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When You're the Mom With No Village

Photograph by Twenty20

Before I had a baby, I thought the phrase “It takes a village” meant every child needed a community—family yes, but also friends, neighbors, the local librarian, letter carriers and the everyday people we encounter in life. The idea that all of us were collectively raising the next generation: poetic.

I was wrong.

The "village" is your support network. That's it. It's the people you can trust with your child. It's family who live nearby and can watch your kid for an evening—or even a whole night! It's a friend who brings some freezer meals to a new mom to help her out. It's someone you can confide in about the stresses of #momlife without feeling judged. It's how many people you can count on in an emergency. That's your village.

I admit, I envied this mom's support network.

When I was in the trenches of that first year of motherhood, I remember meeting a mom who told me she missed time alone with her husband. For a second, I thought I'd found someone to whom I could relate, but then she dropped this one: “Yeah, my parents only take him one weekend per month.”

Excuse me.

You get a whole weekend to yourself? Every month?!

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I'd gone six months without seeing the outside world with my husband, unless one of us had our infant strapped to us in a baby carrier. We were lucky to have a non-baby related conversation in-between the baby's naps. I couldn't dream of two whole nights to ourselves. On a regular basis!

I admit, I envied this mom's support network.

Our combined family was small and scattered across the country. My husband and I had just moved to a new place and didn't have many friends. We didn't have a village; we were on our own.

To the moms who don't have a village:

  • I know what it's like to wish you could just call someone over to your house to watch the baby while you take a shower, but have no one.
  • I know what it's like to be the first in your friend group to have a baby and have no one understand what you're going through.
  • I know you feel isolated.
  • I know what it's like to never be able to watch a movie while it's still in theaters.
  • I know you read things about “weekend getaways” and roll your eyes because it simply isn't a reality for your family—who'd watch the kids?
  • I know that even occasional babysitting adds up and is not always feasible for a new family.
  • I know you might have trusted and well-meaning family members who want to help but can't due to age, disability or distance.
Not having a village taught me a few things. I got firsthand knowledge about how lonely motherhood could be.

In our case, our village grew when my sister moved nearby. In addition to being adored by our daughter, I trust her completely—two essential characteristics for anyone in your village. Suddenly, we could enjoy the occasional date night and life was transformed. In time, we found a few friends and settled into our new community.

In fact, my husband and I did eventually get a weekend away by ourselves—about a year and a half into parenthood, when I coordinated the trip with my mom visiting from out of state.

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Not having a village taught me a few things. I got firsthand knowledge about how lonely motherhood could be. I learned that I couldn't be friends with just any mom I met, but that I needed to make a new friend who just happened to be a mom (much harder to do). By contrast, I also learned the real value in being able to get away when you have the kind of support every mom needs. Time away is replenishing.

Ultimately, I learned that when you don't have a big family, you have to venture out with your baby on your own. In doing so, perhaps we village-lacking moms can find each other and be there for each other in the ways that we'd like to have someone be there for us.

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