English Family Parenting The foreign life

The village

They say around here that it takes a village to raise a child. In some cases, surely in mine, you would have to upgrade that village to a whole town. During my first years of motherhood, I was loner mom. I had a great group of friends here, but they were my friends from the PhD program I quit when I had my first son. As PhD students tend to not have kids, mine was the first of the bunch, and the only for a few more years. So I roamed the city alone with my child. We explored museums and restaurants, went to concerts and parks, and hoped to make some friends. We met some moms, a dad, a grandma… But there was never a group of friends as it is common to have in Spain. Which made me feel really lonely.

It wasn’t until my fifth year of motherhood that I found my village here. If you have always lived in the same place, you are most likely not conscious of the existence of this village, as it is then made up by family and childhood friends. But when you move to a foreign country and you have kids there, its absence makes its need very present. And you have to make up your own village. Mine was made through schools, and common friends, and then suddenly one night there were eight ladies in a restaurant having drinks, and dinner and fun, and talking about anything and everything, all at once, with no boundaries whatsoever. And my village was founded.

A village can do many things for you. In a recent afternoon, it meant that one of my friends gave my baby and I a ride from school when my second grader left us stuck with his latest candy engineering project in order to stay in after care with his friends, and we needed to get it home and save it from his brother’s sweet loving mouth.

My son's very Spanish and delicate engineering class project.
My son’s very Spanish engineering class project.

Last Fall, when my gall bladder decided to part ways with me while my husband was out of town, I was lucky enough to have a friend pick up my oldest son from school and our therapist stay with the two younger ones until a second friend arrived to stay with them, so a third friend could drive me to the hospital and stay there with me, despite her fear of germs, until my husband got back in town.

These same ladies kept me company last summer while my newborn and I stayed in the NICU for eight days. Each day a different one of them would come with sweet treats and good food, and would stay for a while, making me laugh, and holding the baby so I could have some feeling of normalcy. Arriving home to see our neighbor drop off a delicious dinner for all of us brought me to tears.

Because I knew that for once and for good, I wasn’t alone anymore.

My village is loud, and fun, and mostly Spanish speaking, and made of very opinionated women who love and support each other. Now it has members in Germany, Ireland, Spain and several US cities. Its members come from all over the world. And every now and then, we receive a new villager with open arms. I met one being her “host family” at school. A couple more in prenatal yoga classes. Three came from mutual friends. A weekend Spanish class for kids brought two additions. Some are friends from graduate school, or have worked with me. It was all very random. And it started happening when I had stopped looking for it.

We listen, we help, we support, we laugh, we talk, we gossip, we argue, we understand, we cry and we listen some more. We enjoy our time together. We are family.

If you don’t have your village yet, go out and find it. If you move to a new city, start building one, ASAP. It will save you and your kids from isolation, boredom, and loneliness. Nowadays, the Internet, Facebook and sites like Meet Up make it easier than ever. But you always have the old fashion methods: schools, kids’ classes, parks.

Don’t be loner mom. Don’t try to raise your kids on your own, as I did once. Having some company around is so much more fun. And it will help you keep your sanity in check. So, go out. Find them. They are out there, waiting for your, in the most unexpected places. Your family far from home.

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