When we are pregnant, we hear about this elusive village that will help raise, support, and mold our children. I never thought I would be raising my family without the physical and many times emotional support of my own family. Regardless of the decisions and reasons for leaving the nest and building your own, it’s still just as difficult coming to the realization that at times, your only teammate is your spouse.

vil·lage
/ˈvilij/

noun

a group of houses and associated buildings, larger than a hamlet and smaller than a town, situated in a rural area.

Motherhood has taken everything I have known about life, children, and myself and has completely chewed it up and spit it back out. My husband and I have had to make a multitude of decisions for our family over the past year. There have been dozens of times I’ve wished grandma’s house was down the road, more times I have had to yell out for the dog who just jumped out of the car at the vet while I was still trying to strap the baby carrier to my chest.

I always thought the village meant an aunt picking the baby up from the sitter because I was stuck at work or spending birthdays and holidays together. When in actuality, if we are stuck without childcare, my husband taking off is plan B, and me taking off is plan C. Our emergency contact doesn’t have a car seat, and I finally understand all those moms who apologize for having to drag their kid along for everything.

I’ve learned over the last year, this all-inclusive fictional village is just that . . .  fictional.

I’ve also learned people will make time for the things and people they choose. No one is too busyit’s just a matter of priorities. While our babies are young, they will remain unphased and unaware of who is attending parties and calling nightly. As parents, we carry their pain and are left to one day explain when they are older.

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Over the past year, I have been forced to redefine and form my own village,

My village is the manager who smiles and doesn’t comment on the fact I am over 10 minutes late because the look on my face reads it was a long night. Rather she asks how my weekend was, and how is the baby.

The babysitter who watches my child while I am at worktakes her into her home and treats her as one of her own children. She takes the schedule changes in stride and assures me she is there for not only my child but for me as well.

The friend who, despite having a long to-do list of her own, comes over and vacuums and cleans my basement to help cross a few things off my to-do list.

She buys me pizza after a long day, is my sounding board, and has considered me family since the moment we met.

The family who drives over eight hours to make it to my child’s first birthday party, is happy to be bossed around with last-minute party to-dos, and spends the weekend with my child on her hip.

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The friends who, after driving cross country, stop in, kick their shoes off, and lie on my couch because for them we are home.

Despite the physical distance, they are the neighbor I run to for everything and nothing happens without them knowing.

The friends who show up to offer a hand or a shoulder even when they are having a hard time standing on their own two feet.

The friends you spend birthdays and holidays with because invites to family have fallen on deaf ears.

To the ones who never judge, never critique, and embrace our crazy. The ones who know I am just doing the best I can and make sure to tell me that, too.

I know how hard it is to have these little humans rely on you for everything, to fill all of their needs while yours continue to go unmet. To constantly rely on your partner for a break and keep putting more on his back, wondering if he will break.

Over the weekend, my husband was showing me houses down the street from family as he has had multiple job offers, all of which he turned down. I peered up from the phone and saw where our daughter took her first steps, where we laid on the floor with our family dog and cried after we got the news her cancer was inoperable.

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I could see future generations ripping open Christmas gifts by the tree and hunting for eggs in the backyard.

So yes, we have made the decision to raise our children away from our family, but this is the only home our children know.

One day, my children will grow up and create their own village wherever they decide home is. But for now, their village isn’t very big. We have had to accept they will have closer relationships with friends than with cousins, but they will be OK. I’ve had to forgive myself for taking that away from them because I somehow thought I was putting them at a disadvantage.

I’ve learned relationships don’t need titles as long as you have a community of support behind you because, lord knows, we moms need it. I pray that when our children watch us juggle it all, it makes their future marriages stronger, and they consider their spouses their number one teammate. Our parenting style fosters love, acceptance, and independence and will one day make them incredible parents.

My village may be tired, burnt out, running solely on caffeine, and made up of people I haven’t known my whole life, but they are my supporters and biggest cheerleaders when called on. So mama, if you think you are doing this without a village, take a look around I promise your village is stronger than you think.

Previously published on the author’s blog

Amanda Guilfoy

Hi there I'm Amanda! Originally from Boston, living in Maryland with my husband Mike, goofy little girl Kennedy and oversized lap dog Bailey. I shoot people for a living as a radiographer. Surviving each day with the help of Amazon Prime, caffeine, and Jesus. In my free time, I enjoy spending time with family and friends, watching the Patriots win the Superbowl, blogging about mom and military life, and eating Ben & Jerry's.