Parenting is like a marriage, once it starts, you’re in it for better or for worse. It’s not like packaging; you can’t just stamp a “return to sender” label on your children and send them back where they came from, (at least we hope not). Rather, it’s a commitment, one that some see all the way through with success, despite the challenges, while others, unfortunately, miss the mark. It’s an immense responsibility. We are responsible for the guidance, molding, safety, overall health, and nurturing of a tiny human. And while there are a plethora of books on the market for parenting, many active parents don’t have the time to sit and read them. Not to mention, even if they do, there is always that one moment when you think you have this parenting thing down to a science, then here comes that next child to derail everything you thought you knew about it and send you right back to the drawing board; but it’s because they are their own unique individuals. And it is for that reason, and many others, that I believe that Every Parent Needs A Village!
When I say village, I mean a support system. You know that old adage, “It takes a village to raise a child.” Well it’s true. Think about those grandparents and great grandparents that are there to watch the kids when you have to go to work, or even when you just want to go out and let your hair down because you haven’t been able to in months. They are the village. Consider that one sibling, aunt or uncle, good friend, or trusted neighbor that you call when you feel like you just need a peaceful moment to yourself before you explode or fall apart, they too are the village. In this high stress day and age, we as parents have so many things to deal with outside of parenting, that when we get to the mommy and daddy part of life, we have to be in the proper head space to be loving and effective parents. I keep in mind though that not everyone has a solid support system that they can readily turn to, but wouldn’t it be so much easier to cope with situations if everyone did.
Let me give you personal example. When I was pregnant with my son, his father and I were at odds quite often. His father’s mother had just passed away suddenly, which was only a year after her husband passed from cancer. So needless to say, he was not mentally there and couldn’t handle life very well, nor a baby on the way, (he actually even suggested that I terminate the pregnancy, which I was definitely not going to do), and so that led to him also being physically non-existent. So there I was single, pregnant, working, and stressed. During the first six months of my pregnancy, I went into preterm labor three times, (my son was obviously very eager to come into this world). My doctor kept putting me on medication to stop it, which had me shaking like I had Parkinson’s disease, and the little one felt like he was doing the “Harlem Shake” dance in my womb every time I took a pill. It was terrible. I mean, imagine sitting at the dinner table to eat, but your hands tremble so much that you can barely hold your fork. It was embarrassing in public, and downright annoying at home. I was adamant about coming off of them and exploring other avenues to prevent preterm birth. I eventually ended up on bed rest, however, after my son decided to stay put for awhile, I wound up with pretty bad acid reflux for the last three months of my pregnancy. I couldn’t keep anything down that was processed, contained milk, or was saucy. It was truly miserable. No more french fries drowned in ketchup, no more burgers, or sub sandwiches packed with all the goodies that I loved so much, because if I did, I quickly regretted it. Ok, now I am certain that someone is reading this and thinking how unhealthy those things are, so let me just add that I ate plenty of veggies too. Those just happened to be a few of my pregnancy favs that I craved, but that burning feeling in my chest and not being able to keep those favorites down was much worse than giving them up, so the sacrifice was a necessary evil. Then, a miracle happened, as soon as I gave birth, no more reflux! I was beyond happy, and if memory serves me, I think I danced a little in my hospital bed after the first time I was able to eat, and actually keep everything down, but it was short-lived. People, when I tell you that life threw me a swift curve ball and decided to introduce me to the world of irony, it did so in a cruel way.
Just as sudden as my reflux ended, my son’s began. For exactly, the first 3 months of his beautiful little life, (the same amount of time that I had it), he had acid reflux. What are the odds of that? Not only did he have acid reflux, but he also had colic. For those who are unfamiliar with colic, basically it is trapped abdominal gas in babies. If you have ever experienced trapped gas bubbles in your stomach, chest, or back as an adult, then you know how painful and uncomfortable it can be. Yet, as adults, we can take gas-ex or some other aid to help minimize or alleviate it, but when it relates to infants, you are limited in what you can give them for it, if anything at all.
