A Mother Without a Village

A Mother Without a Village

They say “it takes a village” but what do you do when you’re a mother without one?

When I was in college, I interned at New Salem State Park – an interactive historic area where interpreters (such as myself) would dress up as characters from the early 1800s:

new salem state park

I didn’t actually eat him, promise! 😉

At certain times, it was quite literally hell – or what I imagine hell to be like, because I’ve never been so hot as when I had to wear a long-sleeve dress with petticoats and a day bonnet while stoking a fire in 95 degree weather. Despite the heat, I truly loved it, as the sense of community there was unlike anything I’d ever experienced before…or since.

It was the closest to “a village” as I’ve probably ever been.

In grade school, I was cast aside by my classmates for being poor. There was no village to be had there.

In high school, I was “the new girl” but had no idea what to make of those wanting to be my friends. I’d spent the last eight years of my life trying to hide from everyone and had no idea how to trust those who wanted to get to know me. There was no village formed there.

Now here I am, soon to turn 31, and I am a mother without a village. Sure, I occasionally have friends I go out with, but they’re not moms themselves, so if they actually remember to even invite me (hello, mom gap), comments are often made that leave me drowning in mommy guilt.

And as a work-at-home mom, I don’t even have colleagues to turn to. I probably have more conversations with my cat than anyone else and while he sure makes for a great listener, he’s not exactly known for his focus (unless there’s a laser involved…)

We have no family to help us navigate the world that is parenting, no date nights or child-free fun to be had together. There’s no one for me to cry to when it’s been a hard day and I even had to have the awkward conversation with my child’s teacher as to whether I had to put down emergency contacts because frankly…there are none.

It’s certainly not easy, but in the five years since becoming a mother, I’ve slowly learned more and more how to cope as a mother without a village. Hopefully if you learn nothing else through this article, it’s that even when you feel alone, you don’t have to be.

Look to Your Children

My babies are three and four, so they’re not exactly great conversationalists, but they are the most magnificent human beings I’ve ever had the privilege of knowing. As a stay-at-home mom, it can be really easy to lose sight of just how fascinating it is to watch our children grow. Between the constant demand for food, the screaming over who had what toy first, and the general chaos that comes from those tiny tornadoes, surviving as a work-at-home mom is often just that – surviving, but not necessarily thriving. If you take a step back, though, and REALLY focus in on the gratitude you feel for the beauty that is their existence, it makes life without a village that much easier. It won’t be long before they’re off finding and building villages of their own, so cherish them while you can.

mother without village

Balance the Work

If you’ve read the story of the med-free birth of my daughter, you already know just how demanding she can be. For the first two years of her life, I rarely put her down and she would often go on nursing marathons (we’re talking a latch time of 8+ hours!) Needless to say, I was the one sacrificing all the sleep during that time, but because of this, my husband is now the one who handles their bedtime routine. The best way to ensure a better life without a village is to ensure a balance between you and your partner. My husband works outside the home full-time but that doesn’t mean he then comes home, kicks up his feet, and calls it a day. Heh quite the opposite in fact! Typically when he comes home, it’s “tag, you’re it!” and he takes over the childcare duties while I tend to whatever it is I need to get done – whether that’s work, errands, or a much-needed bubble bath!

Get Involved

Last year we enrolled our children in a co-op preschool and it’s been by far one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life. Not only do I have a strong say in my child’s education, but I get to be as actively involved as I wish to be, which includes serving on the board as their Membership Chair. If your child’s school/daycare has opportunities to be involved, make use of them! You’ll be able to start connecting with other parents while also showing your children just how much you care. If there aren’t many opportunities there, then look to your local not-for-profits. Volunteer work is essential to a happy life and it’ll be made all the happier when you connect with others who share the same passions and values that you do. Obviously it’s not always easy to get out of the house when you have children and no support, but you can always look for volunteer opportunities to do with your children or virtual opportunities – if you’re skilled in social media or any kind of virtual work, I guarantee there’s a not-for-profit in your area that would LOVE to make use of your talents.

volunteer work

Build a Virtual Community

If you follow my services site, you know that one of the biggest things I attribute to my success is that I looked to build a community early on. While it’s not necessarily the same as having in-person support, you can connect to people you’d otherwise never meet, people who can relate to your struggles, celebrate your successes, and be there when you need them. There are Facebook groups for literally everything and everyone, so check a few out and start making those connections!

