They say “it takes a village” but what do you do when you’re a mother without one?
When I was in college, I interned at New Salem State Park – an interactive historic area where interpreters (such as myself) would dress up as characters from the early 1800s:
At certain times, it was quite literally hell – or what I imagine hell to be like, because I’ve never been so hot as when I had to wear a long-sleeve dress with petticoats and a day bonnet while stoking a fire in 95 degree weather. Despite the heat, I truly loved it, as the sense of community there was unlike anything I’d ever experienced before…or since.
It was the closest to “a village” as I’ve probably ever been.
In grade school, I was cast aside by my classmates for being poor. There was no village to be had there.
In high school, I was “the new girl” but had no idea what to make of those wanting to be my friends. I’d spent the last eight years of my life trying to hide from everyone and had no idea how to trust those who wanted to get to know me. There was no village formed there.
Now here I am, soon to turn 31, and I am a mother without a village. Sure, I occasionally have friends I go out with, but they’re not moms themselves, so if they actually remember to even invite me (hello, mom gap), comments are often made that leave me drowning in mommy guilt.
And as a work-at-home mom, I don’t even have colleagues to turn to. I probably have more conversations with my cat than anyone else and while he sure makes for a great listener, he’s not exactly known for his focus (unless there’s a laser involved…)
We have no family to help us navigate the world that is parenting, no date nights or child-free fun to be had together. There’s no one for me to cry to when it’s been a hard day and I even had to have the awkward conversation with my child’s teacher as to whether I had to put down emergency contacts because frankly…there are none.
It’s certainly not easy, but in the five years since becoming a mother, I’ve slowly learned more and more how to cope as a mother without a village. Hopefully if you learn nothing else through this article, it’s that even when you feel alone, you don’t have to be.
Look to Your Children
My babies are three and four, so they’re not exactly great conversationalists, but they are the most magnificent human beings I’ve ever had the privilege of knowing. As a stay-at-home mom, it can be really easy to lose sight of just how fascinating it is to watch our children grow. Between the constant demand for food, the screaming over who had what toy first, and the general chaos that comes from those tiny tornadoes, surviving as a work-at-home mom is often just that – surviving, but not necessarily thriving. If you take a step back, though, and REALLY focus in on the gratitude you feel for the beauty that is their existence, it makes life without a village that much easier. It won’t be long before they’re off finding and building villages of their own, so cherish them while you can.
Balance the Work
If you’ve read the story of the med-free birth of my daughter, you already know just how demanding she can be. For the first two years of her life, I rarely put her down and she would often go on nursing marathons (we’re talking a latch time of 8+ hours!) Needless to say, I was the one sacrificing all the sleep during that time, but because of this, my husband is now the one who handles their bedtime routine. The best way to ensure a better life without a village is to ensure a balance between you and your partner. My husband works outside the home full-time but that doesn’t mean he then comes home, kicks up his feet, and calls it a day. Heh quite the opposite in fact! Typically when he comes home, it’s “tag, you’re it!” and he takes over the childcare duties while I tend to whatever it is I need to get done – whether that’s work, errands, or a much-needed bubble bath!
Last year we enrolled our children in a co-op preschool and it’s been by far one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life. Not only do I have a strong say in my child’s education, but I get to be as actively involved as I wish to be, which includes serving on the board as their Membership Chair. If your child’s school/daycare has opportunities to be involved, make use of them! You’ll be able to start connecting with other parents while also showing your children just how much you care. If there aren’t many opportunities there, then look to your local not-for-profits. Volunteer work is essential to a happy life and it’ll be made all the happier when you connect with others who share the same passions and values that you do. Obviously it’s not always easy to get out of the house when you have children and no support, but you can always look for volunteer opportunities to do with your children or virtual opportunities – if you’re skilled in social media or any kind of virtual work, I guarantee there’s a not-for-profit in your area that would LOVE to make use of your talents.
Build a Virtual Community
If you follow my services site, you know that one of the biggest things I attribute to my success is that I looked to build a community early on. While it’s not necessarily the same as having in-person support, you can connect to people you’d otherwise never meet, people who can relate to your struggles, celebrate your successes, and be there when you need them. There are Facebook groups for literally everything and everyone, so check a few out and start making those connections!
(And if you’re a blogger or entrepreneur, you are always more than welcome in my group.)
Pay Now, Play Later
One of the perks of not having a village is that I have more time to focus on my work as a professional business strategist and blogging mentor. It can certainly be exhausting to work almost every night and weekend, but I know that the effort I’m putting in now will certainly pay off in the future. The same goes for whatever “work” you have in your life – whether it’s outside the house or not, if you can get it done today, tomorrow will be all the better for it. So don’t mope and spend your nights watching Netflix (well, not every night anyway!) Take that “extra” time and build up additional incomes streams so you can pay down debt and be all that much closer to financial freedom. Your future self will thank you.
Being a mother without a village is exhausting. It’s painful, it’s scary, and you probably cry more days than not. That’s okay. It’s not easy, but the fact that you’re still pushing forward shows just how strong you truly are.
Here’s to pushing forward together and relishing the villages we do have, small and mighty that they be.