Monday, 22 March 2010

The Village People

There's an old African proverb that says 'it takes a village to raise a child'. Hillary Clinton might on occasion get the credit for it, but it's older than that bird.

I've been thinking hard about this saying. But in a general sense - not just for myself, but in this day and age where it's more like com-mutiny than community. I'm not feeling particularly morose, I just wondered, what DOES ONE do when you have no one?

What happens if you don't have actually have a 'village' to help you raise your child?

Or, what if your village doesn't want to help you raise your child? What if your village is too busy with their own life to help? What if helping you raise your children is just not your village people's thing?

Then what?

I remember in the early days, after the birth of the Doctor, the nurses, midwives, Early Childhood nurses all implored how important it is to let people help. But what happens when no one offers to help? Or there's no one to ask/beg for help?

We struggled in the early days, particularly after the birth of the Doctor. I had mastitis just 10 days after giving birth. I wasn't sleeping well. It was a steep learning curve. Whenever I'd hear a peep from my wee babe I would scuttle over. I was a wreck. Couple that with not feeling confident (I remember my first thoughts when carrying the Doctor through the front door for the first time were 'Oh my goodness, we are responsible for this wee darling baby's survival'.)

I didn't have a Mother's Group because I dropped out after just a couple of weeks. Attending was angsty and tedious (not to say I felt confident by myself, but it was all about competing, who knew the most, and the fact that I never really clicked with anyone. I just dreaded it).

To be completely honest, I didn't want to leave the Doctor when I first had him. I hated leaving him. I wanted to be with him. But if I had a village to help me raise my children - then life would have been a whole lot peachier. But I didn't even know my neighbours. And society has evolved in that way so I can pass through weeks, months, years without even saying as much as 'hello' to them.

I often think about my friends who are single parents. I wonder how do they cope when they are exhausted. When they are so fatigued they're snappy and can't swap with someone for a quick cat nap? Parenting is a big enough gig that is sometimes difficult even for two people, let alone winging it solo. This weekend has certainly confirmed that for me. I'm still bone achingly tired and so darn cross. I can't shake it.

So tell me - how do you gather 'round ye olde village people when you need to raise some helpers?


Cat said...

Oh, I wish I knew this too. I have a great Mama who is helpful in the extreme but suffers with her own health issues so I can't always be asking her. I have a partner who works long hours and travels often too so am on my own a lot in the world of Mama-hood. I somehow take solace in the blog-world but would dearly love to find a real-life village to be part of.

Ellieboo said...

It is a tough one - I am trying to raise a child with no partner and no family - I have never done anything more difficult in my life. My poor sweet Boo gets the raw end of my temper more than I would like because there is noone to pass the baton to.

That said I have had the fortune of being in the best mothers group ever - it is so crappy that yours didnt work out - because some of them do and when they do, its fantastic. I have made some lifelong friends. And my guardian angel is a gorgeous girl who was Boo's daycare teacher from age 1 to 2 - basically the pair fell in love with each other. As luck would have it this person lives close to me and even though she no longer professionally cares for the Boo - she has basically become part of my Australian family - part little sister to me, part aunty to Ellie - I dont think I would have survived without these people in my life.

Sorry didnt mean to be so long winded - I hope you find your village - you can always pop over to Summer Hill :)

Mama Mogantosh said...

I'm so sorry you're having a tough week (month, actually.) All my electronic hugs are winging to you. When we first moved to the coast, I went to the community nurse and asked if there were any mothers groups.'Could you hook a lonely mama up with some friends , I basically asked. She did- and even though that mothers group fizzled out it started me off knowing some faces in the park.

Can you talk to the community health nurse about local playgroups? Sometimes just need normal, friendly face = one restorative coffee a week.

(Failing all this, my mum is nearby and you should go and get a hug from her in the San Hospital coffee shop on Fridays. You can tell her I sent you.)


Leonie said...

I think you have been doing it one of the modern ways: airing your issues here and gathering support from your peeps. In real life it's harder, but as the others have mentioned a Playgroup might help so that you have some local contacts.

Katy said...

