I love the phrase “It takes a village to raise a child.” If you really believe that, it takes a lot of pressure off of you as a parent, doesn’t it? Realizing that, even if you are a single parent, you aren’t doing it alone. You can’t do it alone. I don’t think it’s possible. There will always be other adults in your child’s life that are influencing them, teaching them, molding them… parenting them, perhaps just for a tiny spot of time, perhaps for their whole lives. Every time they go to school, the teachers and leaders there are in charge for a bit. If they do extra curricular activities, those teachers and coaches will be big influences in their lives. If they spend a lot of time with grandparents or aunts and uncles or go to daycare or have a steady nanny or babysitter, all of those people are helping you parent. Even siblings are a part of it! We used to always joke that I had four moms and my younger sister had five because we knew that the older siblings played a big role in raising the younger. How comforting it is to know that no matter how alone you feel as a parent, you have help. You are not doing this on your own.
On the other hand, that could also terrify you. If you are anything like my mother was, you would far prefer to have complete and unquestioned control over your children’s upbringing. I’m not so sure the problem was that she didn’t trust any other adult. But she didn’t know – couldn’t know – what her children were being told and how they were being treated by other adults. I guess it can be scary to give up control for a moment or a day or a week and let your children out of your sight and out of your perfect parenting plan. I don’t think that’s the reason she chose to homeschool us, but hey – it did cut down a lot on the time we spent out of the house and the number of other adults who could be an influence on us.
I remember attending a conference when I was a young high schooler and being asked by the speaker to write down three adults other than my own parents whom I felt I could go to if I was struggling with something or needed to talk. I sat there staring at the paper and cycling through all the adults in my life, and I just came up completely empty. We weren’t encouraged to become close to our leaders or to open up to teachers. Maybe this was more because I was a reserved child, but I typically felt like I was not allowed to share hardships – or anything negative, for that matter – with someone outside the family. That could end up making our whole family look bad. It could damage our reputation. God forbid.
Instead of sharing with others, I turned to writing, which has worked out pretty well for me in the end, so no complaints there. But I was thinking the other day about why it’s so scary to accept that you are not completely in charge of parenting your children. Having given up the opportunity to parent my daughter at all, I feel nothing but peace at the prospect of being only a small influence in her life. During a pre-birth meeting, my daughter’s mother said something that stuck with me. We were discussing my many relatives and what their presence in my daughter’s life would be like, and I said something along the lines of not wanting it to be too crazy for her having all this family from her birth mom. Her mother said, “The more people who love this child, the better.” How simple. How true. Why would it ever be a bad thing for there to be one more person in the world who cares about your child?
It takes a village. And that’s okay.