Confessions of a Lone Mom
10 Lessons I Learned About Raising Children Without A Village
Looking for a babysitter? Need some advice on feeding your newborn? Want someone to accompany you to the park? Need a shoulder to cry on? Want your children to have relationships with your family and friends?
Our close family and friends make up our village, and everyone says that it takes a village to raise a child. Well, what if that village is so far away to really make an impact on your children’s daily lives? What do you do if you have to raise your children without that support?
We all have our reasons as to why we are no longer near our village. It is life. It happens. I never imagined that I would be in this situation. I lived in the same area all my life, near my family and dear friends. However, once I got married, we soon realized that my husband’s career would probably take us away from the only place I ever knew. Sure enough, the time came, and we decided that, for our family, it was the best decision to move away.
Our main reason was my husband’s career and moving to a place that would be a better location for raising our children. I knew that once we made the move, we would ultimately be on our own in a place where we knew no one. We would be starting over and creating our own “village” in a sense. It feels almost very primitive… settling in a new village and needing to survive on your own, but that is exactly what we needed to do.
During those first years of struggles, there were many things I learned. I’m not sure I was very successful when I started, but I do know that, through time, I have learned how to make it work. So when people ask: How do you do it all? How do you raise your children without a village?
This is what I say…
- Take care of yourself.
Pretty crazy that I would put this one first! I just mentioned that you don’t have a village to help you with your children. How are you supposed to worry about yourself FIRST? Well, let me tell you from experience… if you take care of yourself first, you will have the energy and patience to be able to take care of your children, all day, every day! Before I started focusing on my own health, I was tired, moody, and I just didn’t want to do anything. Once I began eating healthier and exercising daily, I began to get the energy I needed to keep up with my children and have enough energy to take care of the household responsibilities. You cannot feel guilty about taking some time for yourself each day to exercise. I do 30 minutes per day… that’s it! Your children will not resent you for that… they will be grateful because their mommy is better for it!
- Allow yourself to make mistakes.
Oh, you will make plenty of mistakes!!! We all do, and you will probably make more because, well, you’re the only one around your little ones. You have to allow yourself to make those mistakes. Just look at them as great learning opportunities. When we learn from our mistakes, we become better. You just have to continue picking yourself up and trying again. Learning from those mistakes first-hand will make you better. My father always wanted me to learn things BEFORE they happened to me so that I could avoid going through the trouble, but sometimes, it’s better that we learn from experience. It makes us stronger… It makes us smarter… It makes us better.
- Find balance in your life.
This one can be tricky. How can I find balance in my life when I am responsible for EVERYTHING?! See, you may be responsible for everything, but you do not have to be perfect at everything all the time. You just have to figure out what is important when. When you don’t have clean underwear, maybe it’s important to do laundry. When you and your significant other are getting on each other’s nerves, it may be time for an at-home getaway (Look for my at-home getaway blog post coming soon). When you find a time that works for you to exercise and take care of yourself, include it in your schedule so that you always do it. You do not have to be perfect at everything. As much as we want to, it’s just not possible. You just have to realize what’s important at the moment, and go from there!
- Surround yourself with people who understand you and your circumstances.
This one is BIG. I can tell you that I have lost some friends throughout my journey. People who you may have been compatible with at a certain time in your life may no longer be right for you. I truly believe that people are brought into your life for certain reasons, and sometimes those relationships may not last forever. Their purpose has been served and it is time to move on. It is difficult to lose special people, but not everyone can understand that you simply do not have the time to remember everything, to go out and enjoy a date night when there’s no one to take care of the kids, to talk on the phone at the drop of a dime, and so on. If you have help, you have more time, but if you don’t, you don’t. Cherish those friendships that understand your situation (and hold on tightly to them – they will be few and far between). Bless and release those that don’t and simply add negativity to your life. You simply do not have the time for that. The best thing you can do is surround yourself with people that are in the exact same situation as you – that is ideal!
- Allow others to help you.
This takes time. You need to meet others in your area, but you also need to find people that you completely trust. This is very difficult for me, especially since we are talking about my children here. I am incredibly overprotective of them, but when you find people like those above, you start to help each other in any way you can. I joined a mommy group when we moved. We took part in many fun activities, and I found two incredibly special women who have helped me tremendously, through great friendship and through help with my children. TWO… that’s it. It doesn’t take much, and for me, I knew that my inner circle would be small, but even though it is small, it is just right.
- Realize that your family is your most important asset.
You are alone, in a sense, without your village, but you are far from alone. You have your family unit – your significant other… your child or children. That IS enough, and that will get you through everything. Although it is difficult to embark on this journey without outside support, you have to look within and see how incredibly blessed you are to have your own little support system that you literally created. Embrace it… enjoy it… be grateful for it…
- Know when you need a break and take it.
Oh boy… I am sure that you have all gotten to your breaking point. I have had mine when both children were having meltdowns at the exact same time, as well as a million other reasons. I remember placing them in a safe spot (highchair and playpen) and sitting in my car for 5 minutes to enjoy silence and regroup. We are in this 24 hours a day/7 days a week… that’s not easy. There will be times when you need a break – something as simple as a bubble bath, a walk around the neighborhood to clear your head, 30 minutes of Yoga, or 10 minutes in the bathroom without interruption. You need to ask for this and not feel that there is no time. You will be better for it. I promise you.
- Find different ways for your children to create a bond with your family.
Although we live very far from our families, we do still want to keep in touch on a continuous basis and make sure that our children know their family well. It is extremely important for us. Skype, Facetime, phone calls, videos, etc. are a must for us. I am so thankful for technology. Take time out of your day or your week to make those calls so that the children know that there are other people who love them, even though they are not close. I know that it has made a huge difference for my children.
- Create a schedule for your family.
People thrive off of schedules. They like to know what they need to do on a daily basis, and they feel more productive when there is a plan. Have a plan! Make a list of what you need or want to do! It will save you time… It will save you heartache… It will save you from added stress. Your children will also benefit from the structure. When my children know what they need to do on a daily basis, the day runs much more smoothly. Structure will help you balance your life.
- Let love come first.
Someone once told me that, as long as you love your children, everything else will fall into place. I could not agree with that any more than I do. There will be moments of chaos… things will not be perfect… you will make many mistakes… but if you show your children love, more love than their entire village combined is capable of, they will feel that love and thrive! You cannot always change the circumstances you are in, but you sure can make the best of your circumstances.