(And if you’re a blogger or entrepreneur, you are always more than welcome in my group.)

Pay Now, Play Later

One of the perks of not having a village is that I have more time to focus on my work as a professional business strategist and blogging mentor. It can certainly be exhausting to work almost every night and weekend, but I know that the effort I’m putting in now will certainly pay off in the future. The same goes for whatever “work” you have in your life – whether it’s outside the house or not, if you can get it done today, tomorrow will be all the better for it. So don’t mope and spend your nights watching Netflix (well, not every night anyway!) Take that “extra” time and build up additional incomes streams so you can pay down debt and be all that much closer to financial freedom. Your future self will thank you.

mother without a village

Being a mother without a village is exhausting. It’s painful, it’s scary, and you probably cry more days than not. That’s okay. It’s not easy, but the fact that you’re still pushing forward shows just how strong you truly are.

Here’s to pushing forward together and relishing the villages we do have, small and mighty that they be.

Should We Lose the “Step” in “Step Family”?

Should We Lose the “Step” in “Step Family”?

Step mothers are often seen as evil. Step children unwanted. Step fathers portrayed as overbearing brutes.

But what if we stopped with the “step”? What if we recognize that family is family, whether it’s through blood, marriage, or choice?

I don’t often do lifestyle posts like this, especially stream-of-consciousness ones, but it’s something that’s been on my mind a lot lately.

A few weeks ago, I came across this photo of me as a child, a photo in which I’m clearly choosing to hold back a smile…

blended family photo

Was I in a bad mood? Did the camera catch me at a bad time? Was I being a typical teenager, too cool to show my joy?

Nope. I was told I had an “awful smile” by my step-father’s mother.

“Too big,” she said, “too cheesy!”

And I stopped smiling for months after that.

girl not smiling

Step-Children Are Not Burdens

When we treat step-children as “extras” instead of “bonuses”, we are potentially setting them up to forever think of themselves as such.

I can recall one time when I was around 10 years old when my step-aunt had plans to take my step-brother and step-sister on a day trip. The day came and my step-brother didn’t want to go, he was having too much fun with our other brother. Rather than ask me along instead, the aunt threw a fit. I had no way to understand or process this rejection as anything but “she doesn’t see me as family and therefore doesn’t like me.”

Clearly this is something that has stuck with me 20+ years later.

With stories of Cinderella and the like, it’s no wonder we often think of step-parents as evil; the children often know no better until they themselves experience it. I can’t help but wonder, though, if we took the time to welcome these children into our families just as we welcome newborn babies, would things settle sooner? Wouldn’t the blending be all the better for it?

Obviously I’ve not been a step-mother (and hope to never be one), so it’s hard to come at it from any place but that of a grown step-child. I’m curious, though, if it’s just such a chaotic time that the parents don’t think to work together better to ensure a smooth transition? Or maybe this was just my experience and is an exception, not the rule?

What do you think – is it on the parents to ensure acceptance all around or do we just accept that “blended families” will often have more issues than “first-families”?

How to Turn $5 Into an Hour of Peace & Quiet

How to Turn $5 Into an Hour of Peace & Quiet

With the school year drawing to a close, it also means my children will be home with me more…a lot more.

Now don’t get me wrong, I absolutely adore my little ones (97% of the time), but I’m a work-at-home mom with no nanny, no daycare, and no family help.

To be frank – it sucks.

There are a lot of ways to survive as a WAHM, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. I truly love that I had the ability to quit my job and become a professional blogger/online business owner, but trying to work when my children are around 24/7 is exhausting. And doing so after my husband gets home at 6pm? Ooph. I love client calls, those are always energizing, but sitting down to write a blog post or create some social media graphics just doesn’t happen after spending 12 hours chasing around two little ones.

