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Where Is My Village? – Why Modern Day Parenting Sucks
a bad mother
We love listening to music in our house, from classical to metal; country to reggae; And everything in between. A good jam can lighten the mood, fill a void, and be a great excuse to do some cardio. So the first time I heard James Brown’s “The Boss” was driving to work; I couldn’t wait to play it loud in my living room, playing with my little ones. However, I’m learning that kids have a way of deflating your best intentions. They really know how to make your dreams come true. When you try to do something fun that you think they’ll like, they won’t. Or you haven’t planned what they actually take away from the activity…
So I played the song; Be-bopping and good times were had by all. I sang my favorite line: “Look at me! Know what you see? You see a bad-mother! A bad-mother.” Groovy right? Until my almost three-year-old started raving about ‘evil mothers’ – how they live in the woods, say “roar” and are generally very scary. Swell! I’m already somewhat insecure and overly worried about what people think of my parenting.
So I (seriously) joked about it with everyone. I told them about “The Boss” and if they hear my son talking about a bad mom, she’s not really talking about you. Hee-hee! Cute! My lack of foresight aside; The situation is a bit poetic. Why do I feel like I’m not doing good enough? -Even when I think about it, I’m doing great! My children are smart, healthy and happy. We have a happy, normal family. So why the guilty conscience? Why do I feel like I’m under investigation?
It is a process of letting go of insecurity. I’m learning to recognize and eliminate thoughts of imminent failure, the self-criticism that comes from comparing myself to other moms. My children are happy Even if we don’t do a crafty project every day. I am a good parent Who has more time to garden and store food. I certainly can’t cook: but I can learn.
On social media, we want to put our best face forward, which is mostly what we see from other moms and dads. So I’m comparing myself to people who don’t exist! – They are mine imagination What would be a ‘perfect parent’? While I feel vulnerable for these reasons, I am alone with my children in their lives. Perhaps, if I had more friends and family in my everyday life, I would have real examples and experiences to base my parenting on. – No mention of time-outs I And not just my children.
It Takes a Village
I know I’m not the only new parent who feels this way; I have an opinion about one of the reasons behind this: Parenting is much harder than we expect and we have lost our proverbial ‘village’.
Everyone knows the saying: “It takes a village to raise a child.” The phrase is believed to have originated in Africa; Others believe that it has its roots in Native American culture. Either way, this well-known proverb comes from a time and place where people lived communally. It was a world where one’s neighbors were close friends and family; Where everyone played, worked, grieved and celebrated together – always together. Today our society is divided. Most families are islands, because we usually have an every-for-himself mentality. I feel that community is sorely lacking and that makes us sadder.
I long for a time long ago when families lived and worked together. As a bonafide child of the 80s, I also long for a time in the not-too-distant past: when neighbors and friends gathered for barbecues and card games. – Before internet, TV, smart phone, everything was ruined. Please understand that I’m not anti-technology: it’s a wonderful thing, especially as a new parent, to have all the answers at your fingertips. Support groups and forums can be extremely helpful. However, it’s no secret that these tools have closed a lot of distance between us all, but it can drive a wedge between people in the same room.
We still need our aunts and uncles, cousins and grandparents. They have been replaced by digital baby sitters. “Let’s play with aunty so mommy can do the dishes.” Now “Do you want to see another movie? Well, I guess…”
Meeting people is boring. I have to plan. Dress up the kids in cute clothes, bring extras, bathe them and dress them up. When we get to other people’s houses, I spend most of the time chasing and scolding the kids. Very little sitting or uninterrupted conversation (very essential mature type). There is chaos. We go home cranky and tired. I temporarily put off leaving my house until they are in high school. For many young children it is very difficult to have a healthy social life… and I am very lucky to have more help than others.
All the help I can get.
I am one of the lucky ones: I have an amazing husband. I know many people don’t have those life preservers when they tread the unexpectedly difficult waters of parenthood. (To you single parents: I tip my hat.) We are extremely grateful for my in-laws who live just down the road from us. They are always there and eager to help. I am also thankful for my mother: she lives a few cities away but she will always come to my aid: I have to work or am having a bad day. These people become my ‘caste’ among other people.
I know I have a lot of support, but it’s not enough. There are days I want to pull my hair out. Days I just don’t want -mom- For a while I hum: “What I felt was that I didn’t have the patience for it, I didn’t know anything about boys, then they were so close, I felt so bad…” I lost my patience. I screamed. I took her by the hand and led her to the time-out chair. I growled.
So I apologize. Again and again I ask these beautiful little monsters to forgive Mama. She is doing her best. She is nothing like the mother she imagined herself to be when she was ignorant. She is asking: “Where is my village?!”
Struggle is realising
I saw a funny one that read something like: I was the perfect parent before I had kids. I couldn’t say it better myself. I know that the people who judge me most harshly, are those who have no life-sentence of their own. I know this because I was one of those people. “When I have children they will never misbehave because I will be strict and consistent. Is that all right?” I thought: “People far more ignorant than me, there are kids every day – we got this!” I didn’t know the lack of sleep, the last drop of patience draining away. I hadn’t planned on potty-training and public disobedience. (I also didn’t plan on coming down with a debilitating chronic illness, but that’s a story for a different article)
Early in my pregnancy I knew a woman who also had two daughters, 15 months apart. When I told her I was pregnant again, she had a very nervous look on her face. She told me about being overwhelmed. Disappointed, she cried out to her children. “Oh God!” I thought: “I would never yell at my kids!!” This. Ha-ha This
Another close friend had a bit of a breakdown one night: she left the house without saying anything to her children or husband, got into her car and drove away. She checked into the hotel room and stepped out of life for a minute. It’s been a tough time since she passed with flying colors… But I ask: Where was her hometown?
I propose a solution
I think as mothers we are afraid to ask for help because it feels like admitting inadequacy. We don’t want people to know we’re in over our heads some days. We can’t admit for a second that we’re not super-moms 24/7. We get angry: We are sad. Many of us are on depression/anti-anxiety medication.
I want to do something about it: I’m setting a personal goal to invite a friend over to my house once a week. I used to complain that people weren’t coming to see me, until I realized that maybe I wasn’t actively inviting them. I prefer visiting a family member more often (maybe it’s exhausting). I’m going to start encouraging group activities focused on completing difficult projects:
Window washing party
Wood splitting and piling extravaganza
Yard Work Shenanigans
Bring on the wine and chocolate. Bring on the beer and bratwurst; Whatever the occasion and company. Step into someone else’s place next week and help them with whatever project they’re weighing. Just combine. Not just “many hands make light work,” but coming together with real people to achieve a goal, no matter how big or small, is good for you, your family, and your community.
I will spend less time on social media. It makes us think we’re connected—but we’re not. I will call and send a card. This summer I have set myself this task: to encourage each other to get out of the house and do things together. Let’s build a village.
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