I left my mother's group for the same reason and don't have a major amount of support from people around us - we have found if we get the madam looked after we end up with way to much negative energy thrown our way. Chloe is a little too ' free spirit' for our families to handle. Even though I do loose the plot way more than I would like to admit I found a few things have helped. Blogging - I have met so many parents in the same situation & that also have kids with questionable sleep abilities, and I just try (yes try) to just accept that it is just the three of us and go with the flow.

Katy said...

I left my mother's group for the same reason and don't have a major amount of support from people around us - we have found if we get the madam looked after we end up with way to much negative energy thrown our way. Chloe is a little too ' free spirit' for our families to handle. Even though I do loose the plot way more than I would like to admit I found a few things have helped. Blogging - I have met so many parents in the same situation & that also have kids with questionable sleep abilities, and I just try (yes try) to just accept that it is just the three of us and go with the flow.

Rainbow JenJen said...

Oh I had thesame deal with my mum's group, so competitive it was ugly, and they were all older then me and I really was out of place so left. I joined a playgroup early on, and also went to story time at the library, and I've gained some really solid friends through these ;)
My husband works nightshift, so I'm often flying solo at the most hidious moments of bubs days, just starting to find some things now, at 21mths, that help me get time out.....we have a bubble machine, I put this on, with some kiddy dance music and put afternoon tea out on his table, then I lay on the couch and nap as he dances around the loungeroom!

Cath @ chunkychooky said...

We talk about this all the time. While friends of ours have had their second child and are hassleing us to do so ( like they have a say in the decision??) and I keep saying to them but you have two sets of parents living in the same town plus brothers and sisters with their own kids who are always taking yours for a couple of hours they get loads of help. We don't have that. If we need someone to take Busy it always feels like we are imposing... its so hard. Our lives are constant juggleing, if someone gets sick it throws the whole plan out and becomes very is so hard without the village.... x

Georgie Love said...

Yeah well Adam and I haven't been out together in an evening for the 17 months Rubes has been on this planet. We have no close family, all our friends live 60kms away, my mothers group was shitty too (but I made one good friend who I still see every week, which is awesome), but it is hard. Friends who just drop their kid/s off at the grandparents while they do whatever little chores, I am ENVIOUS of. Don't have that, Rubes has to come or one parent has to stay home. I would love a village, but it's not possible in these modern days.
So I have no advice, nothing in the slightest except to offer a virtual hug, some sympathy and a shrug. I wish I knew.

But next week will be better, right? That's what I tell myself.

jo price said...

...this is just another phase. Don't let it get ontop of you. We are a family of 4 without any support from family and friends all live at least an hour away. Asking for help is hard. Who to ask?
When things go off course here - I enlist the help of a mums helper cleaner. I found a number in the Melbourne Child Magazine and have used them a few times when I am desperate. Make things as easy as possible for yourself, serve the kids lots of bolognase, scrambled eggs etc for dinner and eat off paper plates for a few nights (I know I know not PC) and get outdoors as much as possible.
Like you Mums group was a bit too weird (heelllo nametags? WTH?) We dont know many people around here so we keep to our regular routine and a few times a week have coffee and milkshakes at our local and the kids see the same faces while we are out and about, creating our own sense of community. And yes - some days are very long and very boring. Hang in there x

veri maz said...

i'm already wondering how i'm going to manage. I'm 22wks pregnant and we're about to move out to the 'burbs.
Although my bro and wife are nearby with their 2yr they're not around during the day.
And to compound this i don't have my drivers licence, not an issue when inner city but it is niggling on me now...

sophie said...

I learnt the hard way, I refused all help from my husbands family when my second was born (Siena was my first but I was a single mum at home so different situation) I just wanted to do it myself but I burnt out and became depressed. With Eva I let everyone in, my husbands family are very hands on, very involved and I welcomed it. My sister and brother too are so helpful with new babies, cooking and helping with other kids. My neighbours are friendly but keep to themselves, I think that is a bit of the Aussie way, we don't like to be nosey or pushy. I am sorry that you don't have support, it's so important. I met some great mums when Lucia started Kindergarten and I feel like I can lean on them when I need to. I wish I could produce a solution Lexi I really do.

Toni Brockliss said...

