It Takes a Village to Raise a Child
By Alyssa Berlin | PsyD
It’s one of those mornings again. At 5:30 am, my two-year-old son wakes up and starts to scream, “I’m hungry!” Translation: “I don’t want to sleep anymore. I want to go downstairs and play, and I know that if I feign hunger, Mom won’t be able to refuse me.” I lie there listening to his screaming, my head spinning, trying to think of ways to calm him before the rest of the household wakes. Too late. I can already hear my daughters talking to each other, which quickly turns to full-on screaming and whining. They’re arguing over who is the rightful owner of an old supermarket circular, something only valuable because the other girl wants it. I take a few deep breaths, and then I’m faced with my oldest son, who is already positioning himself to stay home from school today: “Mommy, my head hurts, my stomach doesn’t feel good, my feet hurt, and my throat … can’t talk …” Poor kid. If only he knew to pick one complaint and stick with it—there’s no way I’m buying his laundry list of ailments. And all of this before 7:00 am! The antics continue throughout the morning, but by 9:00 am, all four kids are successfully in school. When I finally drop off the last one, I feverishly search for my phone and start dialing. I call my husband, my mom, a friend—anyone I can talk to about the craziness of my Monday morning. With each word, with every problem shared, I feel the stress diminish and the relaxation and calm return, because I know there are people around me who love, support, and understand me. People who can help me keep this morning in perspective and give me the strength and confidence to leave it behind me. People that can help me recenter, and prepare me to have a positive afternoon with my kids. Support is the knowledge that I am not alone, and the invaluable validation that what I’m experiencing is normal. There is no better feeling than having someone stand beside you and say, “I get it. I’ve been where you’re standing. You are not alone.” It has long been said that “it takes a village to raise a child,” and I believe that is the truth. None of us needs to stand alone.
Our children should grow up in happy, healthy communities with parents and other adult role models in their lives who work together to keep each other calm, deeply engaged, and involved with family and community life. Life feels pretty challenging when you face it alone. This is true for any stage of life, but especially during pregnancy and the transition to motherhood. You do not need to navigate this journey of discovery and constant changes alone. You don’t have to shoulder the entire burden of raising a child or children alone. Going alone doesn’t make you a better mom—in fact, it’s stressful to both you and your baby. Reaching out for help when you need it is a sign of your dedication and commitment to your child. Life feels easier and more manageable when you are part of a network of friends, family, a community, or a neighborhood. There truly is power in numbers. I have heard many people echo the notion that together two moms can conquer anything, any challenge, any number of kids. The key word is together. Having someone to talk to about your worries and anxieties goes a long way in alleviating those feelings. Sharing your concerns and developing bonds with people who are in a similar phase of life is empowering. At our core, we are social beings, and as such, there is nothing more powerful than companionship. Are you feeling concerned that you don’t have a village? Does your family live in another town, another state, or even another country? You are not alone! The “village” our parents and grandparents had as they raised their families no longer exists for most of us. The days of the family doctor and the neighborhood grocer who knew you by name have long since passed. To help provide this important village support in today’s modern world, we have created a pregnancy and parenting village. Berlin Wellness Village is a series of groups, workshops and classes that bring peer and professional support back together. For starters, we offer weekly prenatal, postpartum, and parenting groups, available to women or couples at any stage of the process of becoming a parent for the purpose of coming together and supporting each other. Expectant and new moms share their own experiences, glean new information, and build meaningful friendships with other group members. Each group is facilitated by me, with many opportunities to discuss the emotional journey of pregnancy and parenthood. There is an emphasis on helping new moms transition to parenthood. Additionally, we offer education on the signs, symptoms, and prevention of postpartum depression and anxiety. No topic is off limits or taboo. The Village meetings are an opportunity for women to talk about anything and everything on their minds in a supportive and nonjudgmental environment.
Pregnancy is not always pretty and questions and concerns arise. This is your place to let it all hang out and share anything that you’d like to know more about, from dealing with meddling in-laws to weird hair or developing rash patterns, and every new parent’s obsession: was THAT poop really normal? In addition to the invaluable peer support and friendships, we also regularly invite amazing experts with insight into every stage of your journey—pregnancy, delivery, postpartum, and parenting. Berlin Wellness Village affords you the opportunity to learn, interact, ask questions, and develop relationships with our many guest Village Leaders as you continue to surround yourself with supportive people who will accompany you on your journey and continue to build your community. I hope to see you at our next Village Gathering! Oh, and my Monday afternoon? It was wonderful. Each child came home to a healthy dinner and music playing, and then we all went outside to enjoy each other’s company in the fading sunshine. Let’s see what tomorrow brings…
Alyssa Berlin, PsyD is a prenatal and postpartum clinical psychologist. Dr. Berlin works specifically with women and their partners on issues such as anxiety and emotional fluctuations during pregnancy, postpartum blues and depression, and the complex issues that can arise between and around new and expectant parents.