Where’s the Village?

 

There was a time when I would just nod and smile when someone would say, “It takes a village!” “Sure, sure,” I’d think to myself. “I’m pretty rock solid on my own.”

What I didn’t know was that I had a village.

I had a built-in support system that I took for granted. I had church, neighbors, my mom, in-laws, friends, and a small-town life that helped me in ways unseen. My village wasn’t daycare or school or paid babysitters, which is what I imagined a “village” to be. My village was a culture of shared responsibility and love for my family.

When we moved to Chattanooga, my family became an island. A deserted island. We are the island in the movie Castaway and I am now Tom Hanks, trying to maintain my sanity until help arrives. I find myself wondering if people are looking for us or if it’s just Wilson and me here for the long haul.

Wilson and I put on a good front. Most of the time we are hanging in there, finding food, staying clean, keeping a roof over our heads. Then there are the days when the life that once was catches in my throat and it’s like I can’t breathe. I remember grandparents that lived five minutes away. I remember a church where everyone knew our names and smiled when we walked through the door. I remember friends who would come scrub my toilets and cook dinner when I was sick or my husband was away. I remember neighbors who would feed the cat when we went out of town, pharmacists who knew me by name and medications, and baristas who had my coffee order as soon as I stepped up to the counter.

Two years in Chattanooga and I still feel utterly alone.

I have lots of friends, a wonderful job, and I do truly adore this city. Raising children without that village, though? It is exhausting and suffocating and completely overwhelming. I frequently ask people if they’re interested in being my kids’ local grandparents. They laugh, I laugh, then comes that awkward moment when I say, “No…seriously. Will you help me?” 

Mamas, I don’t know why we do it. We put up this front like we have it all together and we don’t need that village. We need the village. I NEED THE VILLAGE.

How many of us are drowning behind those sweet Instagram pics? How many of us smile through the hallways at the gym or down the aisles of Target, only to get to the car and burst into tears over the sheer weight of it all? Why do we think we can do it on our own? Why are we faking it?

We aren’t doing ourselves any favors trying to handle all the things. I imagine people see me and all my sweet boys and think, “Wow. She’s just got it all together, doesn’t she? I would offer to help, but my goodness! She’s superwoman!” Allow me to shed the mask. I’m not superwoman. I’m the crazy lady talking to a volleyball and praying for a rescue plane.

In this big, isolated world we need each other. The mama who looks like she has it all together may not have even one thing together. She may be doing her level best to hide the panic, wishing someone would offer to share the weight. As mamas we need to be honest with each other. We need to know we aren’t alone in feeling alone. We need to share our struggles and talk about the hard stuff. We need to pray for each other and love on each other and share this wonderful heavy burden that is motherhood in the modern age.

Parents and grandparents and childless friends and coworkers and passersby: we need your help. We probably won’t ask for it, or we’ll ask jokingly and laugh and secretly hope you take it seriously. Please, offer to come over and watch our kids so we can spend a single uninterrupted night with our spouse. Treat us like you want us and our children around. Nothing makes us feel less loved than those who treat our children like unwelcome intruders. Love us. Support us. Tell us we’re doing a good job. Offer a pat on the back or a Starbucks gift card or a safe space to cry and complain.

Most of all, SEE us. See through the smile and the forced laughter. Stop long enough to notice. And if anyone is interested in some local grandkids, I have four awesome boys who love Legos, superheroes, video games, Harry Potter, and ice cream. Seriously, though. 

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