Before kids, I pined so much for kid time. The longing was profound. I’m so happy to have kids now, overjoyed! But I’m surprised how lonely parenting can be. It’s like we’ve stepped through this door into a different world, and I haven’t completely adjusted; I don’t know enough people in my new land.
When I was active-duty uncle-ing, parent friends would tell me it was amazing that I helped out with someone’s kid every week, on a schedule. Incredible. Unbelievable. I thought they were being nice, so I failed to hear what they were telling me: “We’d love more help! We’re on our own with these kids!”
My misty-eyed ideal of a community of families raising their kids together is not really happening. Or not as much as I’d hoped. And being a parent I really see it. Our society is focused on individual achievement, which puts us all in busy jobs and paths. A great piece in the NYTimes the other day takes a clear-eyed view of our money addiction. It may not make us happier, but we sure want more. So there’s not a lot of spare time to help each other out, enjoy spontaneous dinners with other families, or have down time.
It’s hiding a bit to be so global. In myself, I feel how important it’s been to keep my business and career going at pretty much full steam. My sense of my own value in my work and career, my need to feel like I’m a full financial contributor to the household rather than “just” a parent. Gross, but there it is. That means long days at school and after care for the kids and hectic, overcrowded days for me. It’s crunched evenings for us all. Weirdly, this is the choice I’m making.
It’s not to say we don’t have people helping us. I’m so grateful for friends inviting us over, coming for dinner, helping out. It’s more that new parenting is so overwhelming. I don’t know that it would ever feel like enough.
I do think as we continue to adjust to this new life it will feel more integrated. We’ll make more friends with our kids’ friends’ parents. The terrain will seem less strange. Perhaps I’ll work a bit less.
Today we took the kids to this really dreadful squirrel movie, but they loved it. They had too much sugar, and so much fun. After we recycled our 3D glasses and got back outside, they started this frantic, fantastic game of tag. We sat on a bench and enjoyed their antic, silly running around. Other kids joined in. Shoppers smiled as they passed by. Five minutes passed. Ten! It was a breath of fresh air at the town square. A hint of what I hope will be more and more common: our family, connected to the world, relaxed for a minute. A little feeling of the village that I hope will grow.