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When Your Village is Just One Person

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I’m in a very vulnerable place this week, so this is going to get real. You’ve been warned.

It Takes a Village

Parenting books and mom blogs repeat over and over, “It takes a village!” “Find your mom tribe!” “Surround yourself with a supportive network!” etc, etc, etc. Sounds great, right? But what about the people who don’t have that village? It’s not as if it comes in the standard hospital package. Here are your baby diapers, your peri pads, your granny panties, and, oh, don’t forget Janice, Sarah, and Rachel, your new mommy besties! As nice as that would be,Β it’s not that easy– at least for many of us.

I’m the type of person who opens up to very few people. I would rather have one really close friend (a “kindred spirit”) than a hoard of casual friends. Over the years, those close friends have come and gone– life happens. Having moved several times doesn’t help my cause. Long-distance relationships are a struggle for me. I’m a homebody at heart and a very private person. I also feel that making friends, especially best friends, after age 30 or so is much more difficult. People have their people, and the best friend “dating pool” has shrunk to the size of a puddle. So, for the last ten years, my one and only best friend has been… my husband. That’s been super convenient on one hand. I’m a homebody, and he’s already at home! On the other hand, it has its drawbacks.

A Literary Feast -- It takes a village | when your village is one person | parenting | lifestyle

Enter kids. AKA Drawback #1 and Drawback #2. Making the shift to parenthood is both a strain on the individual and the couple. I’ve heard varying opinions on this, but for us, kid #2 rocked our world WAY more than kid #1 did. He’s 17 months old now, so for almost 1.5 years, we’ve been under a constant level of stress. I’m telling you, it’s been rough. To set the scene more fully, we do not have any family near us, and we both work outside of the home on opposite schedules so our boys have never needed childcare. That’s great for them. For us, it means that we are always ON. There is never a break. There is rarely a day off together. Family time is limited, and I can count our date nights on one hand since our first son was born almost four years ago. Let me tell you, for two introverts who have always seen home as a safe haven, having multiple charges who need your attention all the livelong day is beyond exhausting. All couples go through a strained growing time after becoming parents, but when your spouse is also your best friend, it’s a double whammy. You somehow lose track not only of how to be a couple, but also how to be friends.

When Parenting is Lonely

To the private person who doesn’t easily confide in others, this means that the loneliness of parenthood is even more magnified. Here’s what it looks like on a daily basis. You are mentally and physically exhausted, so you don’t get as much done as you wanted to. The house is trashed. The house always seems trashed these days. When you work three full days and your husband works the other four, it’s hard to divide the chores. You are either there or you’re not there. And the baby cries at the gate when you try to get anything done in the kitchen, so you just give up on it. You are tired. So very tired. So tired that it’s hard to plan outings and even harder to coordinate those with other moms and kids. So you stay in your isolated bubble and start thinking that you’ll never have a true adult conversation again. You think about having a playdate at your house… but your house is a mess, and it’s just not worth trying to make it look perfect. You wish you had the kind of friends that you felt comfortable inviting over despite your messy house, but you don’t. Or maybe you do, but it’s just an extra pressure you put on yourself.

It's okay to admit that you haven't found your village yet. One person can be enough. Click To Tweet

You can’t complain about it all to your husband, because he’s just as tired and just as stressed. At some point, you forget that you are in this together, and it’s hard to laugh together about it. Survival mode kicks in, and you do what you have to do to see yourself through each day. There’s not much, if any, emotional energy left for empathy if, say, your spouse gets a cold. Once upon a time, that would call for some pampering and extra sweetness, but now? Buck up, buddy. I can’t deal with anything else. There’s also so much more to complain about. Who isn’t pulling their weight, who forgot to do this, who acted this way… When your primary confidante is also your primary scapegoat, that doesn’t work so well. A best friend outside of the boiling pot is needed; otherwise, the pressure will escape elsewhere.

