An ancient African proverb reads: ‘It takes a village to raise a child’.
This never rang truer for me than when I separated from my first husband when my daughter was not yet two and a half.
I was young, and taking care of a young child as well as working full-time was challenging. My ex had exited stage right, not in the picture. My large, extended family happily stepped up to the plate, taking my daughter for day trips, movie outings, sleepovers, picnics. It was so appreciated, especially during a period of high stress in my life. My daughter was happy and thriving, which is all a mother really wants. My family had sought to ensure that she didn’t miss an ounce of childhood throughout that time.
When my siblings and cousins began to have children of their own, I offered my time, love, and experience:
I make homemade freezer meals for new moms in my family, because who can think of cooking during those first, chaotic first weeks?
Some took me up on once-a-week overnight stays, during which I would care for their newborn (if the baby was being nursed I would wake with Baby and stay with Mama until Baby was fed, and then take the baby out so Mama could sleep). Burping, changing, pacing, singing, rocking, soothing my niece or nephew so parents could replenish their sleep stores, and wake up refreshed and ready to take on the demanding days (and nights) ahead.
I offer to babysit any time, any where, and love the time I get to spend with the little babies and children in my family.
Sometimes friends and family struggle or have too much on their plate for a time. Often, they won’t ask for help, believing they need to do it alone, or that struggling means they can’t handle it.
Surrounded by a supportive, strong community (or village!), no mother has to do it alone. Look at the situation, put yourself in the mom’s shoes, and do for her, what you would appreciate if you were her: An afternoon off, a girls’ night out, a freezer meal, resources. Whatever it may be.