If I already wrote a post about this, with this exact same title, I apologize. I’m still figuring out, 291 days in, how this whole Word Press thing works, and right now I don’t have an easy way to go back through what I’ve already written, nor have I figured out how to organize posts by category.
When I first became a mother the concept of the village didn’t mean much to me. I had heard the phrase, “It takes a village,” of course, but that never had any personal or real meaning.
I think part of me believed that, naturally, the people around me would become my “village.” Family, friends, neighbors, and whomever I happened to meet along the way. Because why not? People love babies. I love babies. Surely everyone would want to hop on board the village train and be part of the fun.
To be fair, I was the very first of any of my friends to have a child, and the surrounding circumstances were unusual. Mostly, we were all just very young and still figuring out what it meant to be adults. It’s difficult to think about how to support someone if you’ve never had any experience doing what they’re doing. Also, I haven’t always been great about admitting when I need help.
To put that more neatly, I didn’t realize how much I would need a village, and I didn’t realize how difficult it would be to find one.
After I had my second child and came to terms with the fact that my marriage was over, or I suppose, had never really begun and never would, I realized that I had already started the process of finding a village, and it started to occur to me how very much I would need one. It was a small, but extremely dependable village, and I will be forever thankful to that tribe for seeing me through some of the more difficult days.
As time moved on some of us went our separate ways, either because of long-distance moves or career changes or new spouses or whatever. I’ve found it’s difficult to build a village with frequent moves, unless it is part of some larger group, like the military or some similar situation, where everyone is pretty much in the same boat, and connected to some larger purpose.
Now that all four children (frequently) sleep through the night, (most of) our boxes are unpacked, and we have determined we are going to be here long-term, I want to devote more energy to finding a village.
There are some people already in my village. A handful of close family members and friends who have become like family. A few new friends and neighbors. A few people in similar interest groups or charities online. All of those people fill different roles in my village, and I hope I fill similar roles in theirs.
A few challenges I’m experiencing.
First, and I’ve discussed this before, I still haven’t found an easy, large-scale group I feel fits all of me, other than the Church. I can no longer consider myself a Republican, but I am certainly not a Democrat. I would be considered by many to be “crunchy,” but I am also Catholic, and I vaccinate my children. I consider myself a feminist, but I also consider myself pro-life. On the other hand, while I consider myself pro-life, I mean in the whole person sense of the word, and my views about abortion are unsatisfactory to many in the hardcore pro-life movement. I could go on, but I think you probably get the idea. To further complicate matters, I have difficult keeping my big fat mouth shut, so that even if I agree with 95% of what you’re saying, I feel the need to point out the 5% I disagree with. I don’t know why. It feels dishonest not to, but I know I create unnecessary headaches, and sometimes I’m better about internalizing that than others.
Second, sometimes meeting new “villagers” feels a lot like dating, and it makes me nervous. Sometimes I am better about this than others, but sometimes I just get nervous. I have never, and this is actually kind of embarrassing, but I have never asked a guy out on a date. And now, I feel like inviting other moms to hang out or have play dates is exactly that. “Hey, want to grab coffee sometime?” except it’s really more like, “Hey, want to grab coffee sometime, depending on my husband’s work schedule, it will have to be early in the morning for maybe like an hour and it has to be close to my house and I may or may not shower before I come, because, well, yeah, and also, uh, I don’t drink coffee, so, yeah…” or “Hey, do you want to come over?” which feels like a super big step and is like, the next step, I suppose what modern daters would consider the third date, or, well, I guess that was a thing like ten years ago, I’m not sure what the Tinder equivalent would be. Anyway, it’s awkward. I’m not good at asking people for things to begin with, and asking people to spend time with me is even more difficult.
Third, I don’t always trust myself to be a sound judge of character. My instincts are good, I really do believe that, but I do this thing where I make up narratives to explain away any potentially concerning behavior. “Oh, he’s just from a different generation,” or “She didn’t mean it like that, it’s just because she’s from LA,” or “I don’t think she was trying to be hurtful, she was just sharing her opinion, and I would rather have someone be honest…” or other similar and perfectly plausible explanations that almost always turn out to be incorrect. I don’t like to dismiss people too soon. It seems unfair. Actually, I don’t like to “dismiss” people at all, but I’ve learned that sometimes, that’s just a part of life as a grown up.
Fourth, even though I get more sleep now than I have in years, I’m still fucking exhausted. The days are jam-packed full of activity and needs, and sometimes I feel like as soon as I finish cleaning up from one meal, it’s time to start cooking the next. As my pediatrician recently confirmed, our kids consume a lot of food. The nurse actually asked me to repeat my food intake estimates because she was so surprised. Anyway, sometimes it’s a lot to devote emotional energy into finding a village, or writing this blog, or doing anything like that, and my children and husband always come first, so sometimes there isn’t much left over.
Still, I know it’s important, and I know it should be a priority. My advice to women who want to have children is to think about their village now, in a reasonable way. People will surprise you, in good ways and bad, but it would have been helpful for me, I think, to consider the value of having a village, and figuring out what role I wanted it to play in my life as a mother ahead of time.