Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Parenting Without The Village

"It takes a village to raise a child"

I'm sure we're all familiar with that saying, and there are a number of ways it can be read.

I've always assumed it to mean that a child needs the knowledge and guidance of not just their own parents but many people, in order to be raised as a well rounded individual...
But lately I've wondered if perhaps the saying is actually referring to the need for outside support and guidance for the parents themselves, instead of just the child.

Being a parent, while being one of life's biggest blessings, is also extremely tough at times.
No matter how natural you may be at the role, there are always moments when it becomes difficult.

I know that is certainly true for me....particularly recently.

I have 3 children aged 3 and under, they are all lively and spirited children and they are all demanding in their own ways - my 3 year old needs one on one attention a lot of the time, my 22 month old is lively to say the least and has just entered into the wonderful world of epic tantrums, and my youngest is just finding his feet and often trying to get himself into dangerous situations.

And there are many many times throughout each day when they all need my attention at once.

My eldest only goes to nursery a couple of afternoons per week (and even that brings about its own emotional turmoil and tantrums), the younger two children are at home with me all of the time and neither of them nap together...in fact its rare that either of them naps at all for more than 20 minutes.
We can't afford any more childcare.

As much of a blessing as my children are...they are also hard work. Particularly when you work from home and are responsible for meeting deadlines, agreeing contracts and finding paid work...these things are not easily done with a trio of children constantly demanding your attention, constant lunches and snacks needing to be made, constant household chores needing to be done and so on.

There are often times when they are all in grouchy moods, when they are all hungry at once, when they are all tired at once, when they are all sick at once, when they are all running wild at once.

But my work can't stop because its our income...
And the children can't wait because they're children and they need me NOW...

So what are you supposed to do?

And at those times, when your head is pounding and you just NEED a moment of silence to catch your breath and compose yourself and try to figure out exactly how you're going to get through the day... it is HARD.

In the modern world of social media, we spend our days surrounded by images of what everybody else is doing - and so often, during these frazzled moments of my day when I feel like tearing my hair out, I see my peers posting Instagram pictures of their "childfree" date nights or talking of how much housework or other work they're getting through while the kids are off with their grandparents or mother in laws etc.

I read a blog post just this week about Alphabet themed date nights somebody was having with their other half  with such envy, I had initially thought to myself "Oh we could do that, that sounds so fun"...but then I realised that no, we can't... as we're lucky if we can manage a date night once a month (it's rare that it ends up being a date night and not a "do all the things we need to get done while we have a babysitter" night) and even if we do then its always something that's organised last minute leaving no opportunity for planning anything...a date night once a week or a fortnight or every 3 weeks would be an absolute dream.

I hear about friends of mine having weekly pre-arranged days without their children while the grandparents look after them, and I feel almost green with envy...not because I don't love my kids and want them around, but because raising 3 little ones so young and trying to bring in an income to support them all from home at the same time is exhausting - and  having an arrangement like that would make it so much easier and more manageable.

Just having one regular day where I could get on with my work and know that anything that needs to be done could be done on that day would make such a huge difference to me...but it's not possible.

And, as much as it pains me to admit it...because I hate being a jealous person and I hate to sound as though I resent my children in any way, it makes me feel bitter and shortchanged.

I know that it's all about perspective, and that people will be reading this with envy because we are lucky to get that occasional evening out every couple of months ...and they could only dream of that because they have even less help than we do...I know that. But it doesn't make it any easier when I feel like I'm struggling to make ends meet and keep doing the best I can in all of my roles...mother, breadwinner, home maker, etc etc.

It feels like I'm at the bottom of the mountain struggling to climb any higher, while I see those around being given that helping hand to climb a little further. It feels like they are being pulled a little higher up to where the air is clearer and it's easier to breathe...and lagging way behind, and all I can do is keep struggling on, trying to get further up the mountain but never really moving very far.

It's only recently that I've realised how isolated we are where we live, and how little help we have.

We don't really know anybody in the area we live in.
Our nearest friends are a 40 minutes drive away and have children and jobs of their own to worry about.
Our nearest relative is my sister who also lives in another part of the county, and has her own 3 children and a job to worry about.

My children do not have two sets of grandparents.
Jon's parents have both been dead for years.
His only other family member is his brother, who lives a ten hour drive from where we live.
My parents live a 5 hour drive away.

There is nobody else.

No great grandparents left living, no other aunts and uncles, nobody.
If in the middle of the night one of us was to take ill and need to go to hospital, we would all have to go...because there is no available babysitter around.

If I'm struggling to catch up with work (which I always, always am) then there is very rarely anyone to call on to take the boys off my hands for a few hours so that I can get things done.

Of course I am very grateful for the help we do get when my parents are here, and I'm very aware that MANY parents don't even have that much help...that they have NO assistance at all.

So I'm not complaining.

But I am admitting that sometimes I struggle not to feel jealous of all those people whose families are close to them, whose children visit grandparents every single weekend while their parents get some quality time together or time to just do something for themselves.

I'm admitting that sometimes I really wish we lived closer to family.
Sometimes I just wish I had somebody I could just pop around the corner to visit whenever things were getting a bit overwhelming - just to chat to someone else about it.

My sister lives close to her childrens other grandmother, and when I visit and see her popping in with some shopping for them, or arranging times to collect the younger child while my sister takes the older ones to ballet lessons, and just doing grandmotherly things - it makes me a little bit sad, because I think about how much easier our lives would be if we had that kind of regular help and support...if we lived closer to my mum....how much less stressful things would be.

Even on holidays, I can't help but notice how many families like ours are usually travelling with their parents - we met a young family on our last cruise holiday who were travelling with three children, similar ages to ours, and I asked them with interest how they were managing with three young kids on board - but they told us that they were travelling with the childrens grandparents who were helping out at meal times and bed times, giving them some free time for themselves and making things easier.

 They told me how they wouldn't even consider going on holiday without their parents to help.

And again I thought of all the "if onlys"...I saw that couple so many times during that holiday, sitting in the jacuzzi together of an evening without the kids, enjoying a quiet meal for two in the restaurant...things that we won't have again until the kids are grown up, which I don't want to look forward to...I don't want to wish their childhoods away in the hope of some time to relax.

But it's hard sometimes to appreciate the here and now when the here and now is always so stressful.

I don't want to complain...I love my children and I love being their mother, and I wouldn't change it for the world...

But sometimes, when things are so stressful...you really wish there was a "Grandmas House" around the corner to drop in on for some tea and sympathy...or just someone you could ask to watch the kids for an hour while you nip to the shops or do some chores....

 Sometimes I just really miss my "village"....

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