If having kids has taught is anything it is that there is no village. I’ve been teaching this for years so you would think I wouldn’t be so bothered by this, but I am. We live a country where you are expected to raise children alone, to work and care for kids without any outside help. Asking for help is a sign of weakness. It’s bullshit. We have conversations about this all the time. Yes, we chose to have our kids. Yes, we knew it would be a lot of work. Yes, we knew people were excited for us. Yes, we knew our village was really tiny. We never expected people to become interested in our little humans because who really swoons over other peoples’ kids? But we did sort of have idealistic expectations that there would be some interest. I mean, they are our kids after all, and we think we are pretty cool. We knew our village was small but we didn’t really have a concept of how small our village was until we had Isla.
Isla has really gotten the shaft in terms of excitement and attention. Not from us or my sister- she is a rockstar aunt. Isla was born and no one really came to visit. No one asked about her after she was born. Maybe it was the “second child syndrome” come to life? All I know is it pissed Tyler and I off. When Caleb was born people were all over him. “Can I come see him?”, “How is he doing?”, “What is his newest thing?”, “Will you send me pictures?” We never got those questions with Isla. Not once. It made Tyler and I hyper defensive of her and our family. I also noticed it really affected me personally. I started to really pull away from people who had no interaction with us after her birth, I still have. I think it’s that protective instinct everyone talks about.
What is a village? It’s the people who are involved and actually care or help you when you need it. Not in the financial sense (I do know people whose “village” has helped them financially so that was wonderful for them) but in the sense of being present. Are those people in your life or just in it as sort of bystanders? Besides us, our “village” is basically my sister and our friends who live about 10 minutes away. There’s no one else. I know that sounds extreme but it’s true. There’s no one else. Of course we have people who are semi-interested in what’s going on or ask how we or our kids are doing- but that’s about it. When we had Caleb our Midwife told us we needed to make more friends with people who had kids. She told us it was really important. She’s right. It’s taken 3 years to realize how important that group of friends is.
It’s taken me a while to realize that my dear friends are a tiny group. Miniscule really. I have a ton of acquaintances though- bystanders. I’m not discounting my acquaintances because those are the people that make things fun and carefree but when it comes to real, deep stuff– my group is barely visible. It’s made me aware that I need to change things. I’ve been coasting with friends for far too long. I realize now that I am a friend to a lot of people. I listen to them, I help them, I go out of my way to do things for them, I help them solve problems and work through their dilemmas. These people are not my friends though. They never ask me about my life. They never listen or help or go out of their way to do things. That’s not a healthy relationship. Friendship should be built on reciprocity and I can’t keep driving down this one way street.
What about immediate family in our village? Their role is also incredibly small. They come for birthdays or comment on pictures on Facebook but we rarely get calls or visits; there is just no general involvement with Caleb or Isla. There have actually been conversations in which Ty and I have talked about not sharing any photos of Caleb or Isla just so people will get how absent they really are. It’s so easy today to like a picture on Facebook or comment on something and still remain completely absent. I know that also sounds harsh but Tyler and I have learned that this is our reality. We were both raised by families where we were incredibly self-reliant. We did things for ourselves because we had to. We grew up comfortable with the lack of involvement because we were use to it. I think we were a little foolish in thinking our kids wouldn’t have to grow up like that. We were wrong.
I’ve wondered what we could do to improve this. I actually started wondering if we should start going to church to develop relationships? It seems like a lot of people in church communities are bonded to others. Should I feign interest in Westernized Religion to make friends? No. I have no idea where to start. Maybe a Buddhist temple? Ty isn’t interested in that. I can’t do “mommy” groups or play dates with groups of mom. I don’t want to hang out with Sancti-Mommies and from what I hear, this tends to be where you find them. I need to do something though.
Is this depressing for you to read? It should be because it is a little depressing for me to write. It’s been something Ty and I have talked about at length and it’s pretty sad. It’s not all depressing though because the people who are actually in our village are wonderful. Caleb and Isla will grow up loving these people and knowing them; really knowing them. And that’s awesome.