Build Your Village

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I realise that many of you reading this would be way too young to know who the Village People are, but as an older mama who loved to boogie in her heyday (and still does) trust me when I tell you that these guys are seriously good fun.  I’m reminded of carefree nights at a club or party, dancing to’ YMCA’. If you’re a new parent it would be easy to look back on those times as forever lost. Let me encourage you, you’ll blink and your precious little baby is going to be all grown up and you will get your life back.

But for now, what have the Village People got to offer you? 

Plenty. For starters bopping around the house to ‘You Can’t Stop The Music’ makes housework a little more interesting. At the very least you’ll be providing entertainment for your baby. Or why not strap your baby onto your chest and have a music lesson while you’re at it? I’m serious. Movement to music is a great lesson in rhythm for young children. Try it while they’re on the swing – sing a song in time with the swinging actions of the swing. It’s great fun.

But I digress…

The Village People have more to offer than just fun. Just look at them. They have the potential to provide peace and sanity to any new parent.

Seriously???

Seriously! Look again….

There’s the Indigenous American.

He represents the Spiritual Mentor. Who do you have in your life who guides you Spiritually? This is more than Faith, this is about values, folklore, stories, traditions and rituals. If you’re to stay sane and centred in parenting or in any facet of your life, you can’t afford to ignore the Spiritual.

Find people you can look up to, who have similar values to you. Someone you can trust who is not afraid to remind you of those things that are important to you. They will be the ones you will turn to for guidance when you have an important decision to make, especially those scary decisions that have the potential to impact your child’s future.  And in those moments when you just don’t feel that you’re up to the task, they will remind you of who you are, and of the hopes you hold for your child’s future.

This person might be an older parent, or they may not be a parent at all. The most important is that they know you and know what’s most important to you.

Next is the Soldier. 

The army’s duties are to respond to natural disasters, provide humanitarian aid and keep the peace. 

I’m reminded of two babies both screaming and vomiting at once, trying to care for them, the laundry piling up, my husband and I need to eat but, even if there was food in the pantry, we don’t have time to prepare a meal because both of us have a baby each that we’re caring for. And we’re so tired. Beyond tired! 

Having that special friend show up with some food and a meal, and while she’s there she sorts the washing and gets it into the machine – she was my soldier. 

As long as things are likely to go wrong in your day, you’ll always need your soldiers around you. Those you can call on in any emergency.

This might be another mama, someone you could return the favour for. For some of us, knowing we will be able to return a favour helps us to accept this kind of help. Try and identify more than one soldier in your life. Typically it’s good to have at least three or four to turn to, so that you’re not in danger of being left stranded when you need help the most.

Then we have the Construction Worker. 

Construction workers build things. Who builds you up? Who encourages you and sees the potential in you when you can’t see it in yourself? Often this is the same person as your Spiritual Mentor. However, it doesn’t hurt to have others, or to even create your own environment for rebuilding. 

When our babies were little, Thursday nights were sacred to my husband. He would meet with his mates once a week just to hang out, watch movies, play games, perhaps go out, just chill, laugh, and rebuild. I did the same with my girlfriends. There were five of us. Once a week we would take turns to meet at someone’s home. Two stayed to look after the babies. The other three would go out. Shopping, coffee, a movie. It didn’t matter! We were free to talk and just BE for three hours. We built each other up. We came back refreshed. And even if it was your turn to stay with the babies, it was still much more uplifting than staying home alone. The long term effect of this is that we are still friends, and  the building up has benefited our children, who have grown with solid friendships that are socially and emotionally healthy.

The Cowboy.

The Cowboy is responsible for rounding up and looking after the livestock. In short, he’s good with animals. Come on, admit it, it feels like you’re living on a farm sometimes doesn’t it? The noise, the mess, the smell, the chaos.

Find people you can trust to take care of your brood and get away from time to time. It doesn’t have to cost money. You can pay for babysitting by babysitting in return. Or if you’d prefer to use a licensed child care service, get rid of the false guilt. There are so many benefits for children in being around other children in a positive environment. And they love it. I’ve worked in these centres as an Early Childood educator for years and many kids have so much fun they don’t want to go home. 

Having a baby doesn’t mean you have to give up interests you had before you became a mama. Even if financially it means you have to get creative, then get creative. For example, if you loved the gym but can’t afford the fees, find a park and a friend to train with, go for a run, a walk or head down to the beach at sunset. Or just go home and enjoy the quiet ambience and take a long bath. Or bake, or read… whatever takes your fancy.

