The African saying that “It takes a village to raise a child” is given a stern test in the first world.
In the article “In search of lost time. Why is everyone so busy?”, It has been identified that Americans’ sense of hurriedness has significantly heightened compared to the rest of the world. In this country that invented take-away coffee, we are always trying to get somewhere - the next shift, spend some time with immediate family, or catch some sleep: the time slot for that is limited. We don’t take enough vacation, although more companies are starting to embrace unlimited vacation days. Throw in being an immigrant from a much less time-starved background, a new-born baby - a first born at that - and you have your work cut out.
As a young girl, I always dreamed of being a mom and I knew my dream would one day come true. I would sit for hours thinking up names to call my kids and what life would be like. I come from a family of eight and we were raised in a great Christian home with a stay at home mom and hired help. My family always commented on what a great mom I would be some day and I believed it and knew it. I have to say that none of these experiences prepared me for being a parent in America.
It is typical that when you have a baby in Africa, your mom or extended family will come home and reside with you and nurse you back to health. Hired help is not uncommon and, it’s not viewed as an expense for the upper class but everyone is entitled to a little help raising their child in Africa. Now this comes with some well cooked meals, rest and, need I say, more rest?
Ready or Not
For starters, our baby was preterm and weighed less than 2lbs. In a world where you already don’t have enough time, every curveball better come at its expected time. Not too early.
We had to leave our baby in the hospital each night and commute to and from the hospital daily for three months.” That means taking a break from work too early (which really means reducing the pay check before the planned time), heightened hospital bills (because rising healthcare costs do not spare childbirth) and heightened stress levels (because the support system is so much thinner in America). In this country, you learn to be ready for anything. And from that moment we decided it was not too early. We were ready. We had to be. We prepared our minds for anything because whatever the situation, we had to deal with it ourselves.
The Support System
With God’s mercy and support of a few family and friends, we pushed on.” I was actually surprised by the support system even here in the land of time poverty. In a way I like to believe that staying close to the Ugandan community in Colorado and other friends from work made a huge difference. As much as nobody has time, the support system has evolved with the lack of time. Whereas in Africa people just drop by and spend the whole day, here people have to put you on their calendar - by taking an hour or two off their sleep schedule - and you must plan to make every little minute of their time count. When they ask to help, you don’t pretend to be ok - you binge on it! That might be the only time you get to sleep!
You Grow Up Quick
I had always dreamed of my mom being there when I had my son, but life has a way of dealing you a card that you least expected. I had to reboot my brain and realized that whatever happened was between my husband and I.
The Bonding is Stronger than You Can Imagine
Our lives have been enriched on this journey as we see the world through a different lens. We have learned so much about ourselves as parents. You see kids have the ability to soften and melt your heart away with little hugs, kisses and I love you’s. Your life becomes more meaningful as you realize that you have to better yourself for the sake of your children.
This reaction holds true more for an American parent than for any other. In a world where you have to do a lot by yourself, you do not get to miss every beautiful stage in raising your child either. You know the most intimate details about them. They really are a part of you more than a part of the village. It will challenge the closest couples to near dysfunction, but if you take the time to communicate, and work together as a team,this brings you even closer. You learn to plan together and depend on each other. These things we took for granted in Africa.
We have learned to be self-sufficient, patient, love selflessly and to navigate the curve balls as they come.