January 6, 2010

it takes a village

i am a firm believer that it takes a village to raise a child, to nurture a mother, to support a family.

for the first ten years of bean's life i was going to school, working, or both. my mother, grandmother, and aunts were my village. the cost of their help was often harsh judgment and misguided opinions, though i had limited options and i appreciated the support.

now my village has little to no capacity for support so i called upon a somewhat distant relative to ask for help.

it was a call i should have made months ago but it was difficult for me to truly admit (to myself) how much i need another pair of hands around here. i've wanted help, even asked those closest to me, but i often took their response, or lack thereof, as proof that i just needed to toughen up and tough it out.

blessed papa, bless his heart, has chosen the life of a small-business owner. two times over. you'd think that would make us twice as blessed, but instead he is twice as stressed. his service-based business is rapidly losing customers due to economic factors, the other is struggling to produce a return on the initial investment. he works at least 60 hours per week. it always feels like more. i feel guilty to the core when i need his help, ask for his assistance, or slink off to the computer for a "break" when he gets home and begins to play with the little ones. i also feel resentful that there is never any time for us and that i have to steal time for myself. however, i am grateful for the unexpected payoff of stealing time for myself the other night - prior to juggling the demands of an infant and a sick child, he didn't quite understand what it is i do all day, how i do it, and why it seems like i never do anything at all. he now understands just enough.

my mother is not willing or able to help me much at all and i am not willing or able to pay the price of her opinion. when i was a single mother, many of my friends were as well. now, most of my friends are married. now, just as then, it is difficult not to compare myself to them, especially in terms of how they can receive familial help without the harsh criticism i'm used to. my mom keeps reminding me that i'm no longer young or single and this might be why, for instance, my father no longer thinks he needs to acknowledge my children for holidays or birthdays and why he hasn't offered to contribute to my wedding. it's also a clear indication of why she thinks i no longer require her help.

in the nine months since sprout was born, there would have been days i might have seriously disappeared into the soggy, weeping mess of my own tears. it wasn't postpartum depression so much as it was disappointment, longing, loneliness, and helplessness. my sister helped me out on more than one occasion, just by being here. she may never know just how much her very presence helped me and i've never known quite how to tell her. i always knew she had better things to do than hang out with her much older sister but she never let on that she'd rather be doing them. not too much, anyway.

since she started college last fall, i knew i could expect to see her less and less. it wouldn't be fair of me to ask her to come over even once a week. since then, the bookkeeping i'm supposed to maintain is six months behind again. managing photos takes a backseat to everything and i have no less than 762 pictures on my camera at any given time. i average a shower every six days or so. life goes on.

i've fantasized about having a mother's helper. blessed papa has offered to hire one. then reality sinks in and i worry about all manner of things. like:

our home is tiny and often untidy. one of the reasons i need help is to actually keep up with the laundry and cloth diapers so that it looks like i accomplish even the most basic of domestic duties on a daily basis. i need time to myself to sort my bills, prepare packages for the post office, write, paint. shower.

being the product of my mother and grandmother's criticisms, throughout the years, the thought of having someone that knows me in my home is nerve-wracking. the thought of someone i don't know being in my home is even worse.

then there's my own judgment. mother's helpers are for wealthy women with far better things to do than soak in the tub. they are for people that are truly busy with careers and stuff. not people like me, that are launching this or that project and trying to declutter their home.

i am justifying the need for help because in the past few months, i have made baby steps towards taking myself and my work more seriously. i have sat down to write, though never uninterrupted. i have sketched and knit in anticipation of finally using my etsy account to sell my wares. i have redesigned indigoblossom on hyena cart and restructured the focus to selling new and used, but not so much handmade, items. i have taken initiative and realized that the only way i can see through any of my objectives is with help.

so i called one of my relatives today. one of my favorite relatives. she helped me watch bean when he was in first grade. at that time, i was working nine to five, couldn't afford before or after-school childcare, and didn't qualify for any type of child-care assistance. i was not receiving child support and had a mortgage to pay. she would pick him from school and nearly always fed him a home-cooked meal, as it would be closer to six by the time i would pick him up.

so i called her, not completely out of the blue, but because i ran into her daughter a few months ago. she mentioned that her mom wanted to start volunteering somewhere and she'd told her to hold off, that something truly worthwhile would come along. i then mentioned how much i'd love for her to be a part of my younger children's lives, the way she'd been for my oldest. she gave me her number and i chickened out.

today i made that call. i got the answering machine so i left a somewhat detailed and rehearsed message.

as evening approached and she hadn't called me back, my brain started doing that awful thing where it begins to doubt that i did the right thing. what if she has no interest at all in hanging out with two young children? what if she thinks i'm selfish to ask when i haven't spoken to her in years? it is okay, i tell myself. there is no harm in asking. i am reaching out in hopes of creating a more nurturing village.

we shall see what the universe hands me in return.

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