If you have a partner, it was just the two of you first, and I’m guessing you want to keep it that way in future. So invest in your relationship and spend time together. Remind yourselves of why you’re together. If you don’t, if you let your babies become the one common interest, then you’ll have nothing in common when they are no longer babies. I can’t stress enough the importance of looking after your relationship with each other as a separate entity to your relationship with your children. If you’re a sole parent, it’s even more important you take time for yourself to recharge,  and reconnect with who you are.

And you have to start young. It’s quite OK to leave your newborn for half an hour with a responsible adult while you duck out for coffee. Really! Nothing bad will happen. Do it regularly. If your baby is used to being with others from a young age, then it will be less stressful on her when she reaches the stage of separation anxiety at around 8 – 15 months of age.

This section is a long one on purpose. I know from many years of working with families that taking time for yourself is one of the hardest things to do. We make so many excuses for why we can’t do it, and we allow other things to get in the way of doing it. Deep deep down, most of us harbour this false guilt that comes from the belief baby must come first.

NO. Mama and Papa must come first. Your most important job as a parent is to fill your baby’s emotional cup. This is important for every area of your child’s development. But you can’t give from an empty cup, which is why it’s important to prioritise time to ensure your cup is regularly refilled. 

Then there’s the Police.

The Police ensures we all do the right thing, and stop us when our behaviour is wrong, or has the potential to hurt others. I often wonder, if someone had the courage to tell me my behaviour was not appropriate when my babies were younger, would I have sought treatment for PNDA sooner? I’m not sure, and I’ll never know. I’m not blaming anyone. It takes a lot of skill and courage to be able to voice your concerns to a parent who is not dealing with their children appropriately. Someone did try once, but it was accusatory, You’re too stressed! So of course, I reacted defensively. 

If you’re lucky enough to have someone in your life who can gently ask Are you OK? or How can I help you? when they see you’ve over reacted (or even under reacted) to your child’s behaviour, hang onto that person, hold them close and listen to them. That kind of friend is very hard to find.

Last but not least – the Leatherman. 

What’s his role other than to look good? This one applies to women more than men, because we are usually the ones that stay home with the babies. So there’s no reason for us to pay such close attention to personal grooming, right? What’s wrong with a tiny vomit spot on your T-shirt? It’s going to get worse by the end of the day anyway. Just save on the washing and recycle. And who needs a stylish wardrobe? There’s all that baby fat to get rid of, and I can’t fit into my pre-pregnancy clothes, so pyjamas it is.

How you dress does determine how you feel. If you don’t know where to start, find a friend who hasn’t lost her style, and go shopping together. First, start shopping in your wardrobe, pull out some pieces you feel good in. It could be the colour, the style, the cut. Once you’ve established what you’ve got, you can then go shopping to find what you need. Again, it doesn’t have to cost money. Get all your friends together to bring the things they don’t want, and you can shop each other’s wardrobes. Then of course there’s op shops.

The point is, now more than ever, it is important to make some effort on your appearance. Not for anyone else, but for you. It will affect the way you feel, your motivation, and your self esteem. Try it. See if I’m wrong 🙂 But don’t just take my word for it, it’s backed by science.

Where to find your Village

If you belong to a club, a large extended family, a church or some other community group, it will be easier for you to identify your village. In our transient society it’s not always that simple. We have our mothers working when once they didn’t, or work takes us across countries or even to other countries, away from family and friends.

If this is you, then you’re going to have to work a little bit harder to find your Village. But opportunities abound, especially with Facebook communities popping up and many local community centres and churches offering programs for new parents. I’ll never forget the day that a young mother landed on my doorstep because of an add that my friends and I had placed in the local paper when we started our mother’s group (pre-Facebook days). It took a lot of courage for her to make that first step, but it was life changing for her, especially two years later when her husband was diagnosed with cancer. Twenty years later we still keep in touch.

What is one thing you can do to find your Village?

Author Bio

Sarina Elder writes at Moments With A MAD Italian. Sarina is a writer with a passion for Making A Difference (MAD). In addition to writing articles around parenting, personal development, relationship, grief and loss, and spirituality, Sarina works with families as a Parenting Practitioner. Apart from being certified in a number of parenting programs, Sarina has also developed several workshops of her own, with a focus on fostering resilience and creativity in children.

Sarina believes the best way to embrace ourselves is through laughter, and is open to sharing her own embarrassing stories, with the hope of encouraging others who also find themselves a little lost and confused in this world – courtesy of a Dreamer state of mind 😊. 

Connect with Sarina on Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, and Twitter.

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