I grew up around lots of grandparents, aunties, cousins and neighbours. Literally, all of those relatives were also my neighbours. I come from a small town, a village you might even say. There were always someone there. I’m not saying that my mother didn’t sense the loneliness of motherhood as she became a mother at 20, because I’m sure she did.
What has surprised me the most about becoming a mother is in fact the loneliness and the traits this brings out in me. The weeks where there has been little interactions with anyone above the age of 4 are relentless and I notice myself sinking into a well of self pity, impatience, bitterness and anger. The littlest thing will set my fury on fire and I often wonder whether this would be different if motherhood was a shared experience, like I imagine it was when women were expected to be housewives. In my mind I idyllically imagine that the mothers would come together during the day and share the burden and drink the tea.
On Wednesdays I meet up with a friend who I met through my eldest daughter (because my daughter has a better social life than I do, her calendar is absolutely filled to the brim with events and birthday parties) and we spend the entire afternoon together with our kids, and alternate who is hosting. And by hosting I mean who dishes up a simple dinner for the kids and provide wine. I live for those days. I am so much more relaxed, and if one of the kids knocks their drink over I shrug and think “well accidents happen”, whereas as when this happens at home on a bad day I lose my shit completely. On these days I feel the physical presence of a village. There’s two of us. One of us can watch the kids while the other one has a luxurious wee in peace. It makes me think how much better of a parent I am when I am not alone.
And I am alone a lot. I don’t work, although I would love to – all I will say about that situation is cost of childcare – and my husband works hard and often away. My family is in a different country and however supporting my in-laws are, live very exciting and busy lives. And so they should! I often feel like the upbringing of my two girls rest heavily on my shoulders, and the weight is sometimes too heavy to carry for one person alone.
There was a period when my youngest daughter was around 6 months when I started to really feel it; the loneliness and sadness. The lack of a village and a network of mothers to share with. It was around this time I started writing candidly about motherhood and changed my handle on Instagram. I decided I had to become more sociable or I would simply crumble under the weight on my shoulders. I would have to start reaching out and actually making myself talk to other mums. Not easy, but it was at that point necessary.
What followed was a new world opening up to me; thousands of mothers feeling exactly the same as me were revealed. And we spoke about it, shared our experiences and war wounds. The shame and embarrassment of feeling like we’d been slightly missold the idea of motherhood. I thought I could have it all, the babies and the life I previously had of working and and parenting simultaneously. I grew up seeing both of my parents working equally hard, although I am sure this was no easy task for them as these were the days before subsided childcare in Norway, but it provided me with the view that it could be done. But unfortunately it can’t currently be done. And as a result I have had to find a village somewhere else. And it’s right here, on Instagram. I’m not entirely sure how my life would be today if it wasn’t for the support that exists in these squares, and the friendships that have emerged as a result. Both cyber friendships and cyber friendships that have evolved into real life relationships. Both equally important.
When taking about the Instagram village I also want to give a little shoutout to someone who I met through Instagram that has introduced me to hundreds of women in the same situation as me. And that is Lorna, who in a moment of despair created a night for mothers to come together and have some simple fun. Pushing myself to go to one of her first pizzups introduced me to a whole new group of women who I now consider a big part of my village.
And yes, it does take a village to raise a child. That village may no longer be in the shape of a street where everyone knows each other, but instead exist in a virtual landscape where there is room for everyone, and where everyone are welcome to share and receive support without judgment. I am in your village, and you are in mine.