There is a well-known African proverb which states: “It takes a village to raise a child.”
This simple phrase is full to the brim with such wisdom and truth.
Raising children is one of the most beautiful jobs in the world and is also one of the most difficult.
Without support, companionship, and encouragement from others parenthood can feel not only lonely, but impossibly challenging at times.
Recently, at the end of a long day of parenting our seven children—all ages 7 and under, 5 of whom have disabilities or severe medical conditions—I told my husband, “If someone could give us directions to this dang village that is supposed to help with raising children that would be great because sometimes I’m not even sure it exists!”
While I said this in a state of half-exasperation and half-jest, there was an undertone of longing and ache beneath my words.
I am a full-time mom, caregiver, nurse, and teacher to my children.
I am often very lonely. I often dream of a break. It can feel isolating and incredibly overwhelming sometimes.
While it may be easy to assume that when a child arrives the village automatically rises up around that child and parents, this unfortunately is not always the case.
I think many families face this harsh reality.
However, I think families of children who have disabilities and medical conditions—families like mine—are often met with this hard truth on a deeper, more raw level than most.
Earlier this month I was feeling quite village-less as we prepared for several weeks of extra appointments and hospital stays.
I ached for support and help. I prayed for a village to step up.
I also let go of some of my need for independence and shared with others what we were going through and asked for help.
After that, I made a point to remember again and again each way that our little village did show up and to be thankful.
Just when I needed some hope and reminding that we are not alone, here is what happened:
-I had family members respond to my request for meals during multiple hospital stays.
-We have a babysitter who loves our children and covered the childcare needs we have.
-We have a family who “adopted” us and loves us as their own and invites us—even with all our craziness—to their home for dinner twice a month.
-My little sister knew I was struggling and texted me that she was picking me up for dinner, drinks, and a girl’s night. I’ve dreamed of someone doing that for years. She always listens so well, no matter how discouraged, depressed, or irritable I am.
-One friend delivered some of my favorite cookies to my front porch.
-Another friend has offered to provide respite care for some of our children each month.
-Yet another friend texted me and offered to bring me dinner when I was in the hospital with a child last week.
-A friend and mentor left a care package for me on our porch.
As I noted each little way that my family was loved on and supported over the past few weeks, my heart was so encouraged.
Our village may not look the same as others on a daily basis or anything close to what I thought it would when I was childless dreaming of the future.
I am learning that I must speak up and ask more for help than is comfortable and also look a little harder to see those surrounding us.
But our village is there and it is enough.
If you are feeling village-less right now, be sure to tune into the small details and see who really is surrounding you—few as they may be.
Speak up and let others know how much you need love and support.
Most of all, don’t lose hope and keep asking and striving for a village to be built around you.
If you are someone who could be the village for a family who needs one, don’t hesitate to step up.
Don’t assume the help and support isn’t needed.
Ask for specific ways to help and brainstorm fun ways to serve up kindness and joy to a family needing encouragement.
It truly does take a village to raise a child.
I am the village. You are the village. We are the village—no GPS required.