Solo parenting and building your own village

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It’s the middle of the afternoon, I’m sitting on the sofa with my three-year-old, fighting the urge to sleep. I’m sick… both of us are, but he is fairing better than I am today. The girls are all out – two at drama, and one at gymnastics, so the house is strangely quiet with just two of us in it. Without the noise and activity of his three sisters, my littlest one is by my side all day long.

I’ve pushed myself to keep going this morning, I ran a few errands, caught up on the laundry, hoovered, mopped the kitchen floor for the first time in I don’t know how long, and tidied around. Now finally, I’ve given in, and have admitted I can do no more today. Too ill and too tired, we’re taking turns reading books on the sofa.

Its days like these when I think about that old adage ‘parenting takes a village’. Of the endless Instagram posts I see of parents saying how they ‘couldn’t do it without their parents/sisters/aunties help’. I think about the fact I have no family around to help out and it’s just me and four kiddos. In the eighteen months that I have officially been a single parent, so many people have commented on how well I’m doing, or how they don’t know how I manage to do all that I do. Yes, some days I wonder that too… yet being single has made no difference in all honesty. Even when I was married, and in theory had another adult to help out, 95% of the time it was just me.

We moved across the country when my eldest daughter had just turned one, taking us 150 miles away from our family, so almost from day one I have been used to having no family support on a regular basis. Sometimes I look at friends who still live in the town where they grew up, who have family close by, and I’ll admit to being a little jealous. Come holiday season, they’ll be endless posts about fun family gatherings and I wish that we had family around to celebrate with, family around to pop in for a cup of tea, or visit for Sunday Lunch.

In those early years of Motherhood, I was lonely. Home alone with a small child, with a husband who was either at work or out, no childcare nor the money to pay for a babysitter, it was a hard time. I made friends, yet everyone else seemed to still be enjoying their early twenties by being out in the pub or at parties – even those with children, as they had grandparents on hand to help out. I learned to rely on myself, to build my own little bubble of a world where it was just the kids and I. That was fine for the most part until I needed help and had no one to call on.

When I’m ill and desperately in need of an afternoon nap, someone to entertain the toddler, to diffuse the arguments between the big kids, to tidy the house for me, or to take over dinner duties, they are the days  I wish I had that ‘perfect’ family – close-knit, always on hand to help out.  My siblings are all spread out, and I rarely see them or even speak to them. I don’t have a relationship with my Mother, and though I’m close to my Dad and his wife, we don’t get to visit as often as I’d like.

Motherhood can be lonely, tough, exhausting, beautiful, stressful, emotional – all in the same day sometimes. Over the years I’ve realised I have to make my own village, it may not be made of family, but instead of friends – and often they are even better than family. I’m lucky enough to have some wonderful friends to call on, ones who have stood by me through thick and thin, whose shoulder I can cry on and who will look after my kids in a pinch.

While our villages may look different to the villages of twenty years ago, it’s still possible to have that support group around you. Whether we have family living nearby, whether we have relationships with our parents, whether we are only children or one of many, no matter our circumstances with can build our own village, and find the support that we {and our kiddos} need to flourish.

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