So lately I’ve been combing through my Pinterest trying to find ideas on how to keep my kids entertained without A) spending a lot of money B) having them watch 6 hours of TV every day or C) having to invest a ton of my own energy to do so.

Well one thing I kept coming across was setting up a “washing station” for kids to wash their toys – KIDS. LOVE. BUBBLES. This much I know.

Summer Activity Idea for Kids

summer fun diy idea

I decided to take things one step further, though. I went online to the Dollar Store – yes, I shop online at the Dollar store, have I mentioned I’m usually short on time? – and was browsing around when I found these AMAZING Crayola Bath Tub Paints. So I picked up a few of those, a couple cute plastic tubs, some bubble bath, and a pack of sponges.

summer fun kid car wash

I decided I wouldn’t just set up a “car wash” but would in fact encourage they make a mess before then washing everything.

car wash fun

You can always tell when he’s concentrating when his tongue pops out…

car wash kid fun

I don’t know what was more fun – painting or washing!

It took me all of two minutes to get them set up and they then played for NEARLY AN HOUR!! An hour in which they were too busy to pick on each other, whine about the sunshine, or beg for yet another cup of juice. It was heaven. Plus I didn’t have to give them a bath that night! 😉


What’s your go-to summer activity to keep kids busy?

I’d love to know in the comments below!

Disney Movie Club Review – Good Deal or Costly Mistake?

Disney Movie Club Review – Good Deal or Costly Mistake?

While I considered writing some music to go along with this Disney Movie Club review, I felt that it was needlessly sadistic to subject you to my singing. Besides, if you’re reading a review of ANYTHING Disney, you likely already get more cutesy music in your life than you can handle.

I want to preface this post with a disclaimer: I LOVE Disney movies. Moana is one of my all-time favorite movies, and I own most of their catalog on VHS and DVD/Blu-Ray. Now that I have children, my love for Disney is even greater, as it works as a great babysitter when I need to get something done or when I need a nap.

(Totally joking, my kids won’t stay quiet for ANYTHING long enough to let me nap!)

That said, I have nothing exceptionally gracious to say about the Disney Movie Club. So if you’re ready, grab your fish hook and strap on your clam-shell bikini, because we’re diving deep into the world of Disney Movie Club.

What is Disney Movie Club?

I maybe should have lead with this. In short, if you’re not familiar, Disney Movie Club (DMC for short from this point forward) is a subscription service. You sign up, usually get 4 movies for $1, lock yourself into a 2-year contract for another 6 movies at $19.95/each (plus shipping + processing), and then you can “cancel anytime” after that.

If you were a teenager in the 90s, you might remember the Columbia House CD subscription service, where you got a bunch of sweet albums for free, but then had to buy another 10 or something, at triple-retail markup. Those were great until your mother came in, wondering why she owed $32.99 for a copy of a Bjork CD that your crush told you was awesome but it fully wasn’t.

Anyway, sans Bjork, the DMC is the same kind of deal. You get a handful of movies for “free” up-front, and then have to buy another specific amount. It’s not awful if you love Disney and have holes in your movie collection.

Just kidding; even in the above scenario, it’s pretty bad, and here’s why!

Your Disney Movie Club Commitment Requires a Monthly Check-In

Each month you get a mailer with the “Featured Title” for the following month. This isn’t totally unexpected – it’s part of the whole deal. My problem with it is based on several key points:

1. You have to respond within about 2 weeks of getting the mailer, indicating whether you want the item or not. If you don’t, you’re locked into buying whatever it is that month. This is why we now have several copies of Planes on at least 3 mediums (it’s not even a good movie!!)

2. These selections, if you didn’t catch it from the above bullet, are sometimes lesser-known movies, or ones that likely didn’t get the exposure or success of mainstream titles. We have Beauty and the Beast Do Christmas or whatever it’s called because of this, featuring super phone-in animation and voice acting from a group of people who I imagine run the copy office at Disney as their primary gig.

