That’s the saying, isn’t it? I think long ago parents did have a village, living close to their own parents and siblings and other members of the extended family. I often wonder how things would be different for me if I’d had my children in Bristol. I suspect my kids and my sister’s kids would spend a lot of time together. I imagine shared babysitting duties meaning we’d all get a bit more time off. I’d have my mum too, and my little ones would probably have sleepovers at her house the way my sister’s children do.
That’s not how it worked out for me though, and two years and five months into parenting I’ve just realised that I do have a village. Right here in the valleys.
Parenting can be isolating. I often wonder if I’d actually be happier if I had a job outside the home. Would the contact with other adult humans make me feel better? In reality, I doubt it. I have no idea what I’d do. I wouldn’t earn enough to cover childcare for two making it pointless from a financial point of view. Plus, I actually really do love that I can spend all of my days with my children until they go to school.
We’re good, me and my two, at getting out of the house. Between playgroups, going to the library, having lunch in a cafe occasionally and spending as much time as we can outdoors in all weathers, we don’t sit around the house much at all. Now that Iris is in nursery two mornings a week, I get some time alone with Astrid. I have some time alone with Iris during Astrid’s many naps. Things are calmer. We still have horrendous days when I just can’t cope with them at all (last Monday was a real bitch) but generally I’m not stressed out or struggling to get through the days.
Last week I went to see a show. Ballet and circus skills and beautiful music. It was so beautiful. It was written by a friend I met through breastfeeding group, and so many of us turned up for it. To support her. That’s when I realised that they’d turn up for me too. These wonderful women are my village. Some of them brought gifts when Astrid was born. A few offered to bring us cooked meals. One looked after our guinea pig when we were away. We’ve been away camping with some of them. They’ve passed on clothes and toys when they don’t need them anymore, and we’ve passed ours on too. We started a crochet club and taught each other.
More than anything though, I’m so grateful for them just being there.
We set up a private Facebook group last year, with just a handful of mums in it. I know I can post about anything in there. Even if it’s just a little rant about lack of sleep, or advice about weaning or nappies or something. Somebody will reply. Every time.
You need other parents when you become a parent. Well, I did anyway. I was sure my current friends would do just fine after having kids, but actually I did need the ones who had kids more. You can’t understand the guilt or the worry or the love before your children come along. I thought you could, but you definitely can’t.
I know I’m not the only parent who quietly bubbles with anger when a childless person says they are tired.
You can’t bother your childless friends at 3am when your baby won’t sleep and you’ve worked yourself up into a bit of a state. At least one of your parent friends will be up anyway, in a similar boat. You can’t worry about breastfeeding, weaning, nappy rash, school applications, birthday parties, not being the weirdo mum at the school gate, teething or potty training with somebody without kids. You’ll just bore them to sleep. I know, because I used to be bored by parents and how much they talk about their little ones.
It’d be really wonderful to have my mum, my sister, my best friends and their kids all on my doorstep. There have been so many occasions when I’ve longed for that, and even a few times when I’ve got overwhelmed and gone back for a bit of a break. I imagine I’ll always feel like that to some extent. Last week my closest friends ever made the drive over the bridge and hanging out with them and their little ones was just so great. I will always always wish we could do that more often.
But we can do it. Not every week because the trains are expensive and so is the bridge toll. But it is possible.
And even when we can’t, I have my new village now. A village within a town in the valleys of South Wales.
It feels like home.