In a culture hooked on buzzwords like “squad,” I’m sometimes left wondering if I’m the only one over here scratching my head. One phrase that really echoes in my brain in regards to child-rearing is, “It takes a village.”
But what if you don’t have one?
I got married as a teenager and was pregnant by 20. When most of my high school friends were focused on figuring themselves out in college, I was figuring out breastfeeding and completely zeroed in on this new baby in my arms. I, surprisingly, didn’t feel lonely during those young years on the narrow path. In fact, mothering was a dream come true for me, and I poured every ounce of my being into caring for my son in our one-bedroom apartment, $425/month. This was 12 years ago, before social media was around to remind me at the drop of a hat that I wasn’t doing life the same way as everyone else. I carried on blissfully unaware in my little bubble where I truly felt like I had everything I needed.
My husband is very (as he absolutely should be) dedicated to this parenting gig, so I don’t claim to know or even begin to imagine what single parents go through. But for me, outside of him, that “village” I keep hearing about seems very elusive. I love my extended family, but we were never in a situation of grandparents taking the kids for sleepovers, and when our boys were five and one, we moved across the country to start a different life on our own.
Of course, I’ve asked for help from a select few in moments of need, but mostly it’s been me and my husband tag-teaming. I never thought much was unique about our set-up until social media added it to my list of things to feel inadequate about. (Other things on said list include a house on par with Joanna Gaines’ standards, the perfect mom bun, and kids in matching, monotone PJs.)
Via Instagram, I’ve started to see that moms seems to have this magical “squad” whom they couldn’t survive without… that bestie who stops by and scoops the children over for a playdate when she’s feeling overwhelmed. Friends Venmoing Starbucks gift cards on a rough day and dropping off a homemade lasagna when a friend’s kids are sick with strep throat.
“It takes a village,” they always say.
My reality has been that my husband and I worked opposite shifts for years to make ends meet, Netflix getting us through the hard times and the only “bestie” dropping off food was the Domino’s pizza delivery guy. I don’t share this to complain; I’m totally at peace with our lifestyle. In fact, I never felt like it went against the grain until social media gave me a backstage pass to the Jones’s everyday. I am very independent by nature and enjoy functioning that way, but it does leave me wondering if I’m the only one out here in trenches without my “ride or dies.” Just going through the motions and hoping to God I’ll get to take a nap or two on the weekends.
I am so grateful for the friends I’ve met along my journey, whether they’ve stayed for a long time or briefly popped in and out. It’s healthy to find human connection, but I don’t necessarily think I’ve created a “village.” I don’t have a group of friends helping me with parenting, that’s for sure.
I value time to myself and am involved in yoga and jump on the invite to join a book club or have dinner with other moms. There are people I enjoy spending time with when I get the chance, but I wouldn’t describe them as the “people I do life with” or my “squad.” Making friends as an adult is hard. Moving from Ohio to Colorado was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, but it also meant starting over and meeting people from scratch.
I will say that, even sans village, my kids seem to be making it okay. If anything, they know their parents love them more than the moon and stars. Being their mother is still a dream I don’t take for granted. No, my husband and I don’t have a lot of “backup,” our family lives hundreds of miles away, but we make it work. We are these boys’ world and we will always find a way to provide no matter what.
So, the squad-less ones raising their kids without a lot of help: cheers.
I’m here to say that I don’t think it takes a village… but it sure as hell takes a lot of hard work.