This is a continuation of Parts 1 & 2 of Tips for Parenting Through Troubled Waters where I discussed consistency, which can be found here, and Action and Reaction, which can be found here. This is the final part of the series, part 3, which will discuss support in Building Your Village.
Again, parenting is hard. Truly, we cannot do it alone. Even if we read all the things, take all the advice, and do all the things, it’s still hard. We are human and we are not meant to be alone. We need each other. St. Paul tells the Galatians (6:2) to “bear one another’s burdens, and so you will fulfill the law of Christ.” By learning, leaning, and growing with other parents or other supports, we can bear much more. Yes, one person can build a house but it takes more time and stress and effort. One person can create a masterpiece but it’s much more laborious and taxing on a single person. Even God is a Community Himself in the Holy Trinity!
“It takes a village to raise a child” is an old proverb often thought to have its origins somewhere in Africa. It’s true too… to an extent. Yes, a village means community and community often means support, but it does not mean the parents are obsolete.
The first to raise a child are his (or her) parents. This is key. The adults living with the child, feeding the child, dressing the child… These are the primary caregivers and decision makers. However, we must remember that these too are human and need support. With mental health at an all-time low, we need to remember to support our support! This is where the village comes in, not to raise the child directly but to support the raising of the child by supporting the parents.
So how does one build said village? Here's five tips:
- Find who loves you truly. If they have an agenda, say goodbye (or at least thanks but no thanks.) You and your kiddo are not a prize to be won or a story to be had. You are people and loved by the Almighty, so you should find support people who love you this way. You’ll know by the way they listen and respect you and if they’re kind even in their criticism. (Criticism doesn’t mean they don’t love you. It can be done with love.)
- Find who has time for you. It’s been said, “If you need something done, ask a busy person.” Sometimes the busiest of people are those who can squeeze in a task because they know how to make room for what’s important. So don’t judge a person’s busyness by whether or not they’re doing anything, but by whether or not they make time for you. If they struggle with their schedule and squeeze in time for a quick conversation and advice, that’s great; they’re doing what they can! If they hang out at home but just “don’t have time” to come over and help with the kids, maybe don’t rely on them when you’re in greater need. That doesn’t mean count them out of your life but just don’t make them your first go-to for help. Go first to those who put you and your child first.
- Experience matters! Your best friend may love you fiercely and always be there for you, but maybe she has zero clue how to raise a kid because she’s still busy pursuing a career or relationship or her family has completely different experiences than yours. That’s okay, your village is more than just one person. Find who has the experience (and better yet success!) that you’re looking for when seeking advice and support. Those tidbits can take you far through your troubled waters!
- Who’s your anchor? This is different for everyone. For some, it’s one person. For others, it’s a few people. Christians will often find it’s God and their faith in Him. You may find, as is often the case, it’s a combination. When things come crashing down, what gets you up again. To whom do you call? Make sure your anchor is a reliable source (can’t go wrong with God, or at least a faithful person!) Your anchor must be there through any situation, at any time needed, no exceptions. Who better than God to be your primary anchor? We hope in the Lord because He has good plans for us (Jer 29:11). If your faith needs help, however, find those you can speak to such as a priest or other spiritual advisor.
- Who’s close in a pinch? Even if a person isn’t top on the list for the other qualities, they may live the closest and be willing to help on short-term notice. Car trouble? Stuck at work? Sick? Is there someone local that can pick up your child or give one of you a ride? Having an emergency contact in this way is important. Your go-to in other cases may be a bit out of reach for local emergencies so a neighbor or geographically close contact can be essential.
Each of these points can bring a list of people to mind, or maybe you’re struggling to fill all the gaps. That’s okay; village-building can take time. Who knows you best? Start there. You may have a big village or a tiny village. You may have child specialists or clueless best friends. We all start somewhere. Our support system is there to empower us to go forward, do better, feel loved, and grow more. When we thrive, our kids thrive. You can’t pour from an empty cup. Make sure you have what you need from who you need so you can give your kids the faith and life formation they need to grow into healthy adults.
[Be sure to check out the St. Raymond Nonnatus Facebook page for the upcoming podcast series on this topic with Anne DeSantis and myself!]