taba womoi,' which translates to "A child belongs not to one parent or home". Got it. So in essence, the mother is not solely responsible for raising her child.
Back in the day, this would have made complete sense - women were home... as were their mothers and aunts and cousins and sisters and grandmothers. They were meant to raise children, sometimes even living within the same household as their extended family members. If mom couldn't be around, was sick or had committments, there were half a dozen other family or community members there to step up.
Unfortunately for us moms now, we are living in the year 2017; Our mothers, aunts, sisters, cousins, and other women we may have relied on are working. They have their own individual lives and committments that do not intertwine with the other women in their family. So for a modern mother in 2017, where do we turn for help and support if our village no longer exists?
I can say without 100% doubt that when Emily was born, I did not have the answer to this. My family members each had their own lives to live (rightfully so), and I did not have one friend my generation who had a child. There was no one to consistently rely on for support, advice or stupid anxieties. It was lonely without a village, and it was most certainly one of the several reasons I developed post partum depression.
Enter my discovery of Mom Friends. Mom Friends are what I like to refer to as "The New Age Village" - a present day adaptation of what we knew the village to once be. Mom Friends don't live with us, they don't raise our children or drive to doctor's appointments. They don't do the laundry or take our kids to school. They don't babysit or discipline.
What they DO do is save our sanity. They finish our sentences when we rant about the stupid things our husband did that day. They offer advice when our children have decided that listening is no longer an option. They bring wine and popcorn when our offspring have temporarily turned to demons, and share common poopy diaper war stories. They too pee every time they sneeze, have breasts that now sit 6 inches lower than "before", and have only one shaved leg at any given time because inevitably there was some sort of "emergency" while they were attempting to shower. They laugh with you at scenarios only a fellow mom-warrior could possibly grasp, and sit with you quietly when life is just too much. Mom Friends are not the women who raised their children 15 years ago (however insightful and astute their advice may be). No, Mom Friends are the ones battling with you in the now... the ones who just wiped vomit off themselves before picking up the phone to see how you're managing that day. The ones who also haven't slept for the past week and can appreciate the value of having a really good Peppa Pig episode on hand. They are in the trenches with you, fighting along side of you, and helping you see the humour of it all.
In the aftermath of Mother's Day, I realized that we spent a lot of time appreciating the work that our own mothers did raising us, and if we were lucky, basking in some of the recognition we received from our children and husbands. But I think what most of us have failed to do (myself included) was to thank our Mom Friends for the cherished and invaluable guidance, support and friendships that are selflessly offered daily; That quick glace back and forth to one another which captures a full conversation in the span of 5 seconds. The "my kid also needs an exorcism" comment that makes you feel less like a terrible mother. The ability to simply state "FUUUUUUUUUUUUCK" at any given moment without a required explanation.... this is our life line.
So to my OWN Mom Friends - I love and appreciate you more than you know. I am often too busy bowing down to the needs of my own self-proclaimed God-like child to acknowledge my gratitude as often as I should, but know that my gratitude is, in fact, there. And to other women who act as the New Age Village... the Mom Friends of the world... never underestimate the impact you have on your fellow mothers. You are the community that may be making the difference between a mother getting up each day and facing the world, or one that decides that they simply cannot do it any more. You might be the light in a very dark day. Cheers to you, and THANK YOU for all you do.
The village may have changed, but a village it still is. And a powerful one at that.
Until the next time...