It took me a long time to really understand the saying ‘it takes a village to raise a child’. After growing my first son inside me for 9 months, then being constantly in his presence for the first 10 months of his life, I found it incredibly difficult to go back to paid work.
The night before I dropped him off at daycare for his first full day I sat on the couch and howled for close to an hour.
He was too young, he couldn’t possibly survive without me, I was a terrible mother for even thinking about going back to work and leaving my little boy with complete strangers.
Eventually I came to understand that it was okay for him to have more than one primary carer. In fact, it was a fabulous privilege to have so many people know and understand him and his needs. It took the pressure off me and reassured him that his world wouldn’t fall apart if Mummy wasn’t there for a few hours.
Fast forward 6 years and I have two gorgeous boys – aged 4 and 6 – and they have multiple primary carers during the week. They really are being raised by a village.
Apart from the usual parenting things – like feeding and bathing the kids at night, giving them plenty of cuddles and trying to prevent them from killing each other – Mr D is also the sole carer for the boys one day each week.
Mr D works 5 days a week, but he has a non-standard weekend – he has one week day off. On this week day, he gets to be a SAHD while I go to work. He’s the sole carer for Mr 4 and he does school run for Mr 6. He makes the school lunch, cooks dinner and does the nightly reader with Mr 6.
It also works out fabulously for me because for one day each week I get to walk out the door without a care in the world, then come back home to a clean house and dinner on the table. It’s simply divine.
My mum retired from teaching a few years back. She now splits her week days between tutoring high school students and caring for grandkids (my 2 boys and my sister’s 2 girls).
Two days a week we drop the boy with her at 6.45am. She takes them to daycare and school at 9am and picks them up again at 3.30pm. I often waltz in from work at 5.15pm to find she’s not only looked after the boys but vacuumed the house, made the beds and tidied the entire house. She really is my fairy godmother!
We have been blessed with a fabulous local long daycare centre. It’s like a tiny school full of caring aunts who are also qualified educators. Both boys have been there 2-3 days per week from the time they were 10-11 months old and there’s has been hardly any turnover in staff at all.
The same educator who I delivered Mr 6 to as a baby greeted me last week to discuss Mr 4’s ‘good day, but he’s had some difficulties with his listening’. (That’s early childhood educator code for: ‘He’s been a pain in the arse and won’t do anything he’s told to do.’)
Mr 6 is in grade 1 now. It’s opened up a whole new village for him – his classroom teacher, the specialist teachers (including the art teacher who gave him an ‘Artist of the month’ award #proudmum), his friends and their families.
Then, of course, there’s me. There are 3 week days when I leave the house at 6.45am and don’t get back again until 5.15pm. There’s 1 week day when I work from home during school hours so I can do the daycare and school runs.
Then there’s 1 week day when I’m home to look after Mr 4 and do the school run for Mr 6. On that day, my sister drops her two girls – Miss 2 and Miss 8 months – off to me for the day so she can go to work. Before 9am my Mum comes and takes over for a while so I can do school run and read with Mr 6’s class for an hour.
At around 11am my Dad arrives bearing donuts and slices to help look after the littlies. Also just because it’s fun to be part of the village. Because villages are lovely for everyone involved if you’re privileged enough to have one. And they’re wonderfully safe and secure places for kids as well.
Who’s part of your kids’ village?