My third lesson of parenthood is DEFINITELY get yourself a great community around you – because I believe children flourish when raised in a community. I have learnt this lesson the hard way, often completely isolating myself from anything even remotely resembling a community. When Lex first came along, I spent the first six months almost totally alone. At that time, I had two groups of friends. Those without kids, not even close to contemplating my new world, and those well into parenthood with teens, happily moving on from what I was going through every day. Most of my friends were also working fulltime and as life has a way of getting very very full, I was left alone for much of the time. On top of that, with Steve off travelling for business a lot, this alone time was sometimes 24 hours a day, seven days a week – not good for my sanity that’s for sure.
In many ways it was my choice. I didn’t want to join mother’s groups, because the idea just didn’t jive with me. Almost certainly a mistake, but there you go. I was also in Singapore, which meant no family network to provide support. As well as this, I was putting a lot of pressure on myself to achieve stuff other than motherhood, so running around having coffees was definitely not in the game plan as it took away potential work time, and lack of achievement meant frustration for me – yeah I was doing a lot of resisting. But probably the most significant reason is I just didn’t want to breast feed in public, so it was easier to stay at home.
Since then, we’ve built great communities, and then moved countries, and then moved countries or cities again, all the time having to start from scratch on the community building front. Most of the home responsibility remained with me as well, because Steve has to travel with the sort of work he does – although he has been home this last year, which has been lovely. I have definitely found that the 24 hour a day, seven day a week responsibility for children, without any sort of break – even a decent uninterrupted nights’ sleep – is not healthy for me. So that’s why we decided to come back to Singapore. Here we have an extensive community of people now in the same boat with young families, we have really great friends we can rely on, and we have home help, which frees us up to spend time with our lads, each other, but also to work – something I need.
I had already learnt this community lesson though – it just didn’t pan out. You see, about 10 years ago, a great friend (Kirsti) found out she was pregnant and going to be a single Mum. At the time she was living in Melbourne and decided to move to Sydney to start her new life. I asked her why she made this decision at this time in her life, and she said the best community to support her was in Sydney. Most women would never make such a huge decision if they found out they were up the duff and doing it alone, but Kirsti was absolutely right. She does have an amazing community around her in Sydney, everyone loves and supports her and Indi, her beautiful daughter. I know that the life they have built, focused on having a great community around them, has made the single parenthood journey that much easier for my dear friend. She’s a brave woman and I admire her tremendously.
As I said, I did take this lesson on board when Kirsti told me long before I had kids, but somewhere along the way, life had a way of sorting itself out and moving me/us around so that community was the last thing we could have, but now it’s time to refocus and make sure it’s what we have – because we all need it. Great community is what being human is all about right?
Living in Asia, I regularly feel very envious of the family support my friends’ enjoy. I mean Mums and Dads can go on holidays together? Or they can have a night off kids whenever they want – what a dream! Steve and I have had one night off together in the last five+ years, so we are definitely green with envy when friends’ tell us about their freedom in parenthood. Lucky bastards! With that said, I know it comes with obligations and it’s not always easy having the extended family involved in your lives – so a case of grass is always greener right?
I’m not feeling sorry for myself here (well maybe a little), but I have learnt this lesson the hard way – for lots and lots of different reasons – but community, if you’re going to be a parent, get yourself some, in whatever form it takes!
Yours, without the bollocks