I moved to Canberra in Summer 2012. I lived by the river in the first instance before moving in with my now-husband while I found a house. This was the second time I had moved to Canberra, the first being in the Summer of 2006 so that I could go to university and study a Bachelor Arts and Bachelor Education (Secondary). I had created quite a network of supportive friends during my first stint in Australia’s capital and was planning on where I picked up five years earlier when I had left to live in Japan and the Central Desert in Australia.
But I had changed. Many of the friends that I had kept in contact with and were looking forward to reconnecting with, had also changed. And when it came time for our wedding invitations to go out, only 3 of those original friends were still part of our support networks. I did not hear the term ‘village’ until I was pregnant with Master X in Winter 2015. This term emanates from the world’s Indigenous communities where raising the child is a shared responsibility, rather than the Western notion of silo families where support comes from only within the immediate family. We went to birth classes and parenting lessons and did not hear this term ‘village’ being used there, instead we were told to keep people away so that the baby imprints on the parents, thereby creating a solid bond. Strangers which includes immediate family, would collude that imprinting process.
So we listened to the experts and were very closed about who was able to visit, and as our problems with sleep, feeding, mental illness, sleep and self care waned and was stripped away, it became apparent that either the silo family model wasn’t working, or we were just terrible parents. It was not until I returned with Master X from regional NSW recovering with postpartum psychosis that we ditched the silo family model and switched to calling on our village. We started a weekly roster of people who could come over and go out with Master X and I to parks and the like, catch up for a cuppa or a chat. Essentially our village model was based on contact with no rules.
Recently a friend of Mr A had a baby and we could see they were struggling. So we reached out in the way that a few of our village friends had done for us, and started to open lines of communication. Our village had become theirs as we shared the bounds of parenthood, the tiredness and exhaustion of raining little people and provided a safe space for there to be thoughtful and meaningful conversation. Our support is mainly through emails, but this works due to the different sleep routine between our kids. And if we can’t answer a question we rely on our supports to help out too, so our friend’s supports have grown to include our network. Beautiful.
Some of our village reside overseas but this does not diminish our connections, it just means our chats might be delayed due to the significant time differences. It is amazing how much you can rely on social media to get through tough times. I don’t know what I would do without the local Canberra Mums Facebook page, The Healthy Mummy community and even the Smaggle page to keep me up-to-date about parenting and adulting and providing access a community of women to talk with about issues. There is definitely something to be said for Twitter as well and even the popular account Honest Mum, takes the time to read and respond to posts. My village also extends out to my readers here, and the blogging community of writers with bipolar who are probably my most supportive readership! It takes courage to write about something on the sidelines of like like parenting with mental illness. Especially when you are in the thick of it. Purple Owl, The Bipolar Parent, Disclaimer on My Experience and Birth of a New Brain are all important elements of that network. They inspire me to continue on this journey rather than running away or other symptomatic elements of our illness.
It is the moment when there is a two way or group thread in the online or face-to-face relationships that I realise that this is not my village, but rather we are intricately part of a network of support. We are part of the village; and I couldn’t ask for a better network than what we have, so thank you.