Oh I wish I knew the posse I could call on when things hit the wall.
Our parents are so laid back they are almost dead, so help and everything with it, never happened.
I actually used to think What To Expect When You Are Expecting was a comedy, especially when I used to read the line "accept all offers of food"...I am still waiting for meals on wheels.
Ben and I went on our first date in over 4 years just a few weeks ago. It was so weird and we could hold hands without two oompa loompas getting in the way.
I have wished on many occasions for a tv Mrs C from Happy Days or Carol Brady. I would even settle for Fran Fine, but I soldier on and underneath it all I think two things - Ben and I should be bloody proud of ourselves for doing it alone and two - when Elton and Audrey have children I am going to be there because I know what it's like to be alone and wishing for a shoulder.
Love you PMM. You are amazing lady.

BOB & MABEL said...

Although it is a difficult situation it is nice to know that you are the only one. My parents and in-laws are 8hrs away, my sister lives nearby but has her own young children and works. We just slog away at it and virtually never go out just the two of us. I must say though, it is wearing thin. I find it hard hearing friends talk about their children being looked after regularly by the Grandies so they can go out on dates or away for the weekned or just to do the shopping!

Shine Little Light* said...

My husband and I choose to live in a share house when we got married. It's been that way for three years and we love it. We dont have kids yet but we are both keen to raise our kids in this kind of environment. We live in the middle of Sydney but we know almost half of our neighbours, and we are hardly ever lonely. We make time to spend alone together, but because we work such different hours it would be awful if there was no one else around the house.
It's not for everyone, but we have a very strong sense of community, even in the big bad city.
Good work getting that mum's number. It's never too late to make more friends. *s*

AMIT said...

Wow the village people looks really cool.Thanks for sharing this lovely post here.

home based data entry

Monique said...

I have been the cranky pants mummy today. I have little patience, am exhausted from the little battles and am just plain tired. You know the tired. Behind your eyes that just doesn't go away no matter how much coffee you drink?

My parents are an hour away and inlaws 3. An hour is no use for the little chores. I too am envious of the easy minding to get things done. I moved up to theblue mountains almost 10 years ago and was lonely till I had my kids 5 years back. People are busy with their people and don't think to include new folk into their circle. My guess is that everybody is thinking that everyone is already busy when the truth is we are all sitting at home on
by ourselves.

I too collect numbers and extend invites to new mums because I have been the new person in town and it's hard. Thanks for throwing this out there for people to think about.

katiecrackernuts said...

I am going to try and truncate a long story down to a synopsis, but stick with me.
Partner 47 this year. Me 36. Partner and I had an affair (oooh, yes, drama, drama - deal, it's been too long to get bent out of shape about it). Partner left husband. Estranged by family - her mum, dad, siblings. I, at 23, become instant parent to four children - yes, four, all eventually living with us (within about six months).
My parents were some distance away, but embraced their shame of me and battled on bringing these children and my partner into their fold. Good sticks, I call 'em. Even my grandmother embraced these new little and middling ones.
In short, there was angst to get through. Broken little people. Broken big people. Hatred and yukky stuff. But we muddled through. They're 23, 21, 19 and 16 now and though they say that time was painful, they wouldn't change it. They do feel an enormous resentment of family who didn't support us, and them. Enormous. I am gobsmacked by it sometimes because we've always remained neutral and discouraged the spreading of bad words and nasty rumours and encouraged looking at all arguments and hurts from everyone's side.
We have had moments - especially with a difficult teen - that we spoke longingly of "the village". I lived in Asia for a short stint and it really is a village. I envy extended families - of which I was once one and probably didn't appreciate it as much as I should have. I think my mother would say the same, that she didn't appreciate it as much. Big bloody Fat Greek Wedding families.
Anyhoot, that's all. Feel free to quiz me on any of the above. People love to ask questions ... like, how come you can say the words "I had an affair" and not die. Tiger Woods looks pretty alive to me.

katiecrackernuts said...

Oh and Ellieboo. So glad you commented. I think you're a marvel. I really do.

Cindy said...

I tell you if a group of party dressed men came in with beautifully choreographed dance moves I would leave them with my children too! Glow sticks ahoy.
Seriously though, both are only children and parents are far away and we move alot, it does make it hard, but there is each other at least and that is our comfort. We try to have 'dates' at home as going out isn't an option. Me leaving POppy's sight for 5 minutes isn't an option, I bet though the Village People may be the answer`