Sometimes it takes a child to make a village.
I am not saying a village will sprout up around you when your baby comes.
I am speaking to how, in America, the isolation of mothers has become so normalized. How the standard two-parent family model is flawed. That as parents, we really do need a huge amount of support. I am speaking to what I see as a basic human need to grow from childhood into adulthood with people who have known and loved us our whole lives.
When I was twenty, I spent 3 months in Indonesia studying Balinese dance. I lived with a family in a little village. The mother, a few years younger than I am now, and her husband had two small children. Also living with them were her own Mom and Dad and Grandmother, and her younger sister. One little vignette that really stuck with me was a morning when the mother was getting her son ready to go to school. At a certain point it looked like she was getting frustrated. She walked away from her small son and her sister stepped in to take over the process. This of course, was through my foreign twenty-year-old eyes. Maybe something else was going on, I don’t really know. But I did walk away a strong sense that mothering can happen within the context of support.
I think the individualism of the broader American culture can be crushing for mothers. We are supposed to do it all and do it well and do it alone. Time rewrite the story on this one!
Ok, so here we are. How can it be different? How can we make different choices that bring us more support and connection?
Ask for help.
Maybe it sounds like this “Would you be able to take my older children once a week so that the baby and I can rest?”
When help is offered, accept it.
You may need to get specific:”Thank you so much for offering to help. What I am really needing is help with the dishes.” Or “That would be wonderful, would Wednesdays for the first month be good for you?” Don’t just let your helpers sit and hold the baby while you do the cooking and cleaning.
When things are feeling really hard, ask for help again!
“We are really struggling, can you (dear, close friend) ask around and get us another week of dinners delivered?”
Sometimes we need to ask for help from our health care providers or other professionals.
It can feel so hard to call your midwife and say, “Wow, this really doesn’t seem to be healing right, I am in so much pain. What can I do?” Or “I am not feeling like my normal self -I know I love my baby, but I can’t feel much right now.” These experiences can be so normal AND you really may need some extra help with your physical recovery or your emotional state. And there really are lots of accessible resources that can make a world of difference.
Be vulnerable. Accept help.
And then when you are back in the full swing of things, you’ll have so many opportunities to return the favors.
Giving and receiving over time becomes the slow work of making a village. We need to do this for ourselves and we need to do this for our children.
How does your own community show support for one another? Join me over on FB.