November is often a month set aside for thankfulness, and a tweet I recently saw reminded me of this in a great way. The post simply joked, “I keep hearing it takes a village to raise a child. Do they just show up or is there a number to call?” While I did chuckle to myself, I couldn’t help but reflect on my village, and how they have been both a knock on the door and a phone call away.
For my family, our key villagers have been grandparents.
Just a few weeks ago, our household had a huge milestone. Our son began childcare less than a month shy of his second birthday. I know different scenarios work best for different families, but for us, our desire was to avoid an actual daycare center for the first year of his life. Both my husband and I work full-time though, so that aspiration was wishful thinking. This is where the story gets good. My mom, who was over the moon about the birth of her newest grandchild and in complete agreement with us about child care, literally packed up her belongings and moved to Chattanooga from Arkansas so that she could take care of my son while we were working. Together she and my dear mother-in love teamed up and gave us full-time childcare for not just one, but almost two whole years. Talk about a blessing!
On top of nurturing and loving on our sweet boy, my mother-in-love, who is a retired kindergarten teacher, worked with my mom so they could incorporate education and learning into his care as well. They have been so vital in him already knowing his numbers, colors, animals, letters and much more. This too has been such a blessing as I know his physical, educational, and emotional needs were all being met by those who love him as much as his dad and I do. As often as we verbally thank them, there really are no words to express just how grateful we are for their help and the foundation they have assisted us in giving our son.
Now, having explained this, please don’t get me wrong; I know this is not everyone’s story, but I can guarantee you that we all do have a village. We just have to be open to see. For some, like me, that village may include family. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, or even older siblings may step in to assist when needed. One of my best friend’s sister picks up her son from school daily since her work hours end after school lets out. Gestures like this, build a sense of family, support, and peace of mind for the parents.
For others moms, friends may be who comprise your village.
Good girlfriends are one of the most special gifts ever, especially when you get to do life together. Oftentimes, friends experience the highs and lows of each other’s lives, so while your friends may know that motherhood has been one of the greatest things to happen to you, they also know it’s been one of the hardest. Maybe you’ve had a friend to offer up a night of babysitting for you so that you and your husband can have a much needed date night. Or maybe another friend noticed a struggle you were silently dealing with and made a surprise visit to your house with coffee so that you could take a moment to relax and just be. These simple, yet huge acts could mean so much and may not have been possible without your village.
Then there’s church, Mom’s Day Out programs, and even those in your play dates that can be deemed your village, too. These organizations, or facets of them, give moms the opportunity to sneak a few moments in for themselves, unwind, and not have to think about a never-ending to-do list. Many churches have childcare nowadays, so mamas have a designated place for their children to go while they get that spiritual charge they may so desperately desire. Mom’s Day Out programs ensure your children are in a safe and fun environment while you get other things like chores, work, or even some self-care done. Then some play date group members could even be your villagers as they simply give you a chance to open up and share the motherhood challenges you may be dealing with at the time.
Even mom groups — like Chattanooga Moms — on social sites can be considered a part of your village. The moment I found out I was pregnant with my son I joined my due date group on Facebook and it was beyond helpful. As a fist time mom at that time, I had so many questions. Knowing that we were all experiencing those physical, emotional, and mental changes together gave me so much support and helped to make the journey even more exciting. Now we all have children that are the same age and the village is even stronger, though we are only connected virtually. Remember, your village is what you make it.
Maybe you’ve racked your brain and still don’t see where you have a support system of family, friends, or others who make up your village. If that’s the case, I challenge you to join a village for someone else. See a frazzled mom in the grocery store with a screaming baby? We’ve all been there and know that dirty looks from other shoppers only make the experience worse. Possibly go up to that mama and tell her she’s doing a wonderful job. Have a friend who mentioned to you she wishes there were more hours in the day to get stuff done at her house? Maybe knock on her door one evening with a meal cooked for her family so that she has one less thing to do. Know of a new mom in your church who just had a baby? We remember how taxing those first few months can be. Perhaps you could offer to come over and simply rock the baby for her while she takes a shower and naps.
Be the village you wish someone else was for you.
Since the beginning of time, mommin’ has never been easy, but the challenges of doing so today have hit an all-time high. Many mamas must work full-time to meet the demands of the increasing cost of living, extra-curricular activities for our kids consume our lives, the homework load is increasing to prepare even our youngest of children for the future, some moms are also in school so they have homework to do themselves, and then there are those rock star mamas who are having to do all of this solo. It can be so difficult for you to keep it all together, but that’s the thing: You don’t have to do it alone. That’s where your village comes in.