They say it takes a village...
Originally published on: http://fourunder4plustwo.blogspot.com
You know the expression "It takes a village to raise a child"? Well, while I don't believe that many people are strictly necessary (I happen to know and admire some pretty amazing single parents as well as many awesome conventional 2-parent families), it turns out that a team of people who all love and care for children is a pretty amazing thing; everybody wins, but especially the children.
The 'Wonder team' you see in the photo above consists of myself (Super Mom), my husband Ian (I'm that awesome), and our friends Ginger Ninja and Mr. Fantastic. We are the members of our particular village that looks after the 6 children in our care. I know this likely comes as a bit of a shock to most people, based on the disapproving and judgmental comments I've received from certain friends and family members who have recently come to learn of our admittedly rather unconventional arrangement. Perhaps it will help people understand if I provide a bit of our back story.
For those of you who are relatively new to the blog, or who are maybe less familiar with our quasi-single-parenting situation and how that came to be, it would help you to read this post as well as this one. All caught up? Good. Now I can move on to the 'village' development.
When we first moved to our tiny little town and I began this blog, we felt pretty isolated. In the Spring, after our youngest son (who is now 16 months old) was born, we began to meet more people. Some of those people included Ginger Ninja and her husband, Mr. Fantastic. This couple consists of two of the nicest people you could ever meet, and they have since become extremely close friends. I don't really know how to describe our relationship any better than that- I would say "best friends", but that sounds so juvenile and doesn't really convey the depth of our love and respect for each other. They are family to us, for all intents and purposes. Though they might not share our blood or our name, they are family.
Those of you who have children will know what I'm taking about when I say that that the first year home alone with a (first, especially) new baby can be a very lonely, isolating time. Especially if you have just moved to a new place, hours away from your family and friends and everything you know. That was Ginger Ninja's situation when we met. We got on so well that we began spending our days together. At first we'd go for our morning walk together with our brood of 5, then that turned into the entire morning and lunch. Eventually Mr. Fantastic would begin hanging out with us after work, and our two families would go for an evening walk together after supper.
Mr. Fantastic does landscaping and maintenance work in the Spring/Summer/Fall and snow removal in the Winter months. I'm not sure whether or not it was the same everywhere, but in our region of Ontario this past Winter has been dubbed the 'Winter that Wasn't'. In other words, Mr. Fantastic went an entire season with hardly any work. By this time he and Ginger Ninja were expecting their second child, and the tiny 2-bedroom house they had been renting was going to be too small for their soon-to-be family of four. They had been saving up a down payment to buy their first house, but ended up having to live off of their savings due to the unexpected lack of income. It was a tough Winter for them, and we decided to help them out in what small ways we could, the most important of which was doing meals with them, at our house, especially in the evenings. I love to cook and am used to cooking for an army anyway, so the transition was easy enough.
In return for that help, and because he had extra time on his hands while Ian had hardly any, Mr. Fantastic helped us out around our house with our ongoing renovation projects. He gave us his time and his skill tearing town plaster walls, insulating, etc., doing whatever he could to help advance our projects. And so things continued between our two families, give and take, until before we knew it we were actually spending the vast majority of our time together. By the time this past Spring arrived and Mr. Fantastic was back to work, Ginger Ninja was coming over after breakfast at home with mini Ginger (their adorable 21 month old son), we would do our morning thing, have lunch together, and then oftentimes she would have him nap here so that she could be on call for my kids if they woke up while I made business calls and worked. Then Mr. Fantastic would come by after work, we'd all have supper together, and they'd go home. Unless we wanted to hang out as adults and have a drink or play a game, etc., in which case they'd put mini Ginger to bed here and just carry him home much later.
Around this time is when Ian's work situation changed- he began working two full-time jobs for 80% of his original pay when he was only working the one, I had to take a leave from my PhD program and lose my funding, which was crucial to our family's survival, and we were hurting badly. Financially, obviously, but the physical and emotional stress were also taking a toll on all of us. Ginger Ninja and Mr. Fantastic were there for us, coming over to help me with baths and often staying for that chaotic time until the children were in bed. They no longer needed to be over for supper, but we all enjoyed the routine we'd developed as a joint-family unit.
Then the owner of the house Ginger Ninja and Mr. Fantastic were renting decided that he was going to put it up for sale. And so our very pregnant friends began looking for a new place to live. They had used up their savings over the previous Winter, so they were looking at renting again. But they weren't having much luck. The houses they were finding were either dumps that needed a lot of work, or they were not very young-family friendly, or they were simply too far away (they are a one-vehicle family, and Ginger Ninja wanted to be in town). They were becoming frustrated and were stressed out, as baby's arrival approached and they still hadn't found a suitable place to live. And we were becoming increasingly concerned with our own situation. We are used to making sacrifices, but we still needed to be able to keep our roof over our heads.
We had been working on converting our huge attic into a loft- livable, usable space, for many months, but had had to stop construction because of the sudden change in our financial situation. And so we sat down and discussed with our friends the option of combining our two households. They already spent most of their time in our home, apart from sleeping, and the house is plenty big for us all. The loft would be big enough for a bedroom for Ginger Ninja, Mr. Fantastic, and the new baby (for now), and there was a spare bunk bed available for mini Ginger in one of the kids' bedrooms. We had a long and serious discussion about the logistics of such a big decision, the broad strokes of which included topics such as communication, financial contribution, household responsibilities, discipline, etc. And so, with a thoughtful and generous loan from Ian's parents that allowed us to finish the loft, Ginger Ninja, Mr. Fantastic, mini Ginger, and now Ginger Princess are now a part of our clan. The children have claimed mini Ginger and Ginger Princess as siblings, and our home is now a household of 10. With room to spare, believe it or not!
It's not always easy, obviously, sharing a home with others, but I'm pleasantly surprised at just how well things are going. There is a lot more to say on the topic, and we have had many adventures already. I hope you will forgive my absence- it has been an insanely busy summer. But now that things are settled down and we are in a steady routine, I will be back to blogging. Thank you for being so patient and for continuing to read despite the chaos of my life and too-frequent disappearances from the blogosphere. I've missed you all and am glad to be 'home'!