Raising our babies minus the village
When Elijah was a little one, I distinctly remember thinking that our western society had it all wrong. I was home all day with him (by choice) and it was feeling a bit much some days, and at the same time my husband was at work all day, every day and only getting tiny snatches of time during the week with his son.
I mean really, is this the best we can do? One parent overwhelmed and touched out, and the other missing out on so much, and wanting more.
I remember clock watching in the late afternoon, just waiting for Stu to come home.
I needed him to help me, I needed time out, I needed adult conversation, I needed support. Still to this day all these years later, I just love the moment that Stu comes in the door from work. It makes me feel safe and I am sure it is a hangover from those early days.
Let's be clear. I really wanted to be a stay at home mum. It was super important to me and it was absolutely my choice. I wasn't going to have it any other way. I didn't use daycare, a nanny or babysitters. I was determined that I could do this thing myself and that I 'should' after the four years and 3 cycles of IVF it took to get my baby. I had my blinkers on and it was crushing me.
I couldn't see that I needed a village. I wouldn't let anyone look after him. Actually it felt like I couldn't. My family wanted so desperately to be more involved but I just couldn't let that baby out of my sight or my arms.
To add salt to the wound, I didn't have a coffee group. The antenatal class we attended when pregnant really didn't gel or get off the ground. We never even exchanged numbers. I thought I was fine without, just doing my own thing. Turns out I wasn't.
However the stars were about to align in a way that was going to give me something I didn't know I needed. My naturopath suggested I join a local programme - a weekly group for first time mums run by the local playcentre. I got brave and went along and met some wonderful people. One of whom was my saviour. We clicked, our kids clicked and she invited me to join her coffee group. It was a game changer. Suddenly I had all these other new mums and their babies in my life, a few of whom lived in walking distance from me. Hello village!
When Elijah was two I forced myself to send him to a community creche a couple of hours a week. Separation anxiety from the parent's side - hell yes, that was me!
Usually while he was there, I thought about him constantly, wondering if he was OK, raced around the supermarket and then back to pick him up making sure I was nice and early so he never felt abondoned.
Around the same time I started working part time at my old school. And when I say part time, I honestly think I started on 2 hours a week supporting a child with special needs. The only person I would let look after Elijah was my mum who had to catch two buses to get to me and took her whole day to care for Elijah for two hours. I can never thank my non-driving mum enough for what she did for me back then. Her pilgrimage from the North Shore to Sandringham via public transport was truly a labour of love.
It did get easier. Kindy came along which meant more sessions in the most wonderful environment that lit my child up. The balance of time together and apart was better but I also felt such a strong part of the kindy community which fulfilled me too. We need these outside options for our young children as we cannot possibly do it all alone.
My child didn't just need me. He needed his grandparents, cousins, aunties and uncles. He needed neighbours, kindy teachers and he needed friends.
He needed a village.
I do think the village is harder to come by now. We have to work at it a bit more. Our people are not always right on our doorstep anymore. What I didn't realise when I was a new mum at home with a small child, struggling a bit, that he and I BOTH needed the village.
I thought I was doing the right thing by being there for him 24 hours a day, 7 days a week but he needed more than me. He needed me AND others, and I needed those others too.
Thank you to all of my 'others' who helped me, even when I didn't realise I needed help xx