“The most important thing to get for your baby is not a Rock n’ Play, nor a good set of swaddling blankets, nor a high-end stroller. The most important thing to get for your baby is a village. Your village will keep you afloat. They will carry you when you are tired, feed you when you are starving, forgive you when you are unkempt and hours late and a neglectful friend who can’t remember to wear socks let alone whose birthday it is. They will love your baby when you are too tired or frustrated to hold her at the moment, because you are imperfect and human and have imperfect and human failings. They will remind you who you are when you start to think your whole life is only about poop. They will lift you up.”
I came across this quote in a Huffington Post article.
This is a topic I intended on writing about. I delayed, and delayed, and delayed. Once I read this though, I knew it was time to address this idea.
I am a complete advocate for living in a multi-generational environment when you have young children. After I gave birth to my first son, I calculated just the right amount of adult human beings it required to adequately care for a baby and for yourself. 4. Four human beings. Definitely. Serioulsly, check it out; it works in a perfect rotation: 1 cooking, 1 cleaning, 1 socializing with baby, and 1 sleeping. FREAKING PERFECT!
4 ‘parents’ in a household though; how does this work?
I come from a culture that does this, but I am American. I am born and raised here. Its not really part of our culture. Additionally, I married an American man who does not come from a foreign culture of the ‘It Takes A Village’ background. I knew while pregnant that this would be ideal, but how will this come together.
Our first living situation as parents included my partner’s brother and sister. This living situation also left me as the oldest. Although there were a couple of benefits, I still ended up being a ‘mommy’ to everyone in some ways.
The second situation was better. We lived with my partner’s father and wife. Together, they had a 4 year old. Wonderful. Our sons played together. My son had someone that he could model behavior after, including small things like drinking from a ceramic mug or scrambling an egg. My husband’s step-Mom would prepare delicious home-cooked meals intended to provide leftovers for EVERYBODY for 2 extra days. It was so nice when coming home, wondering (as Bohemian Mamas do) ‘what the hell am I going to prepare for this kid?’ and arriving to dinner on the table! ugh, amazing.
Doing laundry worked out well too. If I was about to wash items, I’d let her know and ask if she wanted to add anything, and vice versa. Fantabulous. On top of all of this, my husband and I were unexpected parents; we definitely did not plan our child and did not have some household staple items that would cost a lot of money to buy all at once. Well, living this way we had our in-law’s furniture, dishes, and kitchen appliances at our disposal. And best of all, there always seemed to be somebody home (as my husband’s siblings were over quite often). It was easy for me to pop my head into somebody’s room and tell them I’ll be back in half an hour because I need to pick up groceries, or dry-cleaning or go to an ATM or just breathe!
What was even greater, was once the children were asleep, my husband and I could leave…together. What a concept. An adult would be home and we could just walk around the neighborhood if that was all we wanted to do.
Yes, there were some cons, but the pros far outweighed them.
These days, we no longer live communally. Though we are liking the extra privacy, it is harder and more time consuming. I do wish we at least lived next door or above or below some family to get some of the perks of living with extended family.
Wrapping up all of my experiences in one piece of advice, I say,
Live communally when you first have children.
The benefits are great and especially for your little one. To be quasi-raised by loving grandparents is tremendous and to observe what it takes to operate a functional household is immeasurable.
I am friends to many couples with young children where neither spouse has family in-state. This can be very difficult, especially in our culture where the ‘do-it-yourself’ ethic is lauded. Because of that, it may be a challenge for the couple to ask for help, especially to non-family members. If you are a friend, I’ll speak for them: They Need You. They need someone to walk their daughter around the block while they finish dinner. They need someone to take their son to the park for 2 hours so that laundry can be completed. They need sleep. Badly. If you could give them an opportunity to nap, that may be the most valuable deed to them. But almost certainly, they need you to understand that their life is completely different; they do not have opportunity nor priority to hang out with you the way they used to. They have a drastic change in interests. They cannot be the friend they were in the same way at all; they can not do as much for you as you do for them. Be understanding. That’s what they need most.
If you are a couple with young children and you are losing your minds, build your community. Bring in close, trusted friends and explain how you have no family around and really need assistance. Join online communities and find other families like yours who have no extended family around. Be each others’ support. Trade off child watching. Schedule it, you take Wednesdays and they take Sundays. Whatever you can do, because parenting in this fast-paced society is not conducive to child-rearing in a healthy, well-rounded way; so you have to think differently. You have to DO differently. Or somebody suffers. And if its not your child, then its you.
And You are what your child needs.
Keep your sanity. Build your community.
~ Bohemian Mama
If you’d like to read the entire article, click here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/karyn-thurston/10-true-things-about-the-first-year-of-parenthood_b_4254464.html” title=”10 True Things About the First Year of Parenthood”
*disclamer: make sure that the people you have around your children are psychologically healthy and completely trust worthy. Do not have your children around dangerous or predatory people.*