My mom swapped kids with other moms, hosted a weekly playgroup, and had carpools aplenty. She also had both sets of grandparents a phone call away as well as well as a whole list of neighborhood moms to instantly come to her rescue in a moment's notice if anything ever happened (and let’s face it: she had four kids, so that happened a lot). My husband and I are raising our kids without a village in busy New York City. I have a 9-year-old and 18-month-old and it’s honestly the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life.
If you ever see that frazzled mom at school pickup, anxiously waiting for the bus to get there with her older son while her toddler screams and squirms to get out of the stroller, that’s probably me. Or the mom who takes that same toddler to their local park a few times a week and sits alone, because that’s the only “break” she gets — that’s probably me, too. And I’m certain that’s an awful lot of you, too. I’m always alone with my kids, with no help or support in sight.
We always hear our parents say things like “it takes a village,” which has transitioned into today’s modern lingo of “find your tribe,” and the sentiment couldn’t be any more true. Kids need their parents for guidance and discipline, and to teach them all their life's wisdom, but that tribe, it’s for the mentally, emotionally and physically drained parents to lean on when they just hit a point where they can’t push forward any further. Which happens quite a lot with our over-packed schedules, homework, and expectations put on parents these days. Being a parent is tough enough when it’s just you and your partner going through all these different ages and stages together, but to not have that tribe — to not have anyone else at all to ever lean on and help give you a break of some sort — is another hurdle to add to the daily crazy.
My husband grew up in Brooklyn and we met while I was studying fashion design in the epicenter of the style world. In a whirlwind romance, I met him a week before he shipped off to basic training for the army and it wasn’t long after we found out we were pregnant with our first child. We got married and then little baby boy and I joined our soldier in Virginia where he was stationed and where we lived for the next four years. The army was a crazy tribe, but we had people there if we needed a babysitter and my husband and I had some family members close by.
Like all parents, I worry. I worry that I’m not enough, that I’m not being as positive, as filled with wisdom and as fun as I should be.
After his active duty contract was up, I pleaded for us to move back to the city where we fell in love so that I could pursue a career and actually use my fashion marketing degree. Fast forward a few years and I’m now a full-time freelance writer and parenting blogger with a fairly successful blog and a career that allows me to make my own hours, work from home and, most importantly, be there all the time for our kids (yup we added another one to the crew in 2016).
It’s been almost seven years that we've lived in the Big Apple. The glamour of New York City life has faded and all of its challenges have instead, made their way to the surface. My biggest hurdle now is how secluded I actually feel, despite living in a city of millions, and how I’m struggling through every day, raising these two, sweet kids of mine without a circle of mom pals to lean on.
Going through these emotions always leads me back to my own childhood. To a world of neighbors and friend's moms and relatives, all tagging in and out.
I knew that moving away from family would have some downsides and I’ve made great friends here in the city, mom friends, but it’s just a completely different way of life. We’re all spread out over this vast city, nestled into our neighborhood of choice near family or schools or close to work, and though we often group text or vent over a glass of wine about the pressures of being a mom, getting together takes a babysitter or our partner to rearrange a million things in their schedule. We sometimes schlep the stroller and all the baby things up and down the subway steps to get to one another, but being able to call most of them if there was, heaven forbid, an emergency, isn’t something I can count on.
And like all parents, I worry. I worry that I’m not enough, that I’m not being as positive, as filled with wisdom and as fun as I should be. Sometimes I think that I’m burning myself out with all of these “shoulds” instead of just being and it weighs so heavy on my stress level. Some days I know that I need to step away from this mom role or to just have someone around so that I can go to the dentist without my husband taking a personal day or dishing out $25 an hour for a NYC babysitter. To me, that mom tribe support is so important because it represents time for me to have a little glimpse of self-care that’s crucial for me to be the best mom I can be.
Looking back on the way I felt as a new parent, the first time around. I think a part of me resisted this whole “village” concept. I wanted to do everything on my own and have only my husband's and my influence instilled in our son. Now, many years, another child, and another city later, the wisdom has been bestowed upon me to embrace everything that that village is and stands for. Whenever we look for our next home, since we’ll be moving out of the city this summer, our priorities have shifted and seeking a community is at the top of our list.
Change can’t happen unless change happens after all and I’m determined to find my village.
Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.