When planning out my parenting life, "dropping off my child to the psychiatric ward" never really crossed my mind. And I certainly never thought, as it was happening, that I would almost immediately turn around and knock out a blog entry about the experience and the emotions that followed. Hitting submit on that one was quite terrifying as I just knew that my parenting badge would be revoked forever.
And I didn't even care. I was just that exhausted.
Instead, something different happened.
Instead, I received loads of kind thoughts and words of encouragement, reassuring me that there are many people pulling for our family.
Instead, I received loads of messages that started with I could have written this myself. This road is incredibly difficult. Growing humans is not for the feeble. There are no instructions or best practices or do-X-and-Y-will-happen guidebooks.
Frankly, that sucks.
I will now return the volley with a plea. A Call to Mom Action. Maybe even a bit of a demand. Okay, the thing is, I am about to be
It takes a village.
I know that’s cliché and half of you just canceled me because “It Takes a Village” is the title of a book written by someone you might not like, but hang on just one second. The saying was not invented in the 90’s – it is actually found among many African villages and is ages old and, also, IT IS SO TRUE. It does take a village. It takes a MOM village. Raising kids is not something that should be taken on as a solo project – nor, I suspect, was it ever meant to be. In a time when extended families do not necessarily live just down the street from each other anymore compiled with spiking (and blatant) mom-shaming, the gig has become very much a lonely one. Ladies, we need to turn this bus around. We need to create circles in which we can be honest with each other. We need to cultivate our own Mom Safe Spaces where we can sit down over chips and salsa, blurt out things like Oh, I effing hate these tyrants and not worry about what will be whispered down the lane. And if you are one of those who gets a weird high off of playing whisper down the lane, STOP. The only thing that you are actually accomplishing is shutting yourself out of a village that you will likely need someday.
Here’s an important pro-tip:
If you don’t have a village when you need one, it can be devastating.
Without a village, there will be no one to summon to action when you need a shoulder, an ear, a tissue, a glass of wine, or a reality check. Without a village, there will be no one to tell you what an amazing job you are doing (you are). Without a village, there will be no one to drop everything at a moment’s notice to rescue you up from the fetal position that you were driven to by unending tears. Without a village, there will be no one to remind you of your worth (and you have so much worth). Without a village, there will be no one to affirm that your worth is not dependent on producing perfect children (it most certainly isn’t). Without a village, there will be no one to assure you that, at some point, what you’ve given your kids is enough and what they do with it is neither a reflection of your parenting nor in your control. Without a village, there will be no one to tell you that the people you raise may take a path that you didn’t plan for and that that is totally normal (because it is).
Without a village, there will be no one to tell you that it will all be okay (it will).
I know – your husband or partner is also qualified to cover all of those hot spots. It’s just that we women tend to measure ourselves based on what the women around us think. We measure ourselves on what our mom-ming colleagues think about us. My husband is one of the most compassionate, empathetic people I know – he says all of the right things around eighty-seven percent of the time. But I need to hear the right things from those who are truly riding in the same boat as me – the Moms. Those who have not taken vows or make witnessed promises to be nice to me. I need that village to tell me that it’s going to be okay. I need that village to tell me that I’m doing an amazing job. We moms? We all need that.
Catty women are nothing new. We develop our catty-ness as girls. And we women are all guilty of being catty. Being catty is probably built into our lady hormones as some sort of defense option to protect our lady feelings. What’s changed in the last decade is the ability to be catty in public – whether at Target or on Facebook or while sitting in the school’s auditorium. What’s changed is that we have multiple formats to humble brag about our parenting successes – the same formats where we hide our parenting failures. It seems many women have lost the ability to not-say-anything-at-all in lieu of back-handed plugging of their own parenting wins via the path of tearing down those whom, they feel, are not winning. I’m guilty of it myself – it likely stems from a need to help, but now morphs into a statement of you’re probably just an idiot. Sometimes it doesn’t even stem from a need to help. Sometimes it starts out as a response to thinking that another mom, raising a child that you don’t even know, living in a house that is not yours, in circumstances that you do not understand…knows less about the right thing for that child than you do.
Hi. That’s really stupid.
If you drive by a stopped car with a flat tire – are you ever inclined to take a picture, post it on social media, and include an eye-roll-y comment about how you’d never leave the neighborhood without four full loads of air? Would you respond to the news of a local family’s house fire with a neighborhood campaign of (whisper voice) I would never not know about an electrical issue in my house…! We need so much less of the judge-y stuff and so much more of the help-y stuff. We need moms to band together for regular chats. We need to create moments in which we can learn that everyone single one of us has small and large and gigantic speed bumps in on the path growing our humans. Allowing the distance to sit between us, whether it be from lack of time, lack of energy, or fear of looking like an utter failure removes the opportunity to learn that every single one of us moms everywhere feels exhausted and overwhelmed or under-qualified.
Find your village.
Create a village if that’s a new concept. Reconnect with a village that you’ve lost track of. Make Mom get togethers a priority. Put something on the calendar now for this month – coffee, lunch, chips & salsa. And before your part ways from that session, put something on your calendars for the next month and so on.
Start the conversation.
Bare your soul.
And tell someone in your village right now that it will be okay (because it will).