“It takes a village to raise a child.” If you’re a parent or caregiver, you’ve probably heard this countless times. It speaks to two truths: #1) Human children and adolescents are a LOT of work, and #2) Caregivers cannot do their job alone. Even under the best circumstances, parenting is a humbling experience. Children and adolescents do not live in the same reality as we do; they don’t know the rules. Small children need someone to explain Literally everything to them. It’s exhausting.
Unfortunately, many caregivers find themselves grappling to meet their children’s needs with little or no help. Whether separated by distance, wounded relationships, or a global pandemic (or any combination of the three), the work of parenting is unmanageable without other people to lend a helping hand. To make matters worse, parents and caregivers without community often feel invisible. If a parent does not know how to ask for help, does not have safe and kind people nearby willing to provide relief and guidance, and/or does not know about support programs in their area, how can they get the help they need? Before long, the discouragement from lack of emotional, social, and/or financial resources can lead to hopelessness and despair.
If you are a parent without a village, there is no respite to relieve you when your teething baby is awake all night and you have to parent your accident-prone toddler the next day. If you are without a village, sick days take on a different meaning. Who do you call for backup when you’re puking or knocked out from the flu, and the babysitter’s sick? (Hint: It’s you.) If you are a parent without a village, you are more likely to lose your temper with your child over minor annoyances. You are more likely to lose your temper with your child in public because your child is always with you; furthermore, you’re acutely aware of the people glaring at you from behind their shopping carts and in line at the post office. You might start to think, “Why can’t I stay calm with my kid(s) like other parents can? I must be a terrible (mother/father/uncle/grandmother/foster parent).”
Maybe you have a partner and you’re both trying, but trying to be everything to your child(ren) and each other is putting a strain on your relationship. Maybe your partner is unavailable or makes you feel even worse; not only are you at war with yourself, but you’re routinely being ignored or attacked by someone who should be on your side.
If any of this sounds painfully familiar, I want you to know, I see you. There is so much on your shoulders; no one should have to do it alone, or with toxic voices whispering in their ear. You are doing your best, but there is a hole in the cup that should hold your emotional reserves. You can’t pour from an empty cup.
What can you do about it? By the time you get to this post, you’ve probably already read through lots of tips. This is about making a Plan, finding concrete ways to get your needs met, and resources to help you along the way. (By the way, you don’t have to do this all at one time. Print this out or save to a Google Document, go do something fun, and come back to it later today or tomorrow.)
- Acknowledge unmet needs
- Give yourself grace
- Make “one small step” for you
- Find community supports
Acknowledge unmet needs.
Congratulations–you’re already doing this!! Progress!
Give yourself grace.
When you’re going through it, you might feel like you’re floating in a black hole or spinning your wheels, but you’re not. You are doing your best, and your best is enough. Stick reminders in your mirrors, desk, car, and whatever door you use most often. It Will sink in. I promise.
Make one small step.
This is about deciding to do one thing every day, the smaller the better. It could be as little as brushing your hair or washing your hands. If you brushed your hair or washed your hands today, then celebrate! For everything else you do today, give yourself a bonus point. Then tomorrow, see if you can brush your hair or wash your hands again. If it doesn’t happen, no big deal. See how many days this week you manage that one thing.
Find community supports.
Generally, this is about looking for resources in your area. Some of this will be specific to St. Louis/St. Charles, MO area, but some are nation