The Village Effect

//The Village Effect

CityMom Morgan returns this month with more of her insightfully powerful words – this time on the power of the village effect in parenting. Take it Morgan! We’re listening…

I don’t know about you, Momma, but in a world of sound bites, fast news, a plethora of “you must watch this!” new shows, and “you must listen to this!” new podcasts coming out DAILY, I feel like I can’t keep up.  My head is swimming with all of the things I “should” be doing to remain a well rounded individual all the while staying on top of every new study that has implications on how I am basically NOT keeping my kids safe. Last week, it was no plastics. This week, we’re questioning the Cheerios in our pantries {baby’s quintessential “first food.”} Some days I just want to throw my hands in the air, toss every electronic device I own into the garbage, and live off the land in a yurt. I want to hover over my children and never leave them out of my sight. Surely if I devote my life to constant hovering, growing my own {organic} food, avoiding the trepidations of screen time, and reading up on all the latest in early childhood development, I will raise well adjusted, kind, healthy children.

Surely. Except. Well, that’s not realistic. Nor is it the answer.

village effect - theCityMoms

My husband and I recently look a vacation. Just the two of us. In celebration of 10 years of marriage, we left our children in the loving, capable hands of grandparents, and jetted off for a bucket list vacation. It was amazing. We hiked. We talked. We reveled in the reality that we weren’t beholden to time. Our days unfolded before us with great possibility, tethered neither to a schedule of meals times and bedtimes nor commute times or work meetings. It was glorious.

And yet…

My anxiety crept in. The questions began their taunting. What were we thinking leaving our children for a getaway JUST THE TWO OF US?  We’re terrible parents. Look at that little girl. She looks just like our little girl. Her parents took her on a vacation. They’re hiking with her. She’s not much older than our A. And she’s HIKING. She’s not complaining. She’s walking along like she does this everyday. I bet she does do this every day. I bet she eats salmon without complaining. I bet she’s never seen a screen in her life. I bet she only eats home grown organic vegetables, goes to bed at a reasonable hour and sleeps a full, uninterrupted 12 hours each night.

This was a terrible idea.

And then…

While out on a hike we ran into another couple. An older, wiser couple, who were themselves celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary.

They learned of our young children at home.

They marveled at us taking this time for ourselves.

They congratulated us.

They told us we were doing such an important thing.

The wife recalled when their (now 38 yo) son was just 6 months old, her mother essentially shooed them away for a 2 night getaway–emphasizing how important it was to be sure to get time together as a couple, even in the midst of parenting a little one. They reminded us that this time together is important, even necessary, because it meant we were taking time to work on us, our marriage, our identities outside of our children. Because in taking time for ourselves, for our relationship, we were indeed setting ourselves up to be even better caretakers of our little ones.

MORE OF MORGAN’S WORK: I knew full-time SAHM life wasn’t for me… or was it?

Looking into the smiling eyes of this woman from Queens, the tightness in my chest loosened up. My heart felt a bit lighter. I didn’t stop missing our little ones, but the guilt of the day dissipated a bit. I gave myself permission to take this stranger’s advice. This mother. This wife. This woman who had been doing this marriage-thing and this parenting-thing far longer than I have. I grabbed my husband’s hand as we continued in our walk, and breathed in the cool air of the Alaskan wilderness. I carried with me this conversation throughout the rest of our trip.

We excitedly shared stories of our days with our children each evening before they headed to bed. They excitedly shared about their days, too. We joyously reunited with them after our time away and jumped right back into schedules and dinner times and bath time and bedtime rituals. And in the jumping back we felt a bit more renewed. A little more patient. A little more appreciative of our (chaotic, messy) life as a family of four.

It’s not always possible to take extended time away.

A variety of factors determine what this might look like for every family. But one of my greatest takeaways from this trip was that as parents we do deserve and need to spend time focusing on ourselves–as individuals, as couples, as friends, as humans outside of our roles as parents. It also reminded me that our children, when given the opportunity, can and do thrive when in the care of others. Taking even short times away is nurturing for our souls and for theirs.

It doesn’t have to be a week long vacation. It can be a regular coffee date with your spouse or close friend or group of friends. It can be a breakfast club or a monthly game night or just a night alone at the movies.  It can be signing up for a class to dive deeper into a hobby that’s largely been put on the back burner lately. It can look like many things, which may change upon the season of parenting you are in.

HAVE YOU READ? Scary thoughts – living with postpartum OCD

Just remember that time focusing on YOU and your relationships with others is just as important for raising well adjusted, well loved children as is the time you devote directly to them. They learn from us the importance of seeking and finding wholeness. This, in turn, gives them permission to seek wholeness for themselves as they learn and grow and discover who they are and who they want to be. It reminds them that we are all part of a larger community–of family, friends, caretakers. They can rest assured that they have a breadth of community to lean into when life is especially hard and when it’s especially joyful. We can remind ourselves of that, too.

Remember your community, momma.

Name your community. Call on your community. This may just be one of the greatest gifts you can give your children–permission to ask for help, share responsibility, nurture their passions, and experience love from a multitude of people and spaces. They deserve this gift. So do you.


Morgan Studer - theCityMomsABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Morgan Studer is a southern transplant in the Midwest who still considers 70 degrees jacket weather, and is always on the hunt for the best biscuits and gravy. Her day job in the higher education world connects her passions for continuous learning and personal growth with community engagement.

On weekends you’ll find her adventuring with her husband and two children, grabbing ice cream, Geocaching at a local park, or snuggling up with a few good books.

Morgan enjoys a hot cup of coffee, exploring new places on foot, and settling in for a good Netflix binge.

2018-09-04T16:50:03+00:00August 28th, 2018|
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