We all know the old proverb that "it takes a whole village to raise a child" and this is true for many cultures. The basic meaning is that child upbringing is a communal effort - the responsibility for raising a child is shared with the extended family.
In Kenya, for example, there is a great sense of community where anyone who interacts with a child has some responsibility for them. In many circumstances mothers, grandmothers and aunties all play huge roles in helping to raise children, and it's not unusual for children to spend time away from their parents in the care of extended family members.
My child-raising experience is different, and I've made no secret that I've found parenting harder than I thought it would be. Having left behind my family to be with my Kiwi husband, I don't have my parents and siblings on-hand to help out with my children aged four and two. It wasn't until I had my kids that I realised just how much I missed my family. While I love my adopted country, I often think my life with kids would be so much easier if I had some extra help around. There are many people in similar situations and I'm one of the lucky ones. I, at least, have my husbands parents and some close friends to support us.
The rest of the time I have to pay for help. At the moment, my "village" also includes some surrogate aunties - our at-home educator and the teachers at the preschool my children attend. For some with newborns, help may be in the form of a Plunket nurse, baby sleep consultant or grandparent.
I read with interest the Herald on Sunday's Insight into sleep consultants, and I knew there would be critics. Those who say lack of sleep comes with the territory of having kids. I thought sleep consultant Emma Purdue, who was interviewed for the Herald story, wrote a measured response.
To the critics, yes, we know lack of sleep comes with the territory. And usually by the time parents resort to seeking help, they've had their fair share. When I had a demanding toddler and a newborn I went to my local Plunket Family Centre for help settling my baby. And I also participated in the Baby Sleep Consultant's open question forum on Facebook. On both occasions I received helpful advice and, more importantly, reassurance that I wasn't alone. Because when you're raising kids away from your family, you sometimes feel very alone.
To the parents who have looked for help - well done. There is a lot of pressure on modern families, and I fully encourage arming yourself with a "village" of helpers.
And, to those parents who are struggling, ask for help. A baby consultant may not be your thing, but there is help available. A good starting point is talking to your Plunket nurse or GP. Some sleep will go a long way to helping you cope with the demands of parenting.
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