Since becoming a mom I’ve read a couple of posts about what you should or shouldn’t do when it comes to visiting New Moms, and they kind of drive me absolutely bonkers. Absolutely. Bonkers.
The number one thing that bothers me about these lists is the suggestion that your friends and family should do your chores when they come over to visit. It boggles my mind that there are people in this world that have had guests in their home and silently wondered, “Why aren’t you folding my laundry?”
Because here’s the deal, as a society we gave a big Eff Ewe to “The Village” a long time ago. We bought all our own crap so that we didn’t have to borrow anything from each other anymore. We turned our front porches into back decks. We told our moms not to come over when the baby was born. We flipped out if a grandmother/uncle/neighbor said anything to us about how we raised our kid. We repeatedly told The Village to mind its own business, and The Village listened.
And now we just observe each other because that’s all we’ve allowed each other to do. We look at photo albums on Facebook and we like status updates about newborn-induced sleep deprivation as a (shallow) sign of solidarity. And we come over to hold the baby because it is (used to be?) safe, and anything more than that is butting in.
We can’t offer to clean because that might suggest your house is dirty and you’ll write an Open Letter to People Who Clean Other People’s Houses on your blog.
We can’t bring meals because we have no idea what strict diet you and your family are on this month.
We can’t offer to babysit while you get a nap because you are superwoman and you can handle this.
Here’s the thing, if you want your friends and family to be your village, to rally around you with support, you have to invite them and that invitation looks like a text/call/email for help. That’s right. Your friends and family are not mind readers. They don’t know how to help you in practical ways because (and this might come as a shock) they have their own lives going on.
I know. Yeah, people liked your status about that new baby finally arriving, but that’s just about where their concern ended. Not because they are cruel or coldhearted but because life happens and they didn’t think to call and ask if they could help you squeeze a nap in (just like you’ve probably never thought to call that mom that had a second baby to see if you could take her newly jealous firstborn on a playdate to the park #goesbothways)
The village mentality is not a natural one anymore. We have to rebuild it. And that starts with asking the friends and family that you WANT in your village for help. Asking for help requires humility. Asking for help requires letting go. Asking for help is hard. But if you want The Village you have to ask.
And this is where things get messy. We want to take from The Village (come vacuum, buy groceries, cut the grass), but we insist that it’s done our way and on our terms. And I can totally respect wanting things done just the way you want them IF YOU PAID FOR THE SERVICE WITH DOLLAH-DOLLAH BILLS. If this is a purely relational transaction, like my mom going to the groceries the first week we were home from the hospital because she knew we hadn’t been yet and the only thing in our house were some saltine crackers BECAUSE SHE LOVES ME, then I am a horrible human being if I decide to be a bee-yotch because she bought the wrong brand of cereal. If my mother-in-love offers to watch my son so that I can get much needed writing done BECAUSE SHE LOVES ME then I am an ugly soul if I shame her for giving him organic cookies (they don’t mix well with chicken nuggets, ya know). If you want The Village you have accept that it isn’t always going to be exactly how you want it, and if exactly how you want it is the most important thing in your book (no judgement at all!) then The Village might not be the best fit for you.
And this is where it gets even messier. This is probably just me, but I think that being part of The Village means that my tribe gets to have an influence on my family and my decisions. It means that I believe that they are looking out for my family in many practical ways and that they deserve my respect and attention when they want to speak into my life. I may not do what they suggest or even believe they know what they are talking about, but their words and their opinions have weight in my world. Does it hurt sometimes to hear that people think you’re doing the wrong thing? Yes. Is it annoying that everyone doesn’t agree with you all the time? Duh. But that’s part of the deal! That’s part of being in The Village! We agree, disagree, fight, hug, makeup, and then do it all over again!
I just think that if you expect your friends and family to rally around you during seasons like the transition into parenthood it isn’t going to look like the commerce relationships that we’re used to. We can’t put rules around how we expect others to love us. We aren’t customers when we step into the Village, with a checklist of ways the world must cater to me and my sensitivities, we are members and we belong to each other, messiness included.