My husband and I have 6 children between us. Yes, SIX! Are we nuts? Without a doubt, I don’t know many parents that aren’t! But we love our big, crazy family. There’s never a shortage of hilarity or laundry in this house. This is a yours, mine and ours situation. But the fact is, they’re all OUR kids. The one thing that we lack as a family is a support system. For us, turning to a parent or relative for a bit of relief or even a date night, is not in the cards.
Both of our fathers and sets of grandparents have passed away. My mother lives right down the street but lives strictly by the philosophy, “Everyone raises their own children” and repeatedly states, “I didn’t dump my kids on my parents to be a burden.” My husband’s mother lived here in town for most of my husband’s life but a few years ago she got remarried and moved to a new state. Even though she did live nearby, we very rarely saw her and feel like she couldn’t wait to get away.
My husband has always said that kids or grandkids weren’t a part of her plan for her life and she is almost devoid of real emotion. She’s very nice but it’s much like talking to a robot and receiving automated responses. As parents we have felt many times that we are drowning but either way we turn, there’s no one there.
We’ve all heard the old saying, “It takes a village.” What does this really mean? Do most people even stop and think about it anymore? We make a huge deal of gender reveals and baby showers. Friends, relatives and coworkers gather to shower the parent(s) with gifts, advice, and games where we eat baby food out of diapers and laugh until we need a diaper ourselves. And then the baby comes along and aside from congrats, the majority of parent(s) are on their own. We become exhausted from little to no sleep, mothers are trying to recover from birth and care for their new bundle simultaneously. If you already have multiple children, the stress is overwhelming.
Then don’t forget, one or both parents have to eventually return to work. When do we sleep, shower, eat, or just take a minute to breathe and try to feel human again? Postpartum Depression and even Postpartum Psychosis can begin to affect a parent after the birth of a child. Some of this is brought on by changing hormones but also a combination of sleep deprivation, exhaustion and stress can be factors. Perhaps if we had a village, a strong support system to step in and offer some help, some form of relief, we could start seeing a decrease or a way to recover easier from these possible complications.
There have been weeks of my life where my only adult conversation took place between my husband and I when he got home from work. When you’re an adult and you’re around kids and babies all day, every day, you need adult interaction, friendship, some form of physical and mental break. Most of us have heard the funny expression, “Parenthood is the scariest hood you’ll ever go through.” And trust me, my unwashed hair confirms it. But no one talks about how it’s also the loneliest. I had my first baby at 21, my second at 24, and my third at 31. I have been exhausted, underprepared, and lonely every single time. Friends don’t call or invite you places much anymore and if your family dynamics are anything like ours, you’re on your own.
It feels like the world keeps spinning outside your life, but you somehow got left behind. Left behind at a time when you’re desperate for help, compassion, someone to take notice of your struggle. I’ve had moments where I have sat in my closet, so I could just be alone for a minute and cried. It takes a village to care, to offer a hot meal dropped off, to sit with the baby so mom (or dad) can shower or nap. A date night between parents to help them feel something other than exhaustion again. It takes a village to offer a text to say “Hey, I haven’t forgotten about you, let me help.” Be someone’s village, give them a break, offer your love and support. We shouldn’t have to do this alone, we’re all in this together.