Finding My Village

What parent doesn’t love a bit of time out? With the busyness of family life it’s so easy to get caught up in a whirlwind of life and let time slip by without having time to even catch your breath.

I’m a big fan of some time out, getting out of the house with other adults, my partner or even just on my own to try and retain some sanity and stop my head from spinning. Sadly for us, getting out of our house isn’t always easy.

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No! Get me outta the house, please. 

 

If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard an “expert” claim that the secret to a happy marriage involves taking time out to “reconnect”, I’d be able to afford a full-time nanny. Apparently it’s important to keep the spark alive, and often experts suggest a date night as a way of doing this. Unfortunately these experts aren’t aware that it’s often not that easy. From the people I know, those early years when children are young and often families live off one income, money can be tight and it’s not easy to pay for a babysitter. That’s when I like to throw a handy proverb around…

 

“It takes a village to raise a child”– African Proverb. See, it says “African Proverb”, so it’s totally legit.

 

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Agreed. It definitely takes more than the parents of a child to raise them into functional adults. More importantly, I think it takes a support network to help parents maintain their sanity and be the best parents they can be and by that I mean that we need someone in our village to willingly take our children for a bit so that we can have some time out, because sometimes we just need a break. So that we’re clear about this, I do really love my children. I don’t feel the desire to be away from them often, but sometimes I do feel the need to have some space even if it’s for the shortest time.

The idea that there are a group of people, a village, who love your children almost as much as you is perfect. There’s a continuous support network for your family, lots of variety and many different contributing ideas and ways of doing things, as well as copious amounts of love. And there’s babysitters!

We were lucky enough to get a few nights to ourselves for dinners and coffees four years ago when our youngest son was undergoing treatment for his dodgy heart, (you can read about that here). Because he had one to one care in ICU, we were able to get out for an hour here and there. Sounds desperate? That’s because we were (still are) completely desperate. The Nurses joked with us that lots of parents had commented how it was the first time they had time out in years.

We enjoyed that so much that we managed to get away for a weekend away with a group of friends a while ago. The planets aligned and I was just about beside myself, absolutely giddy with excitement we couldn’t believe that we were actually having TWO nights to ourselves for the first time in 7 years that didn’t involve a hospital. My parents agreed to have our children, we organised absolutely everything and headed off on our weekend of child-free wine tasting. Unfortunately I only lasted a couple of hours before I was struck down with a revolting tummy bug that saw me confined to my toilet and bed for 48 hours. I cried like a baby for those 48 hours, I was so furious. To make matters worse, my three boys were all struck with the same bug so I had my poor mum on the phone worried about the boys who were in her care which made me cry and worry even more. In short, it was a disaster.

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This was us heading off on our weekend getaway, pre- tummy bug. I did come back a couple of kilos lighter which is something. Right?

I know lots of people who will get a call from their parents asking to have the Grandchildren for a day/night/weekend. There’s others who have so many keen babysitters in their village that they’re spoilt for choice. I even know of a few people who get so much time out that they don’t do anything with their child-free nights, they actually just sit and watch TV. If I even get a sniff of a child-free night I start coordinating immediately, it becomes an event. Like a major event.

I once overheard a girl I knew complaining to her friend about her horrible Mother-In-Law who had called up to ask if she could have her children for a sleepover. I had to hide in the next aisle so that I could hear her get to the horrible part of the story, but there was no complication, no horrendous act by the evil Grandmother. In all fairness, this mother did work full time so her complaint was that she wanted to spend some time with her own children, but it was still hard to hear. It was a bit like having to listen to a skinny person complain about having trouble gaining weight despite eating whatever they like.

Then last year we reached our 10 year wedding anniversary. We planned a child-free meal weeks in advance at a popular and hard to get into restaurant, but had to cancel when I was hit with the most horrendous bout of tonsillitis I’ve ever had in my life. If I’d been given the option I would have chosen to walk over hot coals rather than experience that tonsillitis. The pain could only be rivalled by the agony of having to cancel that reservation.

I understand there’s a whole bunch of “been there, done that” people who claim that when they were parents there was no time out, no date night or mini breaks away. This generation of parents like to remind my generation of parents that we shouldn’t need to get away from our children, and I might have just agreed with them until I got away from my children successfully for a weekend, in fact it was a long weekend, and I loved it.

 

A friend’s wedding in New Zealand provided us with the perfect excuse to get away on our own for a weekend. We have a recently diagnosed diabetic to add to the list of health issues our children have since our last getaway, so babysitters are absolutely limited. Our Village is indeed small. Once again my awesome mum put up her hand and offered to have our cherubs for the weekend, our long weekend.

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Escaping in New Zealand

We got away without anyone getting sick, we all survived the entire weekend without anyone getting hurt or admitted to hospital. Our three boys tend to work as a pack, they wrestle and fight, but apparently they were relatively well behaved for my parents. Unbelievable!

I cannot adequately express how amazing this weekend was for us. For the first time since our eldest son was born 9 years ago, we managed to have a couple of days to ourselves without some kind of disaster. Everyone had joked about our “dirty weekend”. And if by dirty you mean that we drank wine at lunch, slept a solid eight hours sleep, we went to the toilet/restaurant/shops/galleries without disruption, then yes, we had a dirty weekend.

I came home a completely different person, I was calm and excited to be around my children. I don’t think this change can happen with just a dinner or a coffee or a date night. I still think all of those are great, and I certainly will accept anyone who offers to watch my pack so that I can participate in any of those. But I’m talking about a proper little break, a rare treat and a complete time out without any guilt. Going to a different country (NZ is a different country) meant that I couldn’t just come back quickly, I wasn’t on call. Once I accepted that my mother had raised me and I survived, that she knows all about my son’s chronic illness and how to deal with it, I allowed myself to relax and be totally in the moment.

I’m not suggesting that we all ship our kids off and head overseas for a holiday, that would be silly. Probably. But I think we need to make sure we have a village around us to help out when we need it and to offer the same for our fellow villagers, and we need to be aware of those close to us who have a very restricted village. After that weekend we experienced,  I would absolutely offer to have any of my friend’s children for a weekend to provide the same opportunity to have some time out when they absolutely need it. I have no idea how my single parent friends cope,  or how those who don’t have any family around actually survive. I really feel for families who live with someone with very high needs, those who absolutely can’t just pack up and leave, they need a break more than anyone.

So here I am friends from small villages, if you need to reconnect with your partner, or have a weekend to yourself so that you don’t lose the plot, I’m happy to help you out.

And if you just want to drink wine I can do that with you, I’m ALWAYS here for that. x

 

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