3. Even after your two-year commitment ends, you still have to either remember to cancel completely or respond to their mailers every. single. month. Otherwise (you guessed it!) you’ll be charged for that month’s movie, regardless of having already met your purchase requirement.

The only time we were even pleasantly surprised was when we got Doctor Strange in the mail. Confused for sure, but still pleasantly surprised. You can fulfill your obligation by selecting any four movies you want, but the monthly selection is still a thing, and if you forget, well that’s how you end up with Aladdin 4: Aladdin Does His Taxes.

Disney Movie Club Review

is disney movie club worth it

Disney Movie Club Prices

I may have exaggerated the price of a random Bjork CD from the 90s, but the movies you get in this subscription typically cost you around $35 once shipping/processing is factored in.

I don’t care if the location of Atlantis is etched into it, $35 is a LOT of money to spend on a movie when you can usually grab them from Amazon for less than $20. Consider that you need to buy another 5 movies to fulfill your contractual obligation, you’re looking at a conservative estimate of $175.

Divided out over 9 movies, this is about $19/movie, which isn’t all that bad, but after your 4 free movies, are there really another 5 movies you would personally go out and buy unless you had a contractual gun to your head? If I gave you $175 right now, would your first instinct be to go scoop up a handful of random Disney movies?

The persistent myth of “digital copies”

A lot of movies you get now come with a DVD, Blu-ray, and a “digital copy”. Digital copy implies ownership – that I can download this to my kids’ tablets and they’ll be quiet while we drive to grandma’s house.

That’s not how this works, at least with Disney movies. The digital copies go into an account online, like your own personal Disney vault, where you can stream them. So if you don’t have persistent data or internet access, you can’t watch *your* movies.

This is frustrating itself, but couple it with the fact that streaming from their site was pretty poor on our home Wi-Fi and it’s just downright infuriating.

Disney Movie Club – Scam or Good Deal?

As I said above, I truly love Disney and their movies. My daughter adores Minnie Mouse and my son is convinced he’s Simba. Do I think the Disney Movie Club is a smart thing to enroll in? No, not really, not even if you’re a diehard fan.

In an age where you can stream nearly anything you want all the time, the concept of a hard copy of media is less relevant than ever before (and it’ll almost certainly become less so in the next two years, which is how long you’d have to buy those five movies!)

The added bonus of getting a digital copy to save to multiple devices is tempting, but it’s smoke and mirrors. In addition, paying a $10 markup or more to get 3 copies of a movie is absurd, considering most people have either DVD or Blu-ray, or at least prefer one to the other.

Coupled with the price of the average selection and the automated, rapid-fire of unwanted movies each month, I think I can safely suggest you stay away from the Disney Movie Club. There are cheaper, easier, and simply better ways to get your Disney fix.

Have you tried out Disney Movie Club? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

The 5 TV Shows with the Worst TV Parents

The 5 TV Shows with the Worst TV Parents

Do you sometimes, at the end of the day, tag your spouse in, check yourself out, and watch Grey’s Anatomy with a glass of wine bigger than the torso of some small dogs? Does it make you feel a tad bit guilty?

Well it shouldn’t! Seriously this is literally my life every Thursday and ya know what? No guilt to be had!

Real-life parents have a rough time what with juggling work, chores, school-related bake sales, and just generally trying to keep the children alive and not screaming. It’s exhausting, isn’t it?

TV and movie parents have a MUCH easier time of it, so when you consider just how abysmal they are at the absolute bare minimum, well…

You deserve that wine, is what I’m saying. So go grab a glass and check out:

The Five Worst Fictional Parents

(That aren’t Joan Crawford or Norman Bates’ mom…)

Rugrats

Everyone’s favorite childhood show about a group of babies getting into hijinks and shenanigans is pretty scary to watch in retrospect as an adult. The parents are often not around, the kids are outside by themselves in public settings ALL THE TIME, and Tommy’s dad is – sort of? – an inventor, but in a way that sets up a central theme of the show being that he’s broke and bad at it.

