Monday, July 22, 2013

It Takes a Village

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?


Andrea said...

Oh my heart just aches for you.
I feel like I've spent the last 10 years where you are, not fitting in, without family near by, feeling isolated. It is so hard. I pray for you often, that is a horrible feeling.
There is grace to be had though. It seems like you can see that clearly, even if it's not what you want to see. His grace is sufficient. Maybe you won't have but a blurry idea about why God has put you where you are for now until it's over.
I haven't read Jen's post yet...but, I really hope and pray that this is where God will let us settle and grow roots. It's still not easy, though, breaking into an established community. It's really challenging for an introvert like me, but I see such potential here. I was so devastated when we left Austin (in fact, that same group of people Jen was talking about, because that was our parish). I thought for sure that was it, but it never felt quite right anyway.
I don't know. I guess it's one of those things where there is a season for everything. The isolated times bear their own special fruit. :-)
Hang in there. I'm praying for you.

Anonymous said...

Hey Blair! I hear you! We moved to Houston to be near family and then they all moved away. We are slowly building relationships at a new parish, but it's not the same when you don't have grandmas who can step in when you need a hand. It's a lot harder (and sometimes just totally impractical) to ask another mom in the trenches to be your back-up. The good part is we get longer visits with our moms now when they come into town, but we do feel the loss!

Praying for you--the first months of pregnancy are always really hard for me emotionally. I know you'll find the grace you need.

Anonymous said...

We've recently started our fifth year here in KY (wow). And I still struggle with isolation and longing to be near close family. I do have a couple cousins, but their lives are so vastly different from ours (no kids, travel to exotic locations regularly, seemingly no need to budget anything, etc.) that I find myself feeling jealous of what they have, or the history that is here in their hometown. Sure, we've made a couple good friends with families that parallel ours in children and faith formation and for that I'm deeply thankful. I do feel it'd be hard to leave them now, even though I still long for home. I don't know when I'll let go and be able to feel settled. When we left Austin, although it wasn't where I grew up, I knew we were leaving something special. Casual weekly dinners with friends, easy playdates, friends that had family elsewhere as well, it all seemed like we fit in more. I could go on... but this is where God has placed us and I try to find joy in it all. And I do. I try to let go of feeling left out and focus on who we've become close with and recognize that this is where we are and that, wherever it is, is where we are not. I will pray for you too.

Anonymous said...

It is really hard to be far away from family and friends. I know those feelings of isolation so, so well.

We've moved a lot...I have 4 children..each born in a different state and one thing I've found is that I need to be really pro-active about finding friends and building my own community. *I* need to be the one to set up the playdates, or mom's night outs or offer to swap babysitting or whatever, yk. It takes a lot of effort and it can be exhausting always being the one to suggest get gatherings, but it is so, so worth it for the community and friendship. We just left an awesome community in FL and are only living where we are now temporarily, so facing another imminent move and I'm dreading having to start over at building friendships, but the effort and time it takes, is so worth it.

Anonymous said...

I have to be better at stepping out and creating those friendships. I think I miss out on opportunities assuming people will think of us all the time. Thanks for that reminder onecatholicmama.

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