When You Really Need Help

And then, things get even worse. This was our week: minor home damage from the hurricane necessitating home insurance calls and assessments; a flat tire on the car and not a single break in our schedule to get it to the shop. This was a big week for my husband, as he had a presentation to give at a local school. And then I hurt my back. I’ve had back pain before, but nothing like this. If you are a Gilmore Girls fan like I am, you may remember the time Lorelai hurt her back and her mother stayed over to help her? (I wrote about that episode here.) I always thought that storyline was exaggerated just a little bit. I’m here to tell you that it was entirely feasible because I looked just like that today.

I spent the morning on the floor, letting my boys use me like a jungle gym and generally wreak havoc on the living room. I couldn’t walk. Thank goodness the baby didn’t poop because I couldn’t have lifted him onto the changing table. I can honestly say that I’ve never had pain like this, even during labor. (And I would have paid good money for an anesthesiologist to make a house call to give me an epidural today!) Now, sure, there are friends and neighbors I could have called who would have been readily willing to help with the boys or run errands, and in no way do I want them to read this and feel guilty. It’s on me to ask for help when needed. It’s hard for me to ask that of them, though. I always think about how busy everyone is, I don’t want to be a bother, and a multitude of other excuses. I really do need to read more of those “it takes a village” articles. At any rate, I knew my husband would be home by noon, so I toughed it out.

The Village Comes Through

So, what happens when your village is ONE person? One person who is also stressed to the max? One person who has a big presentation that night? One person who really needed the focus on him that day? My husband found me on the floor and helped me up. When I collapsed into tears with the pain (he can count on one hand the times he’s seen me cry), he immediately canceled his afternoon appointments, took over the house and kids, insisted that I get an adjustment and a massage, and didn’t let me lift a finger for the rest of the day. He walked to the store after his big presentation to get me a heating pad and took our 3-year-old with him to burn off some of his cooped-up energy. In short, he was my savior today.

It’s been a hard week, but the silver lining has been the window of realization that deep down, we are still there. We’ve got each other’s backs, and as the kids grow and the laundry settles, we’ll find our groove again, side by side. It’s frustrating and gratifying to be best friends with your spouse. I’ve realized that I’m not really cut out for the “mom tribe.” Sure, I love my neighbors and playdate buddies, and it’s fun to see our kids interact. When push comes to shove, though, I’ve got my wingman right here.

Still holding open auditions for a backup best friend, though. πŸ˜‰

A Literary Feast -- It takes a village | when your village is one person | parenting | lifestyle

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19 comments on “When Your Village is Just One PersonAdd yours →

  1. Hey Grace, I totally went through what you are going through now. So frustrating, & heart-wrenching. We moved to a different town when the kids were little. I spent a lot of the time at parks with playground cause I didn’t know anyone. My saving grace was sticking my toddler girl into an hour’s tumbling class just to give me a break-cause I needed it. The parents had to stick around because kids were so little and I got my little dose of adult interaction then-but being uber-shy made meeting people difficult. Our kids are teens now and I survived-we both did. So I’m holding this light for you at the end of the tunnel. It does get better! The kids will grow fast. So hang on , girl!

    1. Oh, thank you so much for sharing your experiences, Sally! Seeing those end-of-tunnel lights is so encouraging, even as I try to hold on to these fleeting baby years. It’s such a balance, isn’t it? I hope that you eventually found your group of friends.

  2. I type this as I view the carnage that once was my living room. My son and his cousin (both 4) have been such little monsters today and my pain levels are higher than usual. I have Lupus so I feel very isolated much of the time not always being able to deal with daily chores let alone getting dressed and going somewhere. I too am in the market for a backup best friend but until then I have my rock and the most dependable best friend a girl could ask for, my husband!

  3. I think a mom tribe is great but making new mom friends is kind of like dating. It takes so long until you are at a point where you’re actually comfortable showing each other your dirty laundry (at least that’s been my experience). I moved to a new place 2 years ago and I finally have a few good mom friends that I regularly see and have playdates with, etc. But I still don’t feel like I can rely on them as my support system on a regular basis. But at least having friends to commiserate with when we’re all down in the trenches together makes it less lonely.