The parents in Rugrats aren’t EVIL, and the love their children for sure, but they’re just so ABSENT MINDED. There’s even an episode where Tommy and Chuckie are left in a store because their dads took DOLLS home instead of their actual children. I’ll admit that sometimes I’m a bit out of it, but how do you not notice when you’re clipping them into their carseats?! Safety first, people, c’mon!!

Weeds

Admit it, it was kind of refreshing seeing a show where the parental protagonist is a woman taking charge, right?

Nancy Botwin loses her husband tragically and instead of melting down, she grabs the reigns of her family and pushes forward! You go, girl!

Of course, she starts a drug empire, burns down a county, kills a few people, and then has a baby with a Mexican drug kingpin which she then uses as leverage to not get murdered herself.

A+ for effort, Nancy, but like an F- for execution.

Big Love

For a polygamist family, the Henricksons are starkly uninvolved with their kids’ lives. A central theme – whether intentional or not – seems to be that even with 4 parents, the kids are very rarely in the company of an adult. Or, if they are, that mysterious adult watching them is always off-camera and never identified.

Specifically, even though there are multiple small children in the family, oftentimes you’ll go several episodes without seeing them in the company of the adults. Where did they go? Do they have jobs? Perhaps they fight crime? And because at least 1 set of grandparents are actively trying to kill Bill, I don’t think they’re the ones watching the babies, either.

ER

Luka is a dreamy doctor, there’s no denying that, and once he sets his sights on Abby, well, it’s not long before they have a baby. A baby which he often leaves to be cared for exclusively by his girlfriend, the aforementioned Abby. You remember Abby, yeah? She’s the nurse-turned-doctor with the bipolar mother and brother, and because of said relatives, she had an abortion when married to her first husband because she was afraid the baby would get a mental illness, too.

Also, at some point, Luka’s dad gets sick, so he leaves Abby with the newborn for several months while he goes back to Eastern Europe to do Eastern European things. He also quit his job right before this, leaving Abby to not only raise the newborn by herself, but also survive financially on her own.

Spoiler: Abby never murders him, inexplicably.

Game of Thrones

Well there’s about a million bad parents on this show, aren’t there? Is it Cersei Lannister? What about Robert Baratheon? Who could be the WORST parent in GoT?

Oh it’s Danerys, hands-down.

Though her children are dragons and not human kids, we can draw some parallels; dragons fly around at top speed, destroying everything in their path, much like a toddler on sugar. In addition, they’re stubborn, only eat what and when they want to, and make all manner of loud, ridiculous noises for no reason.

So Dany locks 2 of her kids in a dungeon, and the third she lets fly around, burning and eating whatever he comes across.

Say what you want about Joffrey, but I don’t remember him literally setting people on fire and eating them.

Honorable Mentions:

Roseanne

Hear me out here – it has nothing to do with her politics, how she raises her kids, or anything to do with their lives really. Roseanne is hilarious, it was before, and it still is now, and it’s a great slice of how a lot of Midwestern average Americans lived and still do live today.

BUT for her to convince her family that their older sister isn’t a different person, and that their father was dead, for 21 years? That’s psychopathic.

Note: Her politics do suck, though. She’s a straight loon.

Batman(‘s parents)

Like, they didn’t ASK to get shot, but come on – you basically own ChicaGotham, you’re rich beyond all reason, and you leave the theater in your jewelry by walking down a dark alley at night? With your kid? And then you try to stop the mugger from stealing something you can replace with your pocket change?

I mean, a lot of parents do psychological damage to their kids, but the Waynes take the gold. Ooph.

At least you’re not them!

See? You’re not so bad after all, are you?

Sure, you went out last weekend with your friends, but you didn’t abandon your family for several months to go to Europe, did you?

And sure, your kids are kind of wild, but they’re not burning down playground equipment with their breath while your other two kids are locked in the basement…right?

Relax and luxuriate in the fact that at the end of the day, you’re a pretty good parent.

Oh! And also you should probably go check on your kids or knock on some wood; they’ve been kinda quiet for a while…

Sound off in the comments below:

Who do YOU think is the worst fictional parent from this list?

Or is there someone even worse?