I think we can all agree that 2020 has been a lonely year for mothers. Most of us have taken on the responsibility of staying at home with the kids during quarantine, whether we previously did so or not. The time we would have normally spent at the pool during the summer with friends or at the park on a playdate or any other regular social gathering was upended as we were forced to max out our creativity to find activities for the kids.
Not only did we lose months of fun with friends, but normal chores and tasks became increasingly difficult with children. One kid only doctor appointments and grocery stores’ limited capacity stretched our family’s ability to get simple tasks done by one parent, and where I would have normally swapped babysitting with friends, I found myself only able to ask for help with childcare in extreme circumstances.
These instances have caused me to feel increasingly alone and swamped with responsibility over the past months; I’d guess there are many others feeling the same way.
I take pride in being able to care for my family and stay in a reasonably contented state of mind. There are the baby blues that have come and (thankfully) gone, and periods of crazy toddlers and potty training months that never end. Having support from family and friends is huge in keeping my mental health balanced because caring for children is more than a full-time job; it’s a 24/7, never ending, completely and utterly essential work that someone has to do. I don’t use the popular term “village” to describe the people in my life who help me and my husband with raising our kids, but many people do. Families enduring divorce, death or deployment especially realize that they need a village to come alongside and support them, but those living in basic life situations do as well. We can all see this and agree, and when our village shows up for us in the middle-of-the-night emergencies, we are especially grateful for the cultivation of those relationships.
I realize that now is a tricky time to be village friends with one another, but it seems to be becoming increasingly tempting for us to stop cultivating these valuable relationships. There are calls from authors and influencers for women to stop giving of themselves and to learn to say “no” more often. Mothers are reminded to empower themselves and keep their own cups filled, instead of emptying them for others. Pulling back from activities and busyness, and finding time for self-care and family-only activities is highly encouraged in my daily media consumption.
I understand the lesson that is being passed along; it does seem reasonable that if a mom would stop caring about everyone outside of her immediate sphere, she might be able to cope with home life a little easier. But I don’t think it is true. Moms need a village and, as is the case in all aspects of life, there is some give and take that has to be present to build that kind of community. Sometimes we will give to others selflessly, but we are definitely more willing to do so if we know we can count on the other person reciprocating in the future. It is just basic math. Hopefully our communities don’t keep strict counts and are able to love each other graciously, but it is common sense that we need to be supporting each other if we want to be supported.
So, if you want a village…be part of a village.
Invest in the needs of others and you will reap the reward of joy that comes from helping others and benefit from having friends who are willing to bring you a meal, watch a kid while you take the other one for stitches, or lend you their last diaper when you forgot to restock the diaper bag. If we have learned anything from 2020, it could be that we aren’t better/happier/fulfilled when we say “no,” because we haven’t been allowed to say “yes” to anything in months! So, however you can, say “yes” to being involved in your village. Be interested in more than your own address, help other moms or dads even when it makes your life a bit more difficult, and don’t be so protective of your own time that you lose the gift of support.