The saying goes “It takes a village.” There are many things in life that require us to ask for and accept help from others. The life event that has shown me how true this saying is occurred roughly 2 ½ years ago when my husband and I welcomed a son to our family.
At first, I was bound and determined to do it without help. No one needed to come stay with us, no one needed to bring over supplies or help with chores. I could handle all the chores and shopping and watch my newborn and 2 hunting dogs as I recovered from a C-section while my husband left for work at 5am and didn’t return until 7-8pm. I was now a mom and I could take care of my baby and responsibilities, no problem. And I was lucky. I had an easy baby who liked to sleep through the night after only a few weeks, who liked to be worn and barely cried as I toted him through Target almost daily.
I made it through my maternity leave with only a short visit from my sister, who lived in Colorado, and some day visits from the in-laws. Then I needed to go back to work, but only for a few weeks, as I made a transition into being a stay-at-home mom. That’s when I realized I needed help. My sister-in-law rescued us from limited short term daycare options that were non-existent in our small Northern Minnesota town. She was between jobs and jumped at the opportunity to watch our little guy for a few weeks. Just knowing that someone who loved my son unconditionally was watching him made the few weeks I had to be at work that much easier.
My second dose of having to accept help came in the form of my husband’s generous grandmother. We were living in Grand Rapids and the hubby was working in Duluth, a 1 ½ hour plus drive one way…. so he spent just over 3 hours in the car a day. Grandma had a house on a lake north of Duluth that no one really used in the winter and would cut the dreaded drive time in half, so shortly after my last day of work we packed up the necessities and moved to the cabin for the winter. It was lonely and secluded, still a little over a half hour from Duluth but it meant that my husband was home for dinner almost every night and I had only a short trip to a lot more shopping then I had in Grand Rapids.
The next summer we managed to sell our house and buy a new home in Esko. The help that we received during our move made life so much easier. Between people willing to haul stuff, pack stuff, unpack stuff and watch the baby, the transition to our new home was very smooth. Then my sister moved in with us. Her rent came in the form of cooking, cleaning, and kid watching. It was amazing. Even though she moved out after 6 months I can still count on her to help out with the toddler and dogs whenever we need her.
The hardest help for me to accept was the help that my mother-in-law and father-in-law offered. They watched my baby for a week when he was 5 months old while my husband and I went to the Dominican Republic for a friends’ wedding. I felt guilty for leaving my baby and for burdening my in-laws with an infant. It wasn’t until after his first birthday that I slowly realized how much they actually wanted to have him for weekends and that they were willing to help out when we were in a bind. I went back to work after he turned one and he started daycare, which means sickness ensued. My father-in-law had recently retired and immediately offered up his services as “snuggler” of our sick child so my husband and I didn’t have to miss work. Over the past year and a half, he has saved us by watching our baby during sickness, appointments, meetings, and just taking him to the aquarium or lake when mom and dad needed a break or a work weekend.
When you have a baby, especially the first child, you want to prove to everyone that you can be super-mom. The guilt you feel when you leave your baby with someone else, or have someone else do your chores and errands can be hard to overcome. But I am here to tell you, accept it with open arms and an open mind. To you it may seem like a burden you are putting on your family and friends, but to them, it is a blessing. They all truly love spending time with your child or children, otherwise they wouldn’t offer to help. My family’s village consists of many people; my parents, in-laws, sisters and brothers, aunts and uncles, cousins, and many friends. Everyone’s village is different and should be embraced, loved, appreciated, and nurtured.
It does take a village to raise a child, now if only a village would come and fold the laundry!