So he cried practically all day long, almost every day. I thought I was going to lose my mind. Picture this… I was a nursing mother who had just given birth, naturally mind you, so I still needed to heal, and I was so exhausted from lack of sleep that I was delirious. When I fed him I had to make sure that I always had him somewhat elevated during and after feedings because the reflux caused the milk to come out of his mouth and nose at the same time, which scared us both, and he didn’t sleep long through the night. So I was constantly rocking, walking, rocking some more, putting him in the car and driving him around to see if that worked, rubbing his belly, patting his back, moving his legs back and forth, and anything else that I could think of to try to relieve this baby and myself. I was on the brink of insanity, and I use to think to myself, “is this what postpartum depression feels like, because I think I’ve got it?” When he cried, sometimes I was crying too, frustrated, and not knowing if I was going to make it through or not. I truly wanted that “return to sender” label once or twice.
I needed that village, and one day, it came to town in the form of my friend’s mother. Bless her beautiful, calm, and loving, “took pity on me” soul. She saw me going through the struggle life and said, “let me have the baby, you go upstairs and rest for awhile.” I was hesitant because I didn’t want to stress her out too, but at the same time, I was so out of my head, that I was also overjoyed inside that someone else even wanted to try to help out. As soon as I heard him crying, I felt a little guilty, so I started to go back and get him, but before I even made it all the way downstairs, the crying stopped. I remember thinking to myself, “I don’t know what kind of magic this woman did, but I am grateful for it.” It was the best sleep ever. Of course, I awoke to him crying again, but at least by that time, my body had a little bit of what it needed to face the night ahead. She stayed in town for a week, and while she was there she was such a valuable blessing to me. She had grown children of her own, as well as grandchildren, so she was far more experienced than I was in child rearing. She gave me tips on how to hold him and comfort him to ease and move the gas, and she even passed a couple of much needed old school remedies for him and for myself. When she left, he still had the same issues for awhile, and at times, it was still very stressful, but I felt a bit more equipped to handle it and be ok.
That is just a small glimpse into why it is so important that we as parents have a support system. Whether you are a single parent, a two parent household, a teen parent, an older parent, a grandparent raising kids, or even one who is raising siblings, that network of support is crucial for many things.
Now I know there is someone out there that is probably asking what do you do if you don’t have a village to go to, or a family or a friend support system. My suggestion is this, consider creating what you need. Meaning look for people that not only have similar issues as you do, but ones that do not have those issues, and are doing better in their situations. The benefit to that is having others present that you can share information with to help build one another up. It serves two purposes: 1) letting you know that you are not alone in whatever it is you are going through, and 2) the possibility of gaining resources and tips for either coping or maneuvering your way through your situation. By doing so, you have now created the “village” that not only you need, but possibly others as well. One way that this can be done is by simply starting a small group meetup with a few people to network, discuss, and share out. It can be informal or formal, and does not cost a thing to do. You can meetup at someone’s house, a restaurant, or a public park, whatever suits you best.
I know for some it is uncomfortable to talk to others they don’t know, but when we step outside of our comfort zones, that is usually when things begin to manifest for our benefit, but you will never know unless you give it a shot.
Depending on where you live, there may be few or many resources available to you. Google can be your friend in instances like these. Conducting a google search can help you determine if there are organizations in your area that offer free to low cost group sessions, workshops, or even hotlines that can be used to simply release. These places are also part of the Village. Whether you have a support system in place, you seek an organization to fill that need, or you create one, I believe that Everybody needs somebody. And if you just happen to be that person that says, “I don’t need anybody but myself, because I know that I can always count on me,” (as I have said once upon a time in my own life), then in my opinion, you are the main one that will benefit from it. It may very well be, that in turn, you become the village that someone else needs, even if it is just by giving a kind word that was given at the right time to uplift someone.
I thank you for allowing me to share my experiences, thoughts, and suggestions with you. I am not an expert on parenting, but I am a parent and I hope that someone was able to take something positive from my post today, so until next time, Remember, “All Things Done in Love.” Peace!