How many times have we all heard the old adage “It takes a village to raise a child”? Parenting is not easy at the best of times. Parenting alone is even harder. Why is it, then, that we vilify single mothers who utilise the resources and help available to them?
I have been incredibly blessed with supportive parents. They certainly weren’t happy when I came home pregnant at 19, but once I committed to continuing the pregnancy, they jumped on board. Mom was always there to listen to my pregnant gripes, to answer any questions and to share my wonder at the fluttery little kicks coming from my womb. Dad was always there to deliver greatly-craved green apples or strawberry ice cream in the middle of the night (when my daughter’s father refused to get up) and to indulge with me so I didn’t feel quite so alone. Both my parents were at the hospital to hear my daughter’s first cry and visited frequently during the week she was in the NICU. As she grew older, they always offered to take her for a couple hours or overnight when I had errands to run, wanted a night out, or simply needed some time to myself. When I left her father, they supported my decision, helped me move and helped me find the strength to get a restraining order. When the time came for her to start school and I fell in love with a ridiculously expensive private school, they offered to contribute the extra funding I wasn’t able to afford. My father is retired, and picks her up after school so that I can continue to work my decent-paying 9-5.
My friends are equally supportive. I can’t count how many times they have played with my daughter, read to her, picked her up when Dad couldn’t, and helped me bake umpteen batches of cookies for school bake sales. This past January, several friends and I pulled an all-nighter to completely renovate my daughter’s playroom from a boring blue room to a garden paradise.
Recently, I’ve received some flack for “not raising [my] child [my]self” and for “depending too much on others.” Frankly, I think this is complete bullshit. I work an average of 50 hours a week to ensure my daughter has a home, food, clothing and superior education. I wake her up every morning. I help her with her homework. I read to her before bed every night, tuck her in, and sit up with her when she has bad dreams. I watch her Tae Kwon Do class every Tuesday, and make sure that I take her hiking and bowling and to the library on our weekends. I teach her how to help around the house, and, once her chores are completed and allowance has been received, I have taught her how to save and donate a portion. I listen to her thoughts and feelings, validate them, and guide her toward being a better person. I discipline her when need be. I make sure that she always know that she is strong, smart, funny, compassionate, beautiful and loved beyond measure. In my opinion, this is what raising a child is about.
So yes, I am fortunate enough to have wonderful people in my life who love my daughter dearly and do whatever they can to help enrich her life. This does not mean I have passed the torch of raising my daughter on to them. This means, simply put, that I have recognised that through communal effort, we can create a better life for the next generation. Putting up walls and boundaries between our family and our friends may ensure that we, as parents, do it “all on our own.” However, I think this approach denies our children the joy of sharing their lives fully with their extended family and community at large.
Yes, I am proud to be a single mom. Yes, I am proud of what I have accomplished, both as a professional and as a parent, despite her father’s absence. But I will never insist on going it alone to the detriment of my child. We can all use more love, more friends, more support, and it is shameful that so many mothers do not have the opportunity, or refuse to take it when offered. It really DOES take a village, and I am proud to say my daughter has the best “village” she could ask for.