Being a parent is such a hard job. We don’t talk about that nearly enough. Or, if we do mention it, we quickly follow it with “but it’s soooooo worth it” or something of the like. Well, I’m not here for that. In this blog, we’re going to sit in the hardness for a bit with no justifications and no qualifiers.
I repeat: Being a parent is such a hard job. Period. End of sentence.
If you’re a stay-at-home parent trying to keep your kids alive, lacking adult interaction (and probably a shower), attempting to teach your kids about colors and numbers, and also attempting to keep your house clean (and stay somewhat sane) — it’s a hard job.
If you’re a working parent who races through each morning in an effort to get the kids to school on time and yourself to work on time (with stain-free clothes), juggling meetings and calls to the pediatrician, and also attempting to spend enough time with your kids, keep your house clean (and stay somewhat sane) — it’s a hard job.
Because we’re all stretched so thin, it’s easy to get stuck in the trenches. Our every day tasks are piled so high, and they consume our lives. We put our children first, time and time again. Eventually, any attempts at self care tend to fly out the window almost effortlessly.
But that’s not okay.
If you don’t take care of yourself, you CANNOT and WILL NOT be the best version of yourself. Not for your children. Not for your spouse. Not for your work. Not for your family and friends. And certainly not for yourself.
Possibly the most famous saying regarding raising children is the African proverb:
“It takes a village to raise a child.”African Proverb
I knew that saying before I was a mom, but I never really thought much about what it actually meant. When I first became a mom, I really felt the original intention behind this saying. Friends and family were babysitting, coming over to help with chores, bringing us dinner, and so on. I was filled with gratitude for my “village.” But then, a month or two later, life moves on. The food stops coming. Friends and family still help when they can, but it’s nothing like those early days. That’s totally okay, and 100% understandable– they have their own lives. But it doesn’t mean that I never felt lonely. I’d always been told it takes a village, and mine suddenly felt so small.
That’s when I had to redefine who and what my village includes. I’m sure the original intention of the proverb was referring to generations of families who live together, raising children and taking care of the elderly together. But the world has changed! People work well into their 60s, have kids well into their 30s, don’t live as close together, etc. Because of this, our definition of “village” has to change, too.
As these thoughts were swirling in my head, I was casually listening to Kristen Bell on an episode of Armchair Expert with Dax Shepard. Almost out of nowhere, the conversation randomly shifts to nannies, and Kristen says:
“Whether you send your kid to daycare, you send your kid to preschool, you have a babysitter, you have grandma come or you have a nanny, whether you work, or you do not work — there is not one acceptable way to raise your children. It takes a village.”Kristen Bell on Armchair Expert with Dax Shepard
Ding, ding, ding! That was it. My village doesn’t just have to include friends and family, it CAN and SHOULD include all of the people in our lives who help us raise our kiddos. This includes his teachers at daycare and our babysitters, in addition to friends and family, of course. The nurses at the pediatrician’s office who answer all my silly questions. My boss who lets me leave on a dime without question when I get the dreaded call from daycare that Brecken threw up. Even the women in my working moms Facebook group, as well as the online acquaintances I never talked to much until we had kids born around the same time. When you start thinking about your village as this larger group, you suddenly feel so much more supported.
Recognizing this extended village and embracing the help has been a game changer for my entire family. Of course it doesn’t change how hard parenthood is, but it does make me feel like I can prioritize my own self-care more, because I know I have a ready and willing village behind me who are ready to back me up.
Disclaimer: This piece was also published on Thought Catalog.