When I became a mum last year, I realised how incredible single parents truly are. In the first few demanding, relentless, and sleepless months of round-the-clock feeding and care, never before had I been more grateful for the support and love of a husband. In addition to my husband, never before had I been more grateful for my village.
Everyone is very fond of the old saying, 'It takes a village to raise a child.' I think this is true but I reckon we can go further with the idea. I think the village should be there, not just for the child, but to help mums and dads survive and thrive as they enter the long years of parenthood before them.
A village is physical and nearby
My village is both close and far and wide. My physically close village of support is small, having only moved to Toowoomba six months ago. But already, they have proven their willingness to help raise my son and support myself and my husband as parents.
It's sometimes small things, like letting my son roam during post-church fellowship and feeling safe that, even if I don't have my eyes on him 100% of the time, someone will gladly care for him. Or big things like when I woke up vomiting and needed someone to care for my son while Stephen went to work.
It's even knowing that there's a few people I can call on to catch up for coffee when I'm craving some adult-conversation time.
A village is emotionally supportive
My village of emotional support is somewhat broader. I have my own immediate family and a wonderful in-law family to chat to, often via Facebook Messenger or Skype. There are friends I live far from but my heart dwells with them, and we are blessed to have many varied means of communicating.
A modern world makes it hard to find a village
These days, it can be very hard for parents to find a village. Things like living far from family or relocating for work, or experiencing debilitating physical or mental illness can leave people feeling isolated and alone.
I consider myself incredibly blessed to be in a position where I feel as if I have a huge village. Much of this is thanks to my church village, both current and past.
The church can be a village for parents
The church has a wonderful opportunity to reach out and be the village that parents might be longing for. Running programs like playgroups or music programs give parents an opportunity to get out of the house and meet other parents as well as providing a fun experience for little ones.
Usually we gauge the success of these things by how many people come along. Is it "worth" running if only one or two people show up?
But I would suggest that a better—and more complex—marker of success is connection and engagement. Do the parents that come along feel connected? Do they feel loved? Has someone reached out to show them extraordinary, sacrificial, Christ-like generosity?
The answer to what this generosity looks like might differ from family to family but a good place to start is by providing a meal or a voucher for a meal. Food always helps bring people together! Or even just sending a text message to connect during the week can mean so much. A simple, 'How are you this week? How are your children? Is there anything I can do?' will always be appreciated.
So my encouragement is this: think about your village. Pray for them. Be thankful for them. And reach out to those whose village includes you.
Sarah Urmston lives in Toowoomba with her husband, Stephen. She loves God, her family, writing, colouring in, crochet, and creating lists. Sarah works full-time at home and seeks to faithfully serve Jesus in many different ways using the time she's given.
Sarah Urmston's previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/sarah-urmston.html