I’m the first to admit that I have two incredible, sweet little boys. But as with all children, they can be a handful.
I’ve read how our society has turned child raising into some sort of individual act. Throughout history, however, and still today in many cultures, the reality is, it takes a village to raise a child. Aunts, cousins, sisters, mothers and grandmothers all move in with the new parents to take turns day and night with the baby. The thought of my entire extended family moving into our house to help with the new infant doesn’t exactly sound stellar to me, but that’s probably because somewhere in my subconscious, I have the twisted view that I should be able to do it all. I should be able to keep my house clean, all the laundry done, meals cooked, handle every parenting situation with ease and keep a healthy relationship with my husband all at the same time.
Over the past three years, I’ve witnessed how it takes a “village” to raise our children and we are blessed to have many such “villages” in our life.
In our “family village” we have multiple members who are all invaluable. My Dad lives in an apartment on the lower level of our home and though I’m sure he’s half deaf from hearing the chaos of two toddler boys above him, he is always just a door knock away. Justin’s parents live close by and are offended if we ever call in another babysitter to watch “their boys.” We have family who live all over the country that have flown in for the births of our boys and helped clean the house, stock the fridge, watch James and keep us encouraged during those rough newborn baby days.
Our “friends village” has been especially valuable to me. I have a group of moms that I met one day at the mall. They were sitting on a blanket outside Starbucks with their babies, nursing, talking, laughing and crying. I remember thinking, “I HAVE to get into that group!” I found them on Meetup.com and started meeting them every week. We all became friends on Facebook and have watched our kids grow together. We’ve had our second (or third or fourth) babies together, hosted Mom Nights Out, scheduled family picnics, organized play dates and even gone grocery shopping together. There is something therapeutic about having close women friends who have either gone through the same things as you, or are going through it with you. I love these ladies, and sometimes my husband gets jealous on the weeks that I see them more than I see him.
Social Media has also been an amazing “village” for me, as it creates a way to communicate with friends and family that may not be close by at any time of day (or night). My third day home with James, around 2 a.m., I typed up a semi-delirious private message to a friend asking for breastfeeding advice. I was ecstatic to see her type back an immediate response, since apparently she too was up nursing her own child. Tears of joy ran down my face as I read her encouraging response on the reality of nursing. There would be many, many more of those messages from various other mamas over the years that are like gold to me in my parenting treasure box.
Perhaps my favorite “village” is our church family. Every Sunday I pull into the parking lot, turn off the van, and there’s already arms reaching in to unbuckle my kids and whisk them off. I’ve gratefully watched from on-stage where my husband and I play music in the church band as our boys’ Godparents gently carry our flailing redhead out of the sanctuary for a walk or a talk, or rock our sleeping baby. My in-laws attend church with us and are always ready with a bag of toys to keep the boys occupied. I’ve handed over Luke to many an “Auntie” standing nearby in order to chase down James. And I love watching all the other little children interact with our boys, dancing and giggling together. It’s only one day a week for about two hours, but it gives me encouragement and refuels me to make it through the next week.
Raising kids shouldn’t be done alone. So if you aren’t plugged in to a “village,” I suggest you reach out and find one. It may be one of the best decisions you make as a parent. It was for me.
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Mandy Watts is a stay-at-home mom who lives in Crownsville with her husband, Justin, who runs their family business, and their two sons, 2-year-old James and almost 1-year-old Luke.