I never really knew what the saying ‘It takes a village to raise a child’ really meant until I had Hector.
I mean I could understand the logic behind such a statement, the sentiment it was communicating but I didn’t really KNOW what it meant. Not in the sense of experiencing it first-hand. It was just one of those phrases you hear and accept, yet not really pay any attention to.
In fact I’ll be the first to admit that I probably still haven’t fully comprehended all the subtle nuances of the saying and I probably won’t until Hector is much older. But by god I’m at least 90% of the way there.
I’ve said before on both these pages and on Rock My Style too that I’m a self-confessed perfectionist and a bit of a control freak too. Throw in the fact that I abhor getting things wrong and I really don’t like asking for help either and you’ve not got the best combination of traits for a new mum to possess.
I was certain I could and I would do it all on my own.
How wrong can a girl be.? Hint: VERY.
I’m not saying that it’s not possible to parent on your own…far from it. It’s just that it’s a darn sight harder when you’ve got only two hands and you’re so tired that it hurts to open your own eyes. I take my hat off to those mums and dads who do it solo; you’re my heroes.
My mum is of the opinion that I subconsciously made the decision to get pregnant when I did i.e. whilst undergoing a (still continuing) massive house refurb which meant that we had to temporarily move into her house and therefore back into the bosom of the family. I still claim that the gin is to blame; her idea has merit though…When better to have a baby when you have so many helping hands a mere few meters away?
Even whilst pregnant with Hector I was insistent that despite living with so many members of my family that Ste and I would need to carve out a space to become our own intimate family of three. I think it confounded him at times, after all we are both incredibly family orientated and I’m lucky enough to adore all of his relatives and he mine. Why would we not want to involve anyone and everyone? I’m not sure why I became so fiercely protective of our gang of three and our privacy, perhaps I felt a bit space-invaded as Hector grew inside me although you’re not supposed to admit that are you…
When Hector was born the pressure to ‘share’ grew. Naturally everyone wanted to cuddle him, to hold him, to stare at all of his teeny tiny features and to generally celebrate the fact that he was here and to welcome him into their lives. And I loved that, I really did. But there was always the underlying sense of feeling encroached upon, of needing our own space, of wanting everyone to just back off for five minutes so that Ste and I could adjust to our new dynamics and I felt overwhelmingly guilty about that. Surely we needed to bring up Hector as a duo didn’t we, rather than relying on anyone else around us? I wanted us to fully embrace the responsibility that a new baby brings.
It took me rather a long time to accept help, that I couldn’t and didn’t need to do it all on my own and in fact there were benefits to be gained for both me and for Ste and for Hector from letting people in, by letting them share their advice and their own experiences too. After all, all they were doing was loving him and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. In fact there’s absolutely everything right with that.
Once I’d got to grips with the fact that I wasn’t failing as a mother if I handed Hector over to one of my sisters whilst Ste and I got a vital hour’s kip in the early days or that actually it was ok to listen to someone else’s way of doing things even if at the end you didn’t always agree with it, things became suddenly easier. Life became easier. And as a result I became a better parent. My stress levels decreased and I was able to hear the advice given to me by those who had already trodden the parenthood path. Hector benefitted threefold.
And my family are still, even as I write this, helping me to raise my gorgeous boy. Both my mum and my middle sister help out with looking after him whilst I crack through my weekly to do list for all three blogs in the Rock My Ltd empire. Gary, my stepdad and Hector’s Grampa, is his swimming companion and they have a date every Saturday morning leaving me free to tend to the vegetable patch in the garden for that precious hour. I love that they all adore spending time with him, that he’s developing his relationship as they do so, teaching him things in their own way that perhaps I would do differently. Variety is the spice of life after all.
I love that Ste’s parents have had four boys and so are fully versed in all things masculine and rough and tumble and had five grandchildren already before Hector made his appearance. They are 24 carat gold and fully experienced grandparents and it makes my heart full that he knows to go to Nanny for more cheese and the sneaky biscuit and to Grandad if he wants to sled down the grass in their garden. They offer him their own life experience and wisdom in a way that Ste and I don’t have yet and he is all the richer for it.
It doesn’t mean that I don’t feel guilty asking all these family members to give up their precious time to help me bring up Hector. It’s true that I experience an attack of the guilts every time I ask my mum if she wouldn’t mind babysitting whilst Ste and I have a rare date night out or when I text my sister on a Thursday morning to check that she’s still ok to look after Hector the next day. I’m conscious that they have their own lives yet they give this up willingly and lovingly whenever I ask them for help; I absolutely could not function without them.
I’m not sure where this post is going particularly, only that I wanted to share my experiences as a mum of a 21 month old toddler so far. To show you that you’re not alone, that you don’t need to do it by yourself and that there are are benefits to be gleaned from sharing your parenting experience with others be they friends or family. It doesn’t, as I naively once thought, mean that you’ve failed in any way as a mum or dad.
Just remember it takes a village to raise a child.