  4. Being a working mom & only having one child definitely made me the “odd mom out” for many of the neighborhood mom clubs. Even when I was included, I didn’t feel at home. I couldn’t handle the gossip and idle chit-chat. And I had no time to nurture relationships that didn’t really add value! (Too harsh?). When my daughter was 4, I met another mom who I clicked with…and then when my daughter started K, I found another. My tribe is small intentionally and it took time to even get to this point! And even if you do find some great moms to click with, your hubs will still be your best buddy & number #1 go-to person!

  5. Grace, your post really resonated with me. We are in a similar situation, raising two little boys (my oldest is just like your youngest) in a city far from either of our families. The days can be incredibly long. Fortunately our kids go to daycare and I get 8-10 hours alone, which I need to feel like a person. I wish I lived closer to you (maybe one day!) cause I would lend you a hand anytime. I’ve learned to ask for help, even though I hate burdening neighbors, but sometimes I have no other choice. Thanks for writing this and making me not feel so alone!

  6. This is fantastic. I sit here with #2 on my chest, because that’s the only place she naps, and I am searching for one square foot of my living room floor that is not covered with # 1’s toys. I count the minutes until my hubby gets home so I can hear an adult voice besides my beloved cooking shows’ contestants. But you know what, I wouldn’t change any if it… besides finding a friend or two to share it with!

    1. You are so right! I didn’t go into that side of it because (I hope!) it’s evident that I love my kids infinitely and feel #soblessed (haha!) to be at home with them as much as I am. I hear you. It’s such a dichotomy: the most fulfilling work in the world, but often the loneliest, too.

  7. While I can’t commiserate with the challenges that a second child brings, I remember those days when my girl was small. The hubby and I were always on opposite schedules (when I was working), and now with him working the evening shift at his hospital, I have maybe one day a week that he is off from work and we get time together with the child. We were also our own little self-contained village, and it worked. I can assure you, things get better. Different, yes, but as the challenges of the toddler days give way to school, some of the hard things get easier, and then a couple new hard things will come up, and the cycle continues to repeat itself.

    Then, one day, a glorious thing happens…you turn 40! Hear me out on this one. Once you hit 40, you realize that you do have friends, maybe only one or two, but friends who will come into your messy house and not give one flip about it because their house is messy, too. Or their house was messy because they used to have young children and pets and a life and they get it. And you really, truly, start worrying less about little things and just letting them roll off of you. You figure out that family time may be you sitting on the sidelines with your husband while your kids are playing soccer, and “date night” may be going to Lowe’s and looking for some home improvement item that you really need. It isn’t what we’ve been told it “should be”, but it is real and just as sweet.

    Hang tough, Grace, and any other mom out there who is living in the trenches right now. There will come a time when the memories of the hard stuff soften up a bit around the edges, and you realize that you survived what was insurmountable at times!

    1. Well, I’ve got a year to go before reaching that milestone, ha ha! I do agree that it’s important to learn to let the little things roll off. I’ve come to terms with it in my own life because there are far greater priorities to me than a clean house with the limited time I have. Now to let other people into that world of crazy… πŸ™‚

  8. I can relate to this so much! Except I don’t work so I am home with my two boys 24/7 and watch another little boy a few days a week, just to add to my stress. Yes I have a Tribe of supportive women online but nothing is like having friends or family close by to help when you need it and we have lived over 14 hours away from all of our loved ones for over two years and are about to move even further away. My husband is my best friend and rock but his stress levels are insane these days being the soul financial support of our family of 4 and taking a new job a few states away. Just know that you are not alone my friend.

    1. Of course you’ve heard this before, but being a SAHM is WORK! It may be the hardest job in the world. Good luck with your move! I found that I was wary to put down roots because I thought we would be moving again before too long. I’ve learned that it doesn’t matter! Bloom where you are planted, and all that. Even if you only plan to be in a place for two years, it’s worth it to make friends near you.

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