The horror of COVID 19 for our family was not about getting infected and not making it, or losing work that much, or closing my practice. It wasn’t about missing our families in Europe and saying goodbye to another year that we couldn’t go back to visit…It wasn’t about dreading the homeschooling and being stuck for the lockdown in a small space…
My horror of getting sick with the virus had to do (and still does) with parenting without any village.
What if we both get sick??? And nobody and I mean NOBODY can take care of our son.
Living as emigrants has always been our choice, since 2003 when we left seeking adventure in the land of the dreams. It has had the most rewarding aspects. We became adults together. Just the two of us – intertwined and strong as steel.
We also were completely self-made, and still are. No support from our parents which is unusual for Bulgarian families meant that everything we achieved was so incredibly sweet. All the efforts feel monumental yet the fruit of them tastes indescribably great! We were the captains of our souls and the makers of our destiny!
Parenting though, without the village, broke us.
As a couple we had to make constant choices to keep us together…As individuals we had to find ways to survive. The relentless effort to dedicate our hearts and souls to our boy, without a moment off or an evening alone. All of this while studying, working full time, keeping our relationship which we had always prioritized, and maintaining a home. Parents out there know damn well the amount of self capacity needed to raise a child who becomes a responsible global citizen… Supporting a spirit to express itself fully and to flourish. We never changed the expectations we held as parents. If anything we made sure that the lack of village will not break our child’s experience of a life full of warm relationships, friends, holidays, sleepovers and bonds with others in the community.
Doing it all without the village though feels like a deadly weight always hanging behind your left shoulder. Keeps you alert to all potential things that can go wrong. It orients you towards worst case scenarios. It depletes your energy. It makes you less present for your child and preoccupied with the Whatif’s.
If I am late who is going to pick him up from school?! If I have a migraine and my husband is away for a conference…here it gets creative…I see my poor boy stranded at the school gates while I am somehow zombie-walking towards him…yes your imagination runs wild the more you experience your situation as a No Exit one, the lonelier and more isolated you feel.
Which brings me back to COVID…and parenting during a global pandemic.
My husband and I have adapted like most evolving species. After 11 years of doing it we have found ways to always communicate, plan, scheme and also take care of our mental health so that we not only survive. But thrive!
However, a pandemic can put a particularly powerful spin on exactly those experiences of feeling isolated, lonely and like there is absolutely No Exits or escapes.
Doing research on Parenting during a Pandemic supports my own experience of dread, rising anxieties and the grip and impact of isolation on parents regardless of the age of their children. From newborns to well, clearly to our own family with a pre-teen.
The factor which makes a difference (and this comes from my interviews and observations and not stats data, but the trend is more than clear) is SUPPORT.
The knowledge that someone somewhere CARES. The sense that there will be someone to drop off food, call you, offer something, acknowledge the situation you are in…
This was my horror around COVID. It was many women’s and families’ around the globe too. In far less privileged circumstances. With far less adequate leadership, access to resources, and living arrangements.
Over and over again the proverbial village is what we need. How many insights, scientific breakthroughs or personal stories we need to fully realize the impact of the village? The disastrous impact of its lack…?
And even more importantly, now that we know – what do we do about it? From the very personal and individual choices, to global policies around healthcare, support and parenting, structural changes and living arrangements, income, schooling, mental health. All the nooks and crannies that the impact of a village reaches.
How do we go about it all, from a revolutionary yet oh so ancient forms of living as humans?
How do we intertwine kindness, compassion, generosity and inclusion into the way we “human”?
For one night, my husband and I booked a little cottage to stay in the mountains. I had gone there a day early while he parented solo, and then he joined me while our son stayed at his classmate’s. This was our village! This was an act that has many implications. The seed was planted. The seed of a possibility that should something happen we won’t feel at a complete loss. There would be someone to call, someone to talk to, someone to offer help and someone to really truly help.
Yesterday I had to stay longer in my practice with a client. I messaged a mum from my son’s school if she can take him along and that I will then go get him shortly after. These are tiny microscopic things that probably most mums don’t consider. Yet another portion of mums do! They twist and turn inside when it comes to asking for help.
“I am so glad you asked” she texted back right away.
“It was hard. I normally don’t. Thank you so much for acknowledging it” I answered, smiling ear to ear.
My village? Or my tiny tribe. It’s a start.
Parenting can be so magical! So utterly amazing, rewarding, growth-enhancing and just pure joy, when done with others.
I realize I haven’t told you anything new, radical or remotely exciting. Just an old tried and tested truth that holds a lot of power and potential.
Now to make it happen!
How can you extend your household, reach out and offer a hand to someone you find alone, maybe a bit isolated? How can you make them feel included and not like a burden, that you are doing a favor to?
Think, imagine, re-vision your own village one mumma at a time, and take one step today! It will matter deeply!