I don’t mean a literal village like my dad’s small village in southern Nigeria shown in these pictures. But they say it takes a village to raise a child. I agree and firmly believe this to be true for every mama! Between the kids, work (within or outside of the home), chauffeur duties and all the other things we juggle, we take all the help we can get! If you are a single mama like me, the truth in these words is amplified.
Mama, really, it takes a village! You can’t do this all by yourself. It’s hard, way too hard.
Those simpler days…
Even though I’ve now lived in the United States for a long time, I’ve spent the majority of my life (at least so far) in my home country, Nigeria. I remember many childhood days spent playing in the streets with other kids, catching “fish” (tadpoles) in the gutters and walking my “best friend forever” back and forth between her house and mine.
I miss those carefree days of innocence and laughter! One thing that has stuck with me through the years is how different the art of parenting was. I had several “aunties and uncles” on my street..neighbors were Papa x and Mama y. These people could correct and discipline me, same as my own parents. Oh! Heaven help me if I chose to go home and tell my mom that Mama y spanked me for being naughty…her typical response would be “bonus” spanking for being naughty and for reporting Mama y!
It takes a village…it always has… even back in those days!
When I was growing up, everyone pitched in…loving, training, correcting. My dad was a favorite of many of the kids on our street and could often be found playing with us outside. He was always helping someone else find a job or figure out one problem or the other. My mom was the pro bono neighborhood nurse! I can’t count how many shots were administered right there, on the living room couch, or how many prescriptions she brought home for our neighbor’s sick kids. Those were simple days..how I miss them!
Things are different…but still, it takes a village!
Things are so different today. Many parents keep their kids locked up inside, afraid for their safety or just so tired after a long day that they have no energy left for outside play. It’s so sad! Many of us don’t even know who our next door neighbors are, not to talk of their names.
We’ve become more “connected” through technology, but we are more disconnected than ever! We live such separate lives, and I sometimes long for my childhood days when folk just showed up with a packed bag without even telling you that they were coming. Probably sounds strange to many people, but this is how I grew up.
On one hand, I enjoy the courtesies that we extend to each other today…the polite “are you home? I’d like to drop by” phone call and the planning meet-ups 1 month in advance to give each other plenty of time. On the other hand, I miss the sense of community, the lack of “personal space”, the assumption that your friend would make room for you even when you arrive unannounced at her home. Why? Because we are family, and that’s what family does!
It takes a village
But even in today’s “high tech”, social-media-fueled world, it takes a village! We all need a community of trusted loved ones to support us and help us through life, even as we do the same for them.
So, whether you’re parenting alone or married, how do you find your village?
If you’re here due to divorce, I hope you’re moving forward and healing. Chances are that a lot of your relationships have changed. Old friends may feel torn between you and your ex, either taking sides or cutting you off altogether because the relationship has become too awkward. Maybe you don’t have your own family around you and previously leaned on your ex-spouse’s family for support. Chances are those relationships have changed as well.
Like you, my relationships changed after my divorce. I still have some of the same friends but because I sold my house and moved, I don’t see them as often as I once did. My family is dispersed around the globe (literally), so even though I have their emotional support and we talk often, they can’t help with daily logistics of raising two young children.
So, if it takes a village, how do you find your village?
To be honest, I don’t have all the answers and I’m still trying to figure this out. However, God has brought some amazing people around me that have helped me in so many ways. I’ll share some of these people below and maybe you can find these in your own life as well.
After my marriage ended, I moved closer to work so that my kids and work could be in close proximity to help with logistics. Well, it happened that a few months before this, I had been invited to a party where I met another mum and her family (we”ll call her Ada).
Imagine my surprise when I moved into my new home and found that Ada lives in the same neighborhood! And not only that, we found out that we are extended family (her uncle is married to my aunt!), we had just never met before this time.
Coincidence? I think not!
God orchestrated this way before I knew that I would even need this. Ada and I, as well as our little ones, have become good friends. When I had to travel to my dad’s funeral, guess who stepped in to help pick up my kids from school? Or who made it possible for my son to be part of his school’s math club by helping me with pick up when I had to work late? Again and again, Ada has stepped in to help me. Of course, I reciprocate by watching her little one when she and her husband want to enjoy a date night or late outings.
I share this story to assure you that God cares about the details of your life! He knows what you need and will help you as you ask Him.
Make friends with other mamas (single and married)! This is a great group to trade kiddie favors with, plan girls night outs (or ins) and just generally support you. There’s nothing like a good girlfriend when you don’t want to fly solo to that party where you know everyone else will be coupled up or to hang out at movies or the shopping mall.
It takes a village, but something to be careful about is that if your close friend is married, make sure you’re friends with her husband as well, and try to avoid visiting when she’s not present. You don’t want any awkward misunderstandings to ruin your friendship. If you need him to help you with something at your house, try to have her come over as well…be wise in your dealings with any married men that you regularly come in contact with. Don’t create cause for unnecessary drama!
Your church family
My church family was very supportive during my divorce. They cried and prayed with me more times than I can remember. I have also made some new single mama friends from small study groups at church. It’s great to be able to support and encourage others who know what it feels like to be walking in my shoes. Women’s Bible study, Parenting classes and Divorce recovery programs at church are great places to make new friends.
My kids have been blessed with great school teachers whom I consider to be a core part of my village (whether they know this or not!). Now, does this mean that I expect them to parent my kids? Of course not! But I work closely with them to reinforce correction and discipline at home. My kids’ school teachers know that they can count on me to support them as they work with my kids in school to correct any poor behaviors or encourage the good ones.
I think as parents, we do our children a great disservice if we don’t allow other responsible adults in their lives to correct them, and visibly support them as they do so. Allowing other trustworthy adults to speak into their lives is a critical way to teach our kids to respect authority. To be responsible adults in the future, they will need to learn how to obey rules and follow instructions, who better than us to teach them how to do this?
You can find groups on Facebook for pretty much anything these days! Even though these people may not be physically near you, they can be a source of emotional support. Just be careful about the advice that you get, make sure you filter everything with the Word of God. You might even find some ladies in your online group that live near enough to plan periodic meet-ups and get some girlie face time!
Many of us like to keep our personal lives separate from our “corporate” lives. Especially as mums (even worse for single mums), we don’t want to give the impression that because we have children, we are not committed to our jobs and often try to keep our private lives “hyper-private”. This may be necessary depending on how formal your work environment is.
However, do remain open to the possibility of friendships developing in the workplace. We spend so much time at work every day! Having friends that we work with makes the office more fun and even though I don’t have any supporting research, I would think it increases our productivity as well.
Caution! It goes without saying that building your community goes hand-in-hand with prayer! Lots of prayers! The last thing you want is to expose your kids to people who will harm them. So, make sure you’re asking God to bring the right people into your lives and to shield you from anyone with bad intentions.
As you watch and pray, you will be surprised at the community that God will raise around your family!!
So mama, do you find this helpful? Now that you know that it takes a village, what’s your game plan? How are you going to build your tribe to make sure that you are not carrying this burden and walking alone? Share your plan below!