"It takes a village to raise a child."
- African Proverb
Raising children is wonderful and difficult.
They are a blessing and life-changing.
And if parents think they should be doing it all alone...well...they shouldn't.
It takes a village.
This "village" could consist of anyone who helps, influences, loves, etc. your children.
If anyone thinks that my husband and I raise our three boys alone - well I've got news for you.
As a current stay at home parent, if I had no help from others I think I would now be in a cuckoo's nest, chirping whilst banging my head against a padded wall.
I am not ashamed to admit it.
Earlier on in my parenting "career", I would have been embarrassed. I would have been feeling like a bad mother for needing outside help.
Guilt - as you know if you follow my blog - is a close, personal enemy of mine that creeps and seeps into my brain as easily as chocolate somehow ends up in my mouth when stress takes me over.
I am trying to sneak around the guilt so it doesn't find me!
And that, my friends, is pretty often.
Oh yes...I have a village and for that I am extremely grateful.
|A village and some villagers.
The fact that I have such a strong and supportive group of people that help my husband and I with our children is awesome and I know I am very lucky.
This is certainly not lost on me.
My mother-in-law (MIL) and my parents help us the most. They all live quite close - my MIL lives around the corner and my folks live a half-hour drive away in Toronto.
If we did not have them close - or in our lives at all - we would not be able to do all of the things that we do. And again, I think I would have gone crazy years ago.
You may think that I say this in jest.
I really don't.
For some reason, this time around, I don't seem to be able to handle the demands and the pulling of every part of my body in different directions nearly as well as I did with my first two boys.
Maybe it is my age (27 to give you a ballpark. OK...a very large ballpark.)
Maybe it is the significant age difference between my middle son (who is 8) and my toddler (who is almost 2) and all of my boys' differing needs, activities, personalities, etc.
Maybe it is the fact that with all of this mothering going on, my marriage seems to have morphed into a co-parenting relationship. Yeah....you know...the old "two ships passing in the night" thing.
But I digress. Again.
My MIL helps us out more days than not - both because it is part of her culture (Italian) and her personality to do so. She cooks and babysits all the time. In turn, I sometimes have to deal with her unsolicited opinions and advise. She can be critical and "old-school" - but I have learned not to takes it too personally. She is a lovely woman who has a good heart. And she is certainly a welcome inhabitant of our village.
|This is not my MIL, but it could be. She is always feeding my kids.
My parents have a different style. They are committed to coming out from Toronto once a week to help me with the boys. Very often, I take these opportunities to get out of the house alone, to write, to get my hair done, to catch up on sleep...whatever it is that I need to do on my own.
They often make a point of doing fun activities for the kids. While my MIL is very focused on feeding the kids (as most Italian Nonnas are), my folks take the boys mini-golfing, to the beach, to restaurants, to the movies, etc.
|These are not my folks, but they could be.
Except my parents are better looking.
And my Dad has better hair.
And my Mom is shorter...but just as skinny.
And that kid should really be a boy.
But again...I digress.
They also have my older boys stay for sleepovers at their place - especially during the summer. And during the hockey season they are very involved in helping us be where we need to be - seeing we have one son in competitive hockey and the other in house league. They enjoy watching the boys play - but they also help to shuffle them to practices when needed.
Outside of our parents, our friends help as well. Certainly other parents from our son's hockey team help with taking him to games and practices when we are double or triple-booked. We are the only family from the team with a baby - so this is very helpful!
|A typical, Canadian hockey parent.
Except his Tim Horton's coffee is smaller than the norm.
We have another family we are very close to...in fact the Dad is my husband's best friend and their three boys are similar in age to ours and are best friends also.
Their Mom has become a good friend of mine over the years and now that they live close to us, we do things like take turns taking care of the older boys to give each other breaks, or get them all together and share a few laughs of coffee despite the craziness of six - yes SIX - boys running around us.
Somehow, the craziness is easier when you can share it with others.
And if you don't feel that your village is large enough, start taking baby steps to increase your circle.
There are many support groups, parent organizations, clubs and recreation centre activities that can help. Talk to your doctor. Talk to your child's teacher. Talk to your friends. It is amazing how eager people are to help out if you just ask.
Other parents get it. They need villages too.
Of course, my village extends to teachers, doctors, other friends, other family members and even support from people we don't know - authors of books, founders of websites, etc.
|Or...the friendly folks at your local YMCA.
Better known as The Village People.
It's a big village peeps!
And I sigh in gratitude for my village often.