I'm going to try to take up the challenge of Jen at Conversion Diary to blog every day for a week. I have a lot of thoughts running through my head (not all about pregnancy!), and would also like to do a review of our homeschooling year and a plan for next year.
Today Jen has written a beautiful piece called How we built our village about the amazing community that she and her husband have surrounding them to support their growing family. They have grandparents and babysitters, good friends, a close-knit Catholic parish, as well as a thriving community of Religious Sisters nearby. It is admittedly an ideal situation in which to raise a large homeschooling family, and brings about a host of thoughts as to how others might or might not be able to replicate something similar for themselves.
I know some people who've been successful at this, or are in the process of making it a reality. I had some acquaintances here in our new city who had bought land a few years ago in a thriving community around a Catholic college in Virginia. They have great parishes, homeschooling groups, Catholic schools, and part-time cottage schools/homeschool academies nearby. They just left to go start their life there after leaving his military career.
We also have friends who bought acreage in the country and moved overseas for a few years to save up to build their dream home and farm. Now they are living the farm life and are looking at the possibility of grandparents living in a home and acreage next door, and they have another family member with young children hoping to eventually move out there, too. They've been able to find a Catholic homeschool co-op at their lovely historical church, sports opportunities, and even inexpensive and ideal music lessons there, even though those weren't part of the discernment of choosing that land out in the country years ago.
Steven's side of the family has some of this community aspect. He's the youngest of seven children, and as of this month, five of his siblings and their families live in Houston. Four of his sisters live within a few blocks of his parents. His parents ended up buying a home just four houses down from his sister who was having triplets! And another sister moved to the neighborhood at the same time, partly to help with the babies. Although most everyone works full-time, they are all close-by to support each other and help when someone is in need.
Reading and reflecting on those who have this network of friends and family nearby admittedly makes me envious and discontent with where we are now. I miss having our close network of homeschooling friends so close by, my parents within 25 minutes, and Steven's family about 45 minutes away. We have a great parish here that is small and close-knit. Families step in to help each other often. But we don't have our family or a support network of friends like I'm used to.
We've been here about a year and a half, but I still don't feel like we fit in. Some of our friends have close family living nearby and have support from them. Others have large families and don't seem to have the time to foster new friendship. None have children right at similar ages as ours. Others are "in the trenches" just like us, and we can help each other a little bit. But I don't share interests with many other moms, and we don't have a history like my friends back home. I'm trying to work on this, I really am. But I also think God has just been asking us to focus internally right now. To spend our efforts on our own home life and re-focus our priorities. But I miss those mom's nights, those great talks with the ballet moms, our fun homeschool group events, that reverent Latin Mass, those visits to play with cousins, and those meals and outings with my parents.
I think it's beautiful when you can find our make that wonderful community life for your family. But I also think it's not practical for everyone. Some may be military families who move a lot. Some may need to pursue employment opportunities away from their family and ideal community, for the greater good of their family. Some may have extended family with their own host of issues and dysfunction that isn't really healthy to have the children around on a regular basis.
But it does seem like a good idea to have a vision for your family life and make little steps to get there. Maybe we'll never have both grandparents within blocks of us, or a vibrant and faithful Catholic parish a few minutes away. Maybe we won't have that supportive homeschooling community where we live, or the city resources we'd like to take advantage of. But if we make sure we have some kind of local support, it can ease a lot of the burden on isolated moms. Even when we lived near friends and family, I struggled greatly during my pregnancy with Thomas. My saving grace was our biweekly housekeeper. Just taking that off of my to-do list made a huge difference in my mental well-being.
I have a dear friend who is very good at knowing her limits and when she needs extra help. She often hires teens or young adults to come and help with her children throughout the week. She challenged me to figure out how I'm going to handle the coming year, and figure out what help I'll need for myself. If we are blessed with a continued pregnancy, and Steven continues to travel often, and we continue to live here, how can I make sure I have the support I need to be a happy mom? I'm not sure I know the answer right now, but I do know I need to pray about it.
What do you love most about your current community? What is something you dream about having in the future?