When I found out I was pregnant I had just moved to a new city with my son’s father. Even before the positive test result became a thick and certain solid line, I knew what I had to do. Within a few months, we had packed up and returned to the city where I had lived for 10 years, built a career, had a steady circle of friends. I knew in my heart that my baby’s father wasn’t in it for the long haul, and I knew that I would need my friends, my old neighbourhood, my support system. I couldn’t imagine spending maternity leave in a new city where I knew only two people.
I set up our new place at 16 weeks pregnant, filled with both fear about our future and the joy and peace of coming home. I dreamed about the days when my old friends would come over and visit the baby and I, bringing casseroles and stories. I imagined going to library story time and meeting other new moms; finding instant bonds and going for long walks along the seawall with our babies napping snugly in their strollers. I was sure that by the time my child’s father left, I would have shoulders to cry on, hands to hold and a house full of laughter.
Four long years have passed since those lovely daydreams. My son’s father is long gone, and I am really ok with that. My son is a beautiful and magical and wild preschooler who melts my heart and drives me bonkers. I am in a terrifying and stressful legal battle for custody of him. I fight all day, every day to defend his safety and happiness. It is hard. I need to attend appointments with my lawyer. I need to go to the doctor. I need sleep. I need to shower. I need to breathe. Thankfully, we now have a wonderful man in our life who shows up and loves us wholeheartedly, but one man cannot carry the weight of a whole village.
I have been to every mom and kid program my city has to offer. I have spent hours at playgrounds, play gyms, single mom groups, community centres, pools. I have posted ads on Craigslist for mom friends and grandmas and sitters. Each time I put on a brave face and try to connect. But I come away empty-handed. It feels like going to the high school cafeteria and never quite sitting at the right table. I met one wonderful, funny, kind, willing friend with whom I clicked immediately and perfectly, and just as quickly he moved to another country. Our kids were awesome buddies. I loved him and I loved his kid. We laughed our asses off every time we hung out. Now he’s just another faraway friend.
Here’s the truth: Moms (and dads) are one of two things — supported or exhausted. The supported ones have grandmas and grandpas showing up and cooking or giving them date nights or appointment time or — gasp! — a full night’s sleep. They have aunties and uncles, best friends with kids, neighbours with kids and yards, cousins, play groups, dinner parties, babysitter connections. They also seemingly have no room for new village members. They glance over from within their beautiful supported bubble and smile vaguely, not remembering the ten times you’ve introduced yourself.
The exhausted ones… they look more like me.
They have one sitter, whom they found on Craigslist, who is always late and rarely available. Their best friends with kids live far away. Their families are busy; too busy to see their heads barely above the surface as they tread water. The friends they thought would be by their side are out having cocktails, at yoga, running marathons, in Vegas, asleep for hours. Everyone nods in sympathy but does very little about it. The exhausted ones, we languish on the couch at 9PM after the kids are asleep. We schedule appointments around our one, exhausted sitter. We struggle each day to start again and get brave enough to put on our boots and go to story time or play gym or mom’s group and smile, again, hoping someone will open the glorious gates to the Village.
So the next time you see me, or someone like me, at the playground, please come on over. Ask me to join you for coffee. Yes, my eyes are tired. My pants might be on backwards. I probably have my shirt on inside out. But I am here, and I am (still) looking through these tired eyes for my Village.