Finding My Village12:49:00
I remember once reading 'It takes a village to raise a child' and at the time I thought it was silly. The first few years of my parenting life were tough. The friends who were so excited at my pending arrival and couldn't wait to meet her, they never showed up. I had been expecting to have a baby, have all my friends cooing over them and that I would always have people around and most of all that I would be happy.
I also lost family along the way. After a very strained relationship with my own mother my whole life, I cut ties when Gracie was 3 and Zach was 1. It was a hard decision but one that I haven't come to regret. At the time I was struggling and having someone who constantly told me I wasn't good enough finally took it's toll. She had never been a good parent and wasn't proving to be a good grandparent and I wanted to spare my children from the same pain I had dealt with.
Then in 2014 I found myself pregnant with my third child and quite clearly in denial that I was suffering from depression. Elsie was born and at the same time Gracie started school Nursery. She was totally ready for it and it forced me out of the house everyday to take her and collect her. When I look back at that time now I feel silly. I always worried about what the other parents thought of me. I must have looked rough. After being up all night with a newborn baby and somehow getting out of the house at that time in the morning with three children, all whom couldn't yet dress themselves. I tried to avoid the other parents and kept to myself. Occasionally they would speak to me and I would talk back.
It was when she started Reception the following year, that I started to really get to know these parents both in school and out. Of course there were also new parents added to the mix then too from the afternoon Nursery class. We started organising Mum's nights out, of course this doesn't happen often as planning a mum's night out is the worst! No one can ever get sitter's at the same time and so they are often planned 4 months in advance! We also planned meet ups in the holidays at local parks for the kids to mix with their friends outside of school. I completely did my back in at some point while she was in Reception and after venting my frustration on Facebook, to my surprise I had 3 or 4 days with different parents picking Gracie up and dropping her to school to help me out so I could stay at home with my super strong painkillers to recover.
Some of these school mums are now amongst my closest friends and others I may only see on the school run but we always know we are there for each other. If someone can't make sports day, we make sure we cheer on their child so they don't feel alone. If someone is poorly we would go out of our way to help get their kids to school or take them off their hands so they can have a break. I know that Gracie never has to miss a party because even if I can't get her there I know someone else will happily take her if they are going. I never saw any of this coming. I saw cliques and thought I would never fit in but that really is not the case. Quite often those cliques are parents who have bonded and stick to each other because they feel safe with those people.
I also found other mum friends in totally different situations. I met a friend at a cloth nappy meet up. The only one of these I ever attended and I wasn't even good at using cloth nappies ,it was just a stage I was going through. I travelled all the way to Birmingham on my own with Zach and met someone who is one of my most awesome friends now. We go through stages where we don't see each other for a while but we have a great friendship and our kids love each other.
At a blog conference in London I bumped into someone I went to secondary school with. We weren't even friends at school but after a wine fuelled night at Britmums, we have been great friends ever since. Mainly because we hate everything and everyone together, including each other! I tell her every small insignificant detail in my life and lean on her when things are at their worst.
In a world where we pressure ourselves to be perfect at everything. Social media being one of the biggest reasons for this. It is great to have people who know the real you and don't judge you for it. It is ok to feed your children beans on non-organic toast for dinner or get to school and realise you forgot your child's homework. My disaster today was waking at 7am to remember the tooth fairy was meant to visit last night. If I didn't have these people to laugh with discussing various reasons why the tooth fairy may not have visited, such as the tooth wasn't quite clean enough to she had PMT cramps, I don't know how I would do it.
The past two years of parenting have been a doddle to me. I get asked all the time how I do it as a single parent and the only answers I can give are; that I am not a perfect parent and I do not try to be and I have that village! That magical group of people that is forever growing and full of totally different personalities and 'types' of parent who all inspire me in so many ways and make my life a whole lot easier sometimes! Three years ago I couldn't have seen this ever happening and it was simply letting people in who I thought wouldn't like me that has caused this whole shift in my life.
Of course things are still hard at times BUT having people to vent to and lean on makes all the difference. I would rather have a difficult life with people to share it with than a simple life on my own. Having all these people help me to raise my children into hard-working, loving and passionate individuals is more than I could have ever asked for.