Some of us having loving family nearby to come and watch the kids while we get some things down, someone nearby to call if we aren’t coping and keeping it all together.
Some of us have great husbands who work from home or hours that mean they can share the responsibility (and joys) of parenting.
A few women I know work in amazing jobs that allow them to take their children to work with them, drop them off in their employer’s crèche or work flexible hours while they find their feet as a mum. Some woman earn enough or have saved enough or have husbands who earn enough that they can get a nanny or an au pair or have their home cleaned a few times a week to make things easier.
I personally don’t believe that any one of these factors paints a whole picture and it is very silly to compare, because I have met women from all walks of life doing parenting alone (even married ones!) as well as women with amazing support networks around them even though they became a single mother at 15.
One of my favourite quotes is that “It takes a village to raise a child” and when Kristy (The Imperfect Mum) says “our ‘old style’ village no longer exists”, she is right. Families have changed a lot and women are expected to do so much more.
Although I feel blessed to have the people I do have around that have supported my journey as a mother and helped my children grow into the beautiful little creatures (!) they are, I didn’t really have a lot of support to become a mother. I don’t have family around the corner to call up and take the kids for an hour or two if things get crazy (as they often do!).
I am married but my husband is away for weeks at a time which leaves me solely responsible for the children often. I miss having someone to come home in the evening and bath the kids after a hectic day or let me sleep in once in a while. He is a great dad when he is here which sometimes makes it even harder when he goes back to work, the kids miss him immensely and it’s me left dealing with the emotions they are feeling.
My husband and I both come from smaller families and only have contact with one of four grandparents, which is really sad. Even then, the one we do see is working long hours and this is a reality many grandparents (especially woman) coming up to retirement face.
I often reflect on the way that the family unit has changed and broken down over the last 50 years. People move more often, divorce rates are higher, we work longer hours and both mum and dad often have to be out of the home often.
For me, the support of friends and other woman has become invaluable to fill in the gaps. I moved 2000kms a few years before having kids so I had to do my best to create a network of friends in a short time. I miss the depth of childhood friendships, but make the most of time on the phone. We have to find ways to weave a community from what we have, however untraditional it is.
There are so many mums raising children in very difficult situations and I think that, especially as woman, we should do anything we can to ease the stress, isolation and difficulty of other mums we know; offering to cook a meal, babysit for a few hours or swap care of children, anything we can think of to rebuild the community we desperately need.
I am frequently inspired by answers to questions on the IM page, with readers who don’t even know each other offering very real, genuine and practical support. We need to build more villages so our children do know what a community is, and do it because it is crucial to hold individuals, families and society together.
Often, as mothers, we know instinctively we are first and foremost our children’s support but we do need to ask for help and do what we can to stop from burning out.
If you are feeling you need some support, find an online or face to face parenting group, or if you are at breaking point, pick up the phone and call Parent Line in your state or Life Line 13 11 14.
Here’s to happy village building
As a mummy of two beautiful little boys, I have realised that the definition of motherhood, as well as the landscape we parent within, has rapidly changed.
We all have very unique challenges facing us as parents and I feel inclusive, open discussion is a beautiful way to share the knowledge we have and support each other on this journey.
I believe mothers are an invaluable, but often under represented part of our society, which is why I enjoy writing in this area so much.