It takes a village to raise a child.
That was the thing. You heard it all the time. It burned into your ears and stayed there, right next to your brain, almost all through youth. It was reassuring. All those hands to help.
Then, one day, you had a little boy.
All the milkshakes and yoga and hypnobirthing classes were fantastic for getting ready for him to arrive. But once he did, where was the village?
Isolation and loneliness, things that are part of the DNA of Seattle, where my son was born, didn’t help me find the help when I most needed it.
Fatigue, overhwhelm, anxiety, worry, and the stretched-thin bank of compassion put giant strains on our bodies and our marriage. Our doula, KS, said that 70% of divorces that happen occur during the first three years of a new child’s arrival. SEVENTY percent.
If you’re reading, and you’ve been here before in this soup of new parenthood that makes you think that someone forgot to put the instructions and the warnings into the box of Perfect Pregnancy Package, the one that comes with those free magazines you have no idea how they got your address to send you, those?, then please bear with me.
Five years have passed. The boy runs, jumps, Doesn’t Listen, and has a stockpile of quotes from Piglet.
And I am in the village. The real one.
But it has nothing to do with place.
This is Phnom Penh, and sure, there are big families around that swoop in to help hold the baby. But they aren’t going to breastfeed or rock the child at all hours of the night, or sit in a hammock and swing and coo, sing and soften, or melt into a whirl of hormones when they hear a certain kind of cry.
The village is accepting. Things like:
- I am not going to have the surroundings of lots of people who will sweep in to help, even if that was the programming from Bollywood films about “Indian culture.”
- I am not going to share the small beautiful things with the people in my family whom I once, when I was younger, imagined would care about things like first words or numbers of teeth or favorite little blurrings of the English language that the toddler makes
- I am not going to ALWAYS talk about him, but sometimes, I WILL mommyblog, and that’s okay
- I will give a wide berth to myself and my husband as we sort out the way to enjoy ourselves, and our world, and our son, together
- I will not go looking for the answers to hard questions in foreign countries (India and Vietnam and Thailand are just as individualistic and consumerist as America)
- I will ignore the bozos
The “bozos” are the people who always say you can’t do a thing. You oughtn’t. That there’s a different, better way. But the thing is, they don’t know anything. They haven’t tried much. They just complain. This is what I learned at a tech startup conference from Guy Kawasaki. “Don’t let the bozos get you down.”
So there it is.
The real village is about all of us—those of us who share and who listen. It’s not a place, or a community, or a family, or a tribe. It’s a collection of images and stories, of things that are passed along, of wisdom and nuggets and bits like that “bozos” thing that maybe, just by reading or hearing it once, your life is altered in small, but important, ways.
Would you agree?