it takes a village.

by - 14:02

I struggled with figuring out how to write this because it's actually quite a personal post.  Although what I write does indeed provide a little peek into my life, that's usually where the threshold lies--a peek.  And now, I feel like you, my readers, are about to see a little more than just a peek.

I went to Chicago for my birthday.  The City of Big Shoulders is a place that I visited many moons ago and just fell in love with.  There was something about the Midwestern sensibility coupled with an incredibly urban metropolis that, when combined, work beautifully together.  It isn't as intimidating as New York can be, yet isn't as blasé as a random small town.  It has so much to offer its visitors and residents and that is something I can wholeheartedly appreciate.  It should be noted that I did not embark on a solo adventure.  But I also did not bring my mini co-pilot that I've taken with me on every trip I've been on.  I went with a guy--not just any guy--who is making life a lot more magical as of late.  Situations and circumstances withstanding, we met, the courtship has been beautifully unwavering, and we haven't really skipped a beat.  That said, it's kind of really quite different from anything I've ever experienced.  How could it be?  I have a toddler.  Who is with me.  At all times.  That's no easy feat.  And while originally my little girl was going to join us, about ten days before the trip, I made the executive decision to leave her behind.  I wanted a grown-up trip.  I wanted to be free of worry about feedings, nap times, diapers, strollers, carseats, and everything in between.  In a word, I wanted a vacation.  So, there's your "more than just a peek" peek.

I moved to Atlanta and knew a little more than a handful of people.  But that small number steadily grew into more and have turned into people I trust deeply and explicitly.  Although there is no blood that binds us, they are family.  They are my friends.  They are my brothers and sisters.  They are my community, my network.  They are my village.

When I committed to this excursion sans baby, my village stepped up and graciously, willingly, and excitedly offered to help.  I was blown away by how much they wanted to do this.  It's like they all saw something I didn't.  I actually really needed a break.  And I had people who were encouraging me to take it.  Why not?  A would be in excellent hands.  These couples all want to have children.  She would have bonding time with them, they would have bonding time with her, and I would be able to totally enjoy myself.  All of these "villagers" in my life are people that I would be honored to have in my daughter's life.  These are people who she will have to look up to.  These are people who will tell her stories years down the line about how awesome a time they had together making their own memories.  It was a win-win-win situation.

Admittedly, I was nervous leaving her behind for four days.  The only people who had watched her while I was away for an extended period of time were her grandparents.  This was an entirely new beast that I knew I would have to face one day.  That's what happens when you move away from relatives, right?  You form a different type of extended family.  People everywhere do this all the time.  I mean, not everyone lives near their nuclear families.  I researched.  I read about other moms who had done this.  I owned it.  I knew I wasn't being reckless.  If anything, I was being incredibly discerning and responsible.

And away I went.  We went.  And took Chicago by storm.  I almost forgot how fun it was to take a trip with no plans made and just improvise as the hours went on.  Knowing that my daughter was being taken care of in loving homes made the trip that much better, too.

On this trip, something happened.  It was a moment of self-discovery and it caught me a little off guard.  I realized that no matter how much my life evolves, I will never change who I really am.  I would be lying to myself and to my daughter if I pretended that I wasn't feeling a little burnt out here and then.  How would that benefit anyone?  Gloria Steinem once said, "You can have it all, but you can't do it all."  How true is that?  That statement surely has been met with criticism, but if you really stop and think about it, it's difficult to argue.  It's not sexist or demeaning.  It is what it is and applies to everyone.  And how humbling is it to actually accept it?  How often is it that moms or dads or parents don't take time for themselves and actually admit that they need help?  I know I'm only speaking for myself right now, but yeah, you better believe I need help sometimes.  It takes a village to raise a child.  And I feel so incredibly fortunate to have people in my life I can call my village.

To me, being a mother is the best thing in the world.  But I also know that being a mother does not equal being a martyr.  Giving everything to your children is par for the course; however that does not mean giving up who you are.  This trip taught me a lot.  It taught me that no matter how much I love my child, time away from her was crucial to refresh and reset.  I also discovered that I'm not the only person who feels this way.  I came back more in love with her than I could have imagined being.  I returned to her more excited than if I had seen her an hour prior.  And I returned to her feeling like I was ready to tackle more challenges that she might present to me at any given moment.  It taught me that I am still down for adventures, even if that means that she doesn't come with me.  Her life is being shaped by those around her.  I am her role model and one day, I hope she asks me questions about the trips I took and who she stayed with because those are the people who will most definitely play huge parts in her life.  I feel like this mini-break made me a better person.  A better woman.  A better girlfriend.  A better friend.  And most of all, a better mother.

Parents need to step outside their bubble.  They need to reconnect with one another.  They need to rediscover what makes each other tick.  They need to light a fire under the ass of adventure and just live life by the seat of their pants every now and then.  Why not?  Being a parent is not about losing sight of any of that.  It means being the best version of yourself that you could be so that everyone gains something great.  Is it selfish?  I don't think so.  Happy parents have happy kids.  It's just that simple.

(Of course, if you disagree, there's this, too. :-)


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