It is of course, wildly fulfilling but also terribly consuming. It makes me unbelievably happy and fulfilled and yet, there are days that I want to pull out my hair and run away.
In the busy and delicate balance of juggling work, parenting, and marriage we are told not to forget about ourselves. We are encouraged to find time away from the house with friends. We are told to pursue our individual interests. We are told to find time to indulge. We are told to prioritize our marriage.
What we are not told is that all of those things are harder to do when you don’t have a village.
Villages are supposed to raise children. But our family does not live in a village.
Our family resides on an island. With a single house. And perhaps a partially rusted skiff tied to the dock.
Parenting is harder on an island.
On our island, there are three humans. One of them is fairly small but quite demanding.
We tend to revolve around her.
And the two larger humans are sometimes exhausted and cranky.
Okay, fine.. we are often exhausted and cranky.
Our island occasionally gets visitors. Grandparents drift in with general supplies and offers of childcare services. Their visits are nice and always appreciated. But they don’t live on our island. They don’t live anywhere near it. Sooner or later, they depart our little piece of shoreline and once again, we will find ourselves alone.
In the day to day of life our island is quite lonely. And it can be tough.
It is pretty difficult to escape our island. If we want a date night or any time away together, we have to make arrangements for someone to come to our island. And they don’t make the trip for free. This means that our nights out are usually spent constantly watching the clock so that we can get back to our island before it costs us a small fortune. And of course, picking the most frugal and often-times least fun activities so that we can even pay for the privilege to leave our island.
I must admit I am often jealous of parents with villages.
I’m sure a village has drawbacks, but I long to have a reliable village to raise my daughter in. A village that would support us in our parenting goals and methods. A village that could offer her encouragement and love in our absence. A village that I knew I could count on when life got tough. A village that my daughter could come to rely on.
As I sit on my lonely shoreline, I see other islands. I see other parents in need of companionship and support. I see other islanders desperate for respite. And I start to wonder… maybe we should form an archipelago?
We could connect our islands. We could actively form pathways between them.
I can pledge to be there for another mom and she can pledge to be there for me.
My child becomes hers and hers becomes mine.
What if, instead of dreaming of a village I don’t have, I just make one for myself?
For my family. For my daughter.
For your family. For your children.
Children grow best when they have broad experiences and exposures.
Children grow best when their parents are intentional.
Children grow best when mommy and daddy have a little sanity left over at the end of the day.
So I propose that islanders like myself decide that we longer live on a lonely islands with only our children. Rather, let’s dive in and connect our lives to create a massive chain of islands with lots of children.
Perhaps children do grow best in villages.
But maybe they can grow just as well in an archipelago.
I’m certainly down for trying.