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by Sarah on April 7th, 2011

I’ve had a sudden realisation this week. I really find it so strange that in our Western culture so many of us are so isolated. There are just too many families where parents, children and grandparents live on opposite sides of the country, or even the world. I can’t stop thinking how lucky the families of other cultures are, because they’ve got the whole extended family living right together, often under one roof! What this means for young moms is that help is always at hand. And it’s help from people who care deeply about the children.

In our culture it seems that moms are viewed as more “successful” or as better moms, the more stress they’re able to handle, and the more they’re able to do things on their own. But the problem here is that it just isn’t viable to earn money, cook meals, tidy houses, care for your children AND spend quality time with them too.

A lot of mothers in South Africa (and many other Western countries too) have resorted to hiring women to help clean their homes and look after their children. But their seems to be an awful amount of guilt around this. I know I’ve been feeling it. I have a very lovely woman, Anna, who comes one morning a week to look after Lily while I go to yoga and then sew with a project in our local township. I’ve often felt guilty for leaving her, for not being able to do it all on my own. And I’ve been feeling even more guilty because I’m wanting to hire Anna to help me three days a week now, so that I can put more energy into the few little projects that I’m working on.

My realisation is that I’m crazy for feeling guilty. Not only is guilt a totally useless emotion (I’ve actually heard that it isn’t even a real emotion, it’s something us humans have just invented!) but also, for millions of years and in cultures all around the world, children are being raised by a group of people. Mothers have always had a large load to bare (whether it’s gathering nuts and berries, collecting water or helping the father by bringing in an income) and it’s just impossible to be truly effective in every area of life. Without the help that is.

I’ve  now managed to find peace with this. It unfortunately can’t be my own mother who’s looking after Lily during the day, but it’s another beautiful woman, who has years of experience in raising children, who is amazingly calm and comforting, and who has lot to teach both Lily and myself. In a way, we’re forming our own mini community which I have no doubt will benefit Lily in the future in terms of being able to socialise more easily with others.

Having a little community, and sharing the load of all there is to do, means that I’m able to put  more fire into all the different things that need to get done, and it means that the time I do spend with Lily is far less rushed and far more fun. Thank you, Anna!