I’ve had an easy introduction to life as a mum. Mostly because I haven’t been doing it on my own. I’ve heard people with newborns say they struggle to find time to shower or cook. Yet I haven’t really had that experience. I probably have been spoilt with help.
When our daughter was a little 8 week old we packed up our house and went to stay with my parents. Then three weeks later we moved countries and moved in with my in-laws for two months. So, by the time we move again we will have spent three out of the first five months of our daughter’s life living in community.
Living in community is good for babies I can see. Our daughter always has someone to hold her, to play with her, to give her the attention she needs to learn and develop and grow. And she is growing into the friendliest baby – happy to be held by anyone, full of smiles. And it’s good for us as new parents, because let’s face it, few new parents know what to do, or how to get their child to sleep. Our baby doesn’t cry much, but when she does I find myself thinking ‘what is wrong with you?’, ‘I don’t know how to help you’ or ‘why wont you go to sleep???’. And in those moments it is nice to know I’m not standing (because, as those with babies will know, babies always want you to stand…), singing to my child alone.
This is a special time for our family and it feels like everyone is winning. I’ve had many times where I have thought – this is exactly how things are supposed to be, we were never supposed to raise children on our own. As the African proverb says – it takes a village to raise a child. My brother in law loves playing with Nala, singing to her and teaching her to ‘play the drums’. Often she wont let you put her down. So while he creates new games for her and makes her laugh, he doesn’t realise just how helpful he is being.
And yet in our society we believe so much in the nuclear family – mum, dad and children. It puts a lot of pressure on two people to be everything their children need, to constantly entertain them, to make enough money to pay the bills, to manage a household. Maybe this is one of the factors that makes post natal depression rates so high.
But, while I can see that this time is good, it doesn’t feel like real life to me. It feels like a break, a holiday, a transition. It feels like by raising Nala in community, I haven’t been able to work out who we are as a family of three. And I’ve found myself craving to set ourselves up as our own family, to have a place that feels like our home, to share secret conversations in our lounge room again. And so we’ve chosen to move to our own place, and most of the time I can’t wait.
But then Nala has a particularly unsettled night and Gogo (Granny) ties her to her back and she snuggles in and falls asleep. And I think ‘how are we going to get her to sleep when we are on our own?’.