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Where Is My Village? – Why Modern Day Parenting Sucks
A Bad Mother
We like to listen to music at our house, from Classical to Metal; Country to Reggae; and everything in between. A good jam can lighten the mood, fill the void, and be a good excuse to do some cardio. So when I first heard James Brown’s “The Boss” driving to work; I couldn’t wait to play it LOUD in my living room, be-bopping with my kiddos. I learned, however, that children have a way of pulverizing your good intentions. They really know how to screw up all your dreams. When you try something fun, you think they’ll love it, they won’t. Or what they actually get from the activity is not what you planned…
So I played the song; be-bopping and good times were had by all. I sang along to my favorite line: “Look at me! Do you know what you see? You see a Bad-Mother! A Bad-Mother.” Groovy right? Right until my three-year-olds start babbling about “Bad mothers” – How they live in the forest, they say “Roar” and are generally very scary creatures. Waves! With me already a little insecure and too worried about what people think about my parenting.
So I (seriously) joked with everyone. I told him about “The Boss” and that if you hear my son talking about a bad mother, he’s not really talking about yours. Hee-hee! Cute! My lack of foresight aside; the situation is somewhat poetic. Why do I feel like I’m not good enough? – Although when I think about it, I’m fine! My children are smart, healthy and happy. We have a happy and normal family. So why the guilty conscience? Why do I feel like I’m under scrutiny?
It was a process to let go of insecurity. I’ve learned to recognize and push through the thoughts of impending failure, 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 such as whoever has more time to garden and preserve food. Of course, I can’t cook: but I can learn.
On social media, we want to put our best face forward, that’s mostly all we see from other moms and dads. So I compare myself to people who don’t exist! – They are mine ideas of what a “perfect parent” would be. While I feel insecure for these reasons, I am also alone with my children most of their lives. Maybe if I had more friends and family around in my everyday life, I would have more real examples and experience to base my parenting on. – Not to mention time-out for me 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 intuition for one of the reasons why: Parenting is much harder than we expected, and we’ve lost our proverbial “Village.”
Everyone knows the saying: “It takes a village to raise a child.” The phrase is widely believed to have originated in Africa; others believe it has its roots in Native American culture. However, this well-known proverb comes from a time and place where people lived in common. It was a world where his neighbors were also friends and family; where everyone played, worked, grieved and celebrated together – always together. Today our society is compartmentalized. Most families are islands, since we generally have an all-for-themselves mentality. I feel like the community is missing a lot, and it makes us sadder and sadder.
I long for the times long past when families lived and worked together. As an honest child of the 80s, I still yearn for a time not so distant past: when neighbors and friends got together for barbecues and card games. – Before the internet, TV and smart phones ruined everything. Please understand that I am not anti-technology: It is 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 is not a secret that while having these tools has closed great distances between us all, it can also 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 babysitters. It was “Come play with aunty so mommy can do the dishes.” Now it’s “do you want to watch another movie? OK, I guess so…”
He is tired of actually going to see people. I have to plan. Dress up the kids in cute clothes, bring extras, wash them and charge them. When we get to other people’s houses, I spend most of the visit chasing and scolding the children. There is very little sitting, or uninterrupted conversation (The much-needed adult kind). There is chaos. We arrive home tired and exhausted. I temporarily gave up never leaving my house until they are in high school. Having a healthy social life is very difficult with many young children… and I am lucky to have more help than most.
All the help I can get.
I am one of the lucky ones: I have an amazing husband. We know that many people do not have that life saver as they tread the unexpectedly difficult waters of parenthood. (To you single parents: I tip my hat.) We are extremely grateful to my in-laws who live just down the road from us. They are always here and eager to help. I am also thankful for my mother: she lives not far from the city, but she will always come to my aid: whether I have to work or it’s just a bad day. These people among others make up my “tribe”.
While I know I have a ton of support, it’s not enough. There are days when I want to pull my hair out. Days I just don’t want to -Mother- for a while. murmur: “I thought I didn’t have the patience for this, I didn’t know anything about children then I had two of them too close, I suck at this…” I lost my temper. I shouted. I grabbed him by the arm at the time-out chair. I growled.
So I apologize. Again and again I ask these beautiful monsters to forgive Mother. She is doing her best. She is nothing like the mother she imagined herself to be, when she was ignorant. He asks: “Where is my country?”
Realize the struggle is real
I saw a funny one that read something like: I was the perfect parent, before I had kids. Couldn’t have said it better myself. I know that the people who judge me most harshly, are those who have no small sentence of their own life. I know this because I was one of those people. “When I have children they will never misbehave because I will be tough and consistent. Is that all right?” I thought: “People much more ignorant than me, have children every day – we had this!” He didn’t know about the lack of sleep, the last drop of patience that was running out. I didn’t think about potty training and public disobedience. (I didn’t even think about coming down with a debilitating chronic illness, but that’s a story for a different article)
In the beginning of my pregnancy with baby number two, I knew a woman who also had two girls about 15 months apart. When I told him I was pregnant again, a very concerned look crossed his face. She told me to be overwhelmed. Being so frustrated, she screamed at her children. “OH MY!” I thought, “I will never yell at my kids!!” Ha. Ha-ha. Ha
Another close friend had a slight encounter one night: she walked out of her house, without saying anything to her children or husband, got into her car and drove away. She checked into a hotel room, and so she checked out of life for a minute. It was a difficult time since she arrived, with lightning… But I ask: Where was her country?
Propose A Solution
I think that as mothers, we are afraid to ask for help because it feels like admitting to inadequacy. We don’t want people to know that we are in over our heads some days. We absolutely cannot admit for a second that we are not super-moms 24/7. We get angry: We are sad. Many of us are on anti-depressant/anxiety medication.
I want to do something about it: I set a personal goal to invite a friend to my house, once a week. I used to complain that people never come to see me, until I realized that maybe it’s because I don’t actively invite them. I’ve made it a priority to go see a family member as often (as exciting as that can be). Start promoting group activities focused on the realization of daunting projects:
Window washing parties
Extravaganzas of splitting and stacking wood
Bring on the wine and the chocolate. Bring the beer and bratwurst; whatever the occasion and the company demands. Next week go to someone else’s place and help them with whatever project is weighing on them. Just do it together. Not just “many hands make light work,” but getting together with real people to accomplish goals, 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 feel like we’re connected – but we’re not. I will make phone calls and send cards. This is the task I have set before myself this summer: Encourage others to get out of our homes and do things together. We are building a country.
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