Wednesday, February 12, 2014

When You Don't Have a Village

We've all heard the saying that it takes a village to raise a child.

Sitting with my girl friends at brunch a few weekends ago, I listened to a few of them that have children talk about the support they have raising their children. Occasionally, they had to create that village on their own with a great deal of monetary expense. Regardless of the method, the fact remained: they had a village.

I don't have a village. I have Hubster and I have me.

I'm not saying that we have done everything on our own. That would be selfish and naive to assume that we have been and are completely self sufficient. My mother watched Bug on a daily basis for a few months after he was born while I continued my college degree. We had a few family members help out with child care in the past. We've had some friends take the boys for the day when we've had school closures. We've had people we could swap baby sitting with. We've had a day cares and after school programs that we trust and have done wonderful jobs providing care for our children while we continued our education and gone to work.

But, because of course there's a but...But I've never felt that there was someone else who was in this with us. Hubster and I have scrambled and agonized and worked for every bit of it.  While we have been able to find people to help out, there isn't anyone invested or dedicated to making sure we are successful. From the very beginning, it has felt that it was Hubster and I together against the world.

Usually it feels that things are day to day. Much the way too many people live paycheck to paycheck, we live alarm clock to alarm clock, only one fever, one cough, one episode of diarrhea, one injury, one snow day, away from chaos. Each bout of illness uncoils our tightly wound plans. Who should stay home, who stayed on last time, how long is the child going to be sick from school? With very limited sick time available, each day required at home amount to significant consequences. If Hubster misses a day, he potentially could have to repeat an entire section of school. If I miss a day, I don't get paid. Even small things, like late starts or early outs for school can cause feelings of panic. Doctor's appointments and recreational outings are planned months in advance.

Each day is a tight rope walk without a safety net.

Recently, I had to use a sick day at work because my children had a snow day at school. Hubster had covered that last two days that required someone at home and it was my turn. Upon returning to work the following day, I was berated for calling in sick due to a lack of child care. I was told that I should have arrangements for emergency back up child care. My only response was to ask the person if they were volunteering.

It took us a long time to find the child care circumstances we have now. My children spent a year and a half on the wait list for their elementary school's before and after school program, and we used a nanny during that time (accruing more debt to afford the nanny.) I started looking at day cares for Duck when I was 10 weeks pregnant; we finally received a spot in a day care when he was 3 months old.  It was hard to find regular child care. Emergency child care?  Seriously?

My nearest family member lives 2000 miles away. All my friends work or have their own busy house holds to take care of. There is no one to just drop things and suddenly be available when the schools close or the baby has a fever. There's just us.

And do you know what?  I don't resent anyone for this. I don't resent my family for living far away. After all, we are the ones who moved to Iowa to continue my training. My parents give me emotional support and words of encouragement. I'm not expecting them to drop what they have going on in their lives to come and help out with my kids. I don't resent my friends who do have their safety net, their village, helping them out on a daily basis.

I've made all these decisions.

There are plenty of hypotheticals that would fix all my problems.  I could have opted at any time to not work. But after 4 years of medical school and 4 years of residency and thousands of dollars in student loans, I'm pretty pot-committed to my career. And I'm finally at a point where my hours are more reasonable, my income more secure, and the options for my family are opening up. Also, if I didn't work, it would have been impossible for Hubster to go back to school and go to dental school. If I had chosen to not work, we would most likely have spent another 10 years in a miserable apartment in a bad neighborhood, scraping by on a paycheck to paycheck existence. Because that's what we were doing before all this.

I could have always opted to not have children. That's one way to deal with child care. However, it is just not possible for me to look at my three boys and regret them in any way.

So what do you do when you don't have a village?

Here's what I do, sans village:

I continue with my tight rope walking routine, carefully balancing multiple schedules, and juggling any balls that get thrown my way.

I continue to worry daily if I am adequately covering all the bases, if my children are getting enough attention, if I'm living a well balanced life, if I'm staying on top of the things, if I'm remembering to come up for air.

And eventually, I start to notice exactly how amazing my children, how they are normal and happy and well adjusted and adored and loved. I start to stop caring what other standards people have set for how my schedule is supposed to run, how my house is supposed to look, how my life is supposed to be. We do what works for us.

It's hard. It's a lot of work. But I just want anyone else out there, anyone else who is villageless, who knows that feeling of you against the world, that it's completely doable.

I'm okay. The kids are okay. And that's what matters.


  1. Amen! You are amazing and what you are doing is called LIVING LIFE! Your job is just that, your JOB. Twenty years from now, the person who berated you for calling in sick will not even remember your name ... the 3 boys you stayed home with are yours FOREVER! Don't ever let anyone make you feel badly for choosing them over ANYTHING else.

  2. I don't know how you have managed this just the two of you for so long.. I would have cracked under that pressure!

  3. Survival pushes us to do things that seem impossible. I always wonder who would be in my "support group" if I ever get married and have kids but I sense that I would be a lot like you and your hubs. Keep pushing on and staying strong. You've done more than most already, and I'm sure that keeps your family tight and connected because it is you guys depending on each other for all things.

  4. You really are amazing. I just found your blog and you inspired me

    1. You are too kind. It's always a little funny to hear people say "amazing" when I'm just trying to get through things one day at a time.

  5. This is just what I needed to hear today! Thank you! The "10 True Things About The First Year of Parenthood" Huffington Post article has been circulating around facebook and the internet since before I was even pregnant (I'm due in August!) and while I understand its popularity - it scares me if everything she says is true. Mainly, the village part. I am an only child, my husband has one sister who we are not close to and hasn't said anything about us being pregnant since we told the family in December, my parents want to help but have many problems and create more stress in our lives than anything else, and my husband's parents are capable of helping but are retired and don't seem to want to be that involved. We have amazing friends, but most of them have children of their own. I've cried more than once over worrying that my child will suffer because I don't have a village to offer him - that I want to create this big, happy family someday but I've never known what that actually feels like. I loved your post and you just gained a new reader!