It Takes A Village To Raise A Child: Build Yours
When you find yourself fighting back tears because your pilates teacher has had to unexpectedly close her studio like I did this week, you could be forgiven for feeling like perhaps the postpartum hormones are still running wild, writes new mom Sinead O'Moore.
“Just find another class...” my rational husband suggested, but this was absolutely not the response I was looking for (which he soon discovered).
Because you see, it wasn’t the class that was taken away from me, it was the selfish hour of guaranteed alone time where I indulged fully in ME. It was the evening class that had given me reassurance, confidence, strength and peace for three years and whose morning mum and baby classes had given me companionship, a routine, support and a workout since my baby was six weeks old.
And I suppose that’s the point. The class wasn’t a class. It was an essential part of what keeps me going, healthy, energised, sane and a happier more capable version of me.
And at a time in your life when all you do, day and night is give yourself entirely to caring for your new baby, you need things that prop you up, that are in place to take care of you while you take care of them.
And that’s your village.
"It takes a village to raise a child." Listen here as Sinead O’Moore joins the Nine Months On podcast to chat about what this means for new moms today.
Why does it take a village to raise a child?
There are few transformations in your life quite like becoming a parent. Especially true for mothers.
- Your body transforms!
- Your brain, your anxieties, confidence and identity
- Your sleep, your diet, your physical capabilities
- Your career, your lifestyle your friendships and connections
The way you lived your life changes immeasurably. Some things for the short term – others for the longer term. Some things for the better – some things less so. And for some these transformations are enjoyed and embraced. But for others, they might leave you feeling low, lost and forgotten about regardless of how much you adore your baby and being a mother, where you might ask yourself, ‘where have I gone?”
For some, they are living away from family and friends and even partners. And for others, they might be surrounded by all of the above and yet still feel isolated and alone.
But by building a village of support, of friendship, of cheerleaders, of wise elders and trusted carers, of anything and anyone who makes you feel strong, energised, loved, taken care of and capable, with a home and a partner who shares the responsibility, workload and love will ultimately make you happy.
And when you are happy – your baby is happy.
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How To Build Your Village
1. Your Tribe
Being at home nuzzling your newborn in those early weeks can be bliss. With no commitments or demands placed upon you, you have full permission to check out from normal service for 24/7 cuddles and your own recovery.
But a few months down the line what felt like precious moments can soon feel like endless isolating days. Having other moms who are experiencing the same emotions, milestones, sleep deprivation and anxieties you are is truly a marvellous thing.
Having a tribe is about being able to share how you feel, receive validation that you’re not going mad, laughing and being reminded of that fun, loving person you used to be, giving you an excuse to wear lipstick and a non-maternity bra or someone who will respond to your 3 a.m. tears with empathy and kindness.
It’s about celebrating the new (mothering) you while not forgetting about the old (pre-baby) you.
It’s about leaving the house with a team who know where the best baby changing facilities are, who don’t care if you are covered in several varieties of bodily fluid or who will never ever hold it against you for cancelling dinner plans.
Your tribe can be old friends, new friends, experienced wise guru friends or novice moms in training. They can be next door neighbours, global skype friends, baby class friends or even unknown digital community friends.
But here’s the thing. You need to make the first move.
- Say hi to other lonely moms
- Say yes to the suggestion of coffee after the baby class
- Join a group online where you can share and learn with other moms
- Be brave, be honest, be kind, be yourself (whoever that is right now) but don’t do this alone
2. Your Professionals
Take full advantage of any and all professional services that make your life, your responsibilities, your ambitions, wants and needs possible. And that includes childcare.
Since time began, villages have come together to share the workload, to exchange abilities and talents and to care for each other's children while parents go hunting and gathering. We are not designed to do it all alone. And we are definitely not meant to see it as a weakness if we reach out to others for help.
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So instead of feeling guilty about childcare, be reminded that it’s there to enable you to provide financial stability for your family, career satisfaction for you and a job for another member of your village. And instead of feeling less capable if you need a cleaner, see it as banking time that you can now spend making memories with your kids.
So if it means you can keep the show on the road with less stress and strain and more smiles on faces just do the online shop, set up the weekly clean, find a trusted childminder, order that Friday night takeaway, get down to the gym even if it is to sit in the sauna for 5 minutes, get your blow dry if you need an instant confidence boost but stop operating as though you live on a remote island of one.
You don’t. Your village has professionals – use them!
3. Your Clan
Nothing like a baby to bring the clan together. ‘Who does she look like?', ‘Who is he named after?’, ‘Who gets to hold baby next?’.
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Seeing the love you have in your heart, beaming all over the faces of your family as they too fall in love with your baby, is magic. After a decade or two of growing in independence away from your parents, you find yourself zooming back in time and desperately needing them all over again.
With 40% of working parents in Ireland now relying on grandparents for childcare support they are the backbone of the village economy!
Roles and identities and rulebooks are flung out the window. Grandparents can melt into this new phase with wild abandon while your carefree days seem to disappear. And now that you know how a parent loves their child, you begin to realise exactly how much your parents loved you, how hard it was for them to see you grow up and how happy it makes them to be such an important part of your world all over again.
Your village might be tiny or it might be a sprawling metropolis
It might have a few bumps in the road, see some stormy days and have its fair share of picket fences in need of a lick of paint or two. But at a time in your life where you need all the help you can get, look to your village for support, kindness, love and care.
It takes a village to raise a child.