I grew up hearing the phrase “It takes a Village to raise a child”, and with social media today you see many posts with people thanking their “villages”. Any time their kids go through life struggles or reach major milestones they make social media posts thanking their village. When I read these post’s, I have this empty yearning feeling inside. I wish I knew what that felt like, to have the support of others during tough times, or be there when you accomplished something big. I have never understood this feeling because growing up I was always alone, even though I had 6 other siblings. For some reason, when I got married and had kids, I thought things would be different for my kids, and I would find this “village”.
When I married, I moved to the city my husband grew up in and found myself far from all my family and friends. I left my job, put my goal toward my college degree on hold and had my first child. I found myself trying to adjust to living in a new state and a new home, trying to make new friends, adjusting to being married and being a new mom; all at the same time. If anyone needed a support system this was definitely the time. I discovered with painful clarity that I had no “village”; or what a village symbolizes, a support system. My family lived 600 to 900 miles away, nowhere close enough to lend a hand when I needed help as a new mom.
My husband and I had discussions that I figure most married couple’s have; what traditions we wanted to keep from his family, what traditions from my family, and what new traditions we wanted to add to our family. We talked about how we wanted to raise our children; discussing discipline, fundamentals such as bedtimes and routines, and many other things new parents discuss. As a couple we agreed on some things, but also had differences that we had to have many discussions together in order to come to an agreement.
My in-laws and I did not see eye to eye on many things and it quickly became a battle ground. The decisions that my husband and I agreed on together; his family assumed were free to weigh in on, and up for debate. My husband’s family did not like us wanting to plan times to get together instead of always spur of the moment, criticized my belief in schedules and routines for our kids, or really just any boundary we felt was important. Instead of a support system to help with all the adjustments I was going through, I was being pressured to change what I thought was best for my family and criticized to fit in with what they wanted.
I grew up as a people pleaser and had a fear of rejection so I felt I always needed to prove myself to people. I tried for a long time to “compromise” in order to make things easier for my husband’s family to accept the differences now that he was married. The problem with “compromise” is that I was the only one making adjustments; therefore, I was only compromising what I felt was important. I would give in to something in order to make them happy; and the more I compromised and gave in to them the more they would try to take. And the worse I would feel. I was losing control of my own life, my identity, and my boundaries trying to appease my in-laws.
After having my second child I suffered from post-partum depression. I was already feeling squashed from the lack of support and the criticism of who I was, I began having severe anxiety. I was being judged and criticized so often and being told over and over again “what a big problem I was”, that I began having full blown panic attacks every time I knew I would see my in-laws. Which then led to having anxiety attacks every time I was around anybody. I did not have enough people in my life who spoke positivity to me or helped me feel as though I was doing a good job with all the new aspects of my life. This was causing severe anxiety and I was beginning to question everything I did, even questioning myself. At this point I knew I had to do something to save myself and my children. My ability to be a mother was being severely affected and I could not be the mom I wanted to be or the mom they needed me to be. I was having difficulty making friends to build a support system outside of family because of my anxiety. I was becoming more and more isolated from any positive support.
After I began having panic attacks, I was unable to leave the house to attend my kids school events, parent teacher conferences, or other events for my children until I began a medicine for anxiety. It finally got to a point that my husband and I decided it was important for us to stand up for our boundaries. This resulted in verbal attacks every time we stood up for our boundaries, or did things the way we felt we needed to, and I was being accused of destroying their family.
The extended family environment for us was such a toxic one that we had to choose to cut contact. So, from that moment on we had to raise our kids without a village. The most painful part to admit to myself was that I had never had a village. I had always been alone and now I had to accept that we would be raising our children alone without support as well.
“People think being alone makes you lonely, but I don’t think that’s true. Being surrounded by the wrong people is the loneliest thing in the world.”Kim Culbertson
My family lived too far away and we were not able to see them more than once a year. My husband’s family created so much tension for us to have them babysit and feel comfortable. We were unable to find consistent babysitters, so my husband and I never had date nights. I took the kids with me everywhere unless my husband could watch them. My husband and I did not have time alone, the kids did not know what it was like to spend time away from us and feel comfortable away from us.
I have heard some people say they don’t believe in the idea that “it takes a village to raise a child”. I cannot say what their reasoning for this is, but what they don’t realize is they probably already have a “village” or support system helping them.
The need for a support system is necessary and incredibly important. We all need support at many times through our life, but when you are trying to raise children, this support becomes crucial. A support system is important for simple things such as help with babysitting for parents with things like doctor’s appointments, running some errands, or giving parent’s date nights so they can stay connected. Children benefit from this as well by spending time with others that care about them, learning about caring for others while watching others that are there for them, they learn to form connections with others, feeling they have others to turn to when they need help, and children just need breaks from their parents as well. Another important aspect of a support system is having people who have experienced parenting before us to help with advice or perspective when parents feel overwhelmed.
I don’t think anyone intentionally wants to do anything hurtful, but sometimes the unintentional; not paying attention to when others need help because they are too focused on what they want. The unintentional can be the most hurtful things. Our society is becoming more and more self-centered that the aspect of supporting one another is getting lost.
We should be willing to show kindness, love, and support for others. Especially parents who are trying to parent the next generation. If we want each generation to learn important values and integrity, how to care for others as well as themselves; we have to be willing to reach out and support each other as parents. Every child should know what it feels like to have people outside of their parents to show them love and feel the support of others and witness their parents receiving that same support.
It is sad that my children will never know what it is like to have those relationships with extended family. It is even more upsetting they did not grow up with grandparents that showed up to their school or sporting events, or love on them when they felt like home was too much. It was heart breaking to me when my oldest son was preparing for his high school graduation and I knew the only people in the stands for him, would be his dad and I, and his little brother.
Having to do it all without help, I have learned what is important and what can be let go of. I know the real importance of support, and hope I can be better at lending support to those around me when I see they need it. I challenge myself every day to look for others who may be in need of help and reach out to them. I challenge all of us to look within ourselves and ask if we are lending the people in our lives support when they need it. Are we trying to force the new parents in our family or friend circle to do things our way or are we giving them the freedom to be the parents they are meant to be and lending them support to grow their family the way they believe it should be?
It takes a Village to raise a child.Proverb
If it takes a village to raise a child, then it should take a village to support the child’s parents and relate in an encouraging way for the positive growth of the child.