It Takes a Village

by Rita Barnes ! guest blogger on March 5th, 2014

If you're a parent, then at some point you've heard it said:  It takes a village to raise a child. It's just a little ditty meant to soothe us parents who've realized that raising a baby is physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausting  work and that sometimes we need to be rescued.

For some, this rescuing may come in the form of a frantic midnight phone call to grandma the first time our child's temperature reaches the dreaded 100.4 degrees. For others, it may be dropping our little ones off at a friend/sibling/cousin's house just so we can have even an hour of desperately needed quiet,  alone time. It even comes in the form of the unsolicited advice at the check-out line which at the time may seem like criticism but, upon further review,  turns out to be the best parenting tip we've ever received.

During these early months of uncertainty and sleep deprivation, when our self-confidence has been shaken down to our very core, we come to understand the true gravity of this message. It takes a village to raise a baby.

This simply means that it's okay to ask for help.  Parents are not infallible, and not only is it okay to ask for help, but it is expected that  help will be needed. We don't come home from the hospital with our babies knowing what to do - -  the learning has just begun.

There will be times when we need to relinquish control and take a moment for our own mental sanity. Even for the stay-at-home moms who may not need child care on a daily basis, sometimes you need to let someone else take your child off your hands for a bit so you can simply run some errands in peace!

It means allowing others to empathize and guide you. Without the village, we as parents are likely to find ourselves feeling completely alone. Where to turn for answers? Where to seek comfort when we realize we've made a mistake? Where to find support in learning to forgive ourselves these mistakes? These are all questions answered by this village!

But, what about those parents who come home from the hospital and are without this "village" in the traditional sense? Not every parent is lucky enough to have a mother or a mother-in-law right down the road who is willing to help out on occasion. We don't all come from large families with siblings and cousins who are out there having babies as well. Plenty of us fly solo down the family route. And, of course, there are the many parents out there who are the sole caregiver to their little ones.

It wasn't too long ago I found myself to be one of these village-less parents. My family lives in California, and I live in Florida. While my mother in-law may live only a few minutes away, she's in her eighties and not physically in a position to offer too much in the way of hands-on help. My parents were only children, so there are no cousins, and my only sister has sworn off ever becoming a mother in favor of her career. Additionally, not one of my pre-motherhood friends has joined me on the mommy track.

When you're the only member of your group of friends to have a baby, you might as well resign yourself to the inevitable ex-communication from the group. True friends will wait it out with you as you become increasingly self-centered, single-minded, and flaky. These are the friends who know eventually the time will come when you've settled into your new role and will return to a sociable adult life. Unfortunately, though, most will think these changes are permanent and move on without looking back.

I went at it alone for the first six months of my son's life. To tell the truth, I was finishing up my undergraduate degree when my son was born, so I still had excursions out of the house on a regular basis distracting me from my village-less existence. School provided that adult interaction so many new mothers come to crave in the early days, and our babysitter (a graduate student I paid out of my student loan money), supplied the care-giving support I lacked elsewhere. However, once classes were over, and I was at home alone with my baby five days a week, I suddenly realized how lonesome it is to be a parent without a village.
Infants do not offer the greatest amount of interaction, and a person can run only so many errands during the day to keep occupied. It wasn't long before a delayed postpartum depression settled over me, and I became unglued. I felt on the constant verge of panic with my son who was experiencing chronic constipation due to nursing problems. Without anyone to turn to for help, the nursing problems continued, and the panic increased.

Luckily for me, a fellow mother and splendid woman saw the distress in my eyes and pointed me in the direction of Amaya Papaya Play Lounge. By this time,  I had made a few futile attempts to reach out and meet other moms. I'd looked into open gyms and "Mommy and Me" yoga classes, but there were always age limits or the price exceeded my budget limits. I'd met with mom groups through, but nearly all the moms participating in those groups had toddlers and often met right smack dab in the middle of my little guy's morning or afternoon nap.

When I heard about Amaya Papaya, it sounded perfect. It is a  place opened by a fellow mother who had become dissatisfied with the same problems I had faced with play places and mom groups favoring activities and schedules of older children. Though it took until her baby was three years old to open Amaya Papaya (named after her daughter Amaya), when her play lounge was finally open to the public, she remembered to include a special area specifically for babies ages 0 to 2!

Still, I didn't run right out and visit AP. My son and I continued to circle the story time circuit for a while, but eventually on a day story time was cancelled we were looking for something to do, and I remembered the advice of the woman who told me about a play place with a space for babies. I finally decided to give it a try.

Our first visit was at the beginning of the off-season, so it was fairly quiet. We went in the morning and were told our admission cost covered the entire day, something I never expected. I remember keeping to myself at first, just watching and listening that first morning, but we did return after my son's afternoon nap. The afternoons around Amaya Papaya are typically quiet and much more peaceful, very conducive to initiating conversations with fellow patrons.

This is exactly what happened when we returned that first afternoon. I sat and discussed my nursing problems with a perfect stranger and immediately felt comforted by listening to her experiences which were unlike my own, but difficult for her nonetheless. Seeing her sitting there with her healthy and happy three year-old daughter, I knew our problem was not as worrisome as I had thought and, in the grand scheme of things, I knew that this, too, would pass.

Driving home that day I noticed two things: I finally felt peaceful, and my son was so wiped out from all the play time he fell asleep in the car on the way home both times. After this, AP became a regular outing for us. We began visiting at least once a week, and suddenly life as a mom wasn't as lonely anymore.

It does take a village to raise a child, if for no other reason than to remind us parents we are not alone. Since some of us do not begin our lives as parents with a built-in village, we need to reach out to find the necessary help and support. For those parents, I recommend coming to Amaya Papaya Play Lounge For their sake and their children’s, they should allow this wonderful community to become their village.

Classes, parties, and open play offer selections for a myriad of opportunities to meet other parents. Advice abounds in the play room, and there are always open ears to be found. Before you know it, you'll go from being the mom seeking the help to the mom offering reassurance to others in need. Oh, did I mention it’s good for your child's social lives as well?  Amaya Papaya Play Lounge, where children play and parents learn.

Rita Barnes is the mother to almost 2 year old Paul, frequesnt customer at Amaya Papaya and an Amaya Papaya Ambassador.

Posted in Guest Bloggers, Community Partners    Tagged with Parenting, parenting blogs, Toddlers, kids, babies, mommies, daddies, Amaya Papaya, indoor playground, orlando, orlando, florida, play place, baby party


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