I can not tell how incredibly excited I amÂ
to share this post with you.
If you only knew the story behind it, and knew this precious person as well as I have been blessed to know her over the years,
Â you would be leaning on the edge of your seats to hear what she has to say.(You can find me today guest posting on a neat craft, over atÂ At The Lake Blog, so today you actually get a two-fer when it comes to fun or absolutely amazing posts. Come over and join us when you are able to today!)
Rachel is nothing if not real, and down-to-earth, and frankly, someone I really look up to. She and her husband made a decision many years ago to pick up and move across the world, following their hearts, and as a family we have been blessed to be able to keep in touch and see them whenever possible.
So when I casually mentioned that I just MIGHT possibly NEED a guest poster, and suddenly the acceptance was there, I was floored.
I mean, you guys, Rachel writes for LOTS of places.
Want a couple places that have posted her stuff?
Family Fun Magazine.
And let’s not talk about the super big papers (New York Times) or anything that have carried her amazing stories about raising children in a foreign country, running on the beach in one of the smallest countries of the world, or a million, zillion other things. We are proud of her for a reason.
And that is because her voice is rich,Â
and desperately needed.
Her guest post today is written on the topic of “How a Mom Makes a Home”, a subject we loosely came up with a few weeks ago. When I received her submission in my inbox, I will admit it, I cried through it. You see, I know those kids. I know this person. And reading how different and amazing her life is, it just blesses my heart.
With no more foreword I give you my cousin Rachel, also known as the voice behind her amazing blog, Djibouti Jones.
I used to think that being a stay-at-home mother meant I had to do it all, and that I had to do it all alone. After five years in the Horn of Africa, I knew that as a stay-at-home-mother I had to do more than ‘it all’,
and I would never do it all alone again.
Minnesota, 2000: Give birth to twins, one naturally and one via Cesarean Section Keep twenty second floor apartment clean. Cook meals. Lose baby weight.Breastfeed exclusively on demand even through pain and engorgement.Host the infinite number of guests coming to see, disturb, and wake the sleeping newborns. Change twenty diapers a day. Sleep. Eat. Shower.
Oh, and do it all by yourself. Don’t ask for help; don’t accept help when it is offered. You are the mom. You brought these infants into the world, it is your job to make sure they survive and thrive. They are your responsibility.
This was the job description I subconsciously wrote for myself as a new mother. Accepting help was like admitting my weakness and proving to the world that I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. If I couldn’t handle infants how was I going to handle teenagers?
This was my chance, these were my babies.
I was in control and I was on my own.
There were hints in those early weeks that my ideas about motherhood were a bit off.
My mom wanted to stay with us and hold one crying baby during the night while I fed the other. She wanted to scrub out the bathtub after my roofer husband smeared black tar all over it.
She was delighted to do my laundry and wash my dishes.
I let her stay for one night.
My mother-in-law was the same. She joyfully arrived with arms full of grocery bags and precooked meals. She bounced babies and changed diapers.
She didn’t mind driving me to doctor’s appointments.
I didn’t let her sleep over.
My Ethiopian neighbors visited to see how I was doing. They were shocked both that I was alone, and at the state of the apartment. The two women immediately set about straightening and re-organizing the living room. They brought over traditional Ethiopian wall decorations and plastic flowers
to tack up on the wall.
“What are you doing by yourself?” they asked.
“I’m the mom.” I tried to stifle a yawn.
Eventually all three of us slept through the night, figured out non-torturous ways to nurse, and bathed on a (fairly) regular basis. But the first few months of their lives were the most exhausting blur I have ever experienced.
Two years later. we moved to Djibouti in the Horn of Africa.
Â A year later I was pregnant again.
“Mom,” I said on a long-distance phone call,
“come stay with me when the baby is born.
Will five weeks be too long?”
My mother arrived exactly seven days after Lucy was born. I didn’t need her help. I had a full-time house worker, and on-call babysitter, and a neighborhood full of Djiboutian women who would never let me be alone after giving birth. But I wanted her.
“So you want me around?” Mom asked. “What changed?”
What had changed, other than my age?
I was now in a position where I had nothing to prove. I was already a disaster and everyone knew it. I was a foreigner who would always stick out. I spoke with a thick accent, ate bizarre food like grilled cheese sandwiches, rode a bike, and didn’t cover my hair. I didn’t know how to push my way to the front of a line, couldn’t communicate with the kindergarten Â teacher, and struggled to make sense of cultural rituals. Unlike in my early twenties, by now, I was our to impress no one with amazing parenting skills.
I was still a stay-at-home mom but in Djibouti, even with a house helper, that meant I was doing more than I had done in the US. I was the piano teacher, English home-school teacher, French school tutor, Sunday School teacher, art teacher, dance teacher, soccer coach. I was studying two languages, teaching English, managing a micro-credit program, and helping my husband administrate our development organization. And I was writing.
Â I needed help.
But mainly, I had now spent five years in Africa, watching women live in communities.
Extended families lived together under the same roof, and children called everyone mother or father or aunt or uncle. If a child was in danger, anyone pulled their hand from the stove, or swept them away from a speeding car. When the kids were hungry, anyone fed them. Whoever was closest to the bathroom did the potty trip.
While the women raised their children and ran their households, they told stories and listened to the radio. They laughed, cried, washed dishes, scrubbed laundry together. Children grew up knowing they were loved and provided for by dozens of Â aunties and a handful of mothers, and were able to glean the best of what each had to offer.
How arrogant I was, to think I could raise children on my own! Even with thousands of diaper changes and middle-of-the-night trips to the potty dirtying my own hands, I could never teach my kids about an expanded world-view, unique cultures and people, adventure, how to live a creative life. on my own. I could never train them in wisdom, compassion, or community alone.Â
I needed my mom and I needed the women around me.
How have you experienced community as you parent?