It really does take a village to raise children. I am convinced of it.

In the beginning, I managed the twins with my husband and a 24/7 baby nurse for six weeks. After my husband went back to work, it was just me and a full time nanny for three months.

And when that didn’t work out, it was only me and a housekeeper who came around two, then three times, a week. This arrangement lasted until the kids were over a year old when I asked her to come everyday.

I stopped caring about the cleaning and only wanted her full attention on the children.

In part, it was to give me a break but it was primarily to give the children someone else because they had no one else.

Those precious months should have been spent with their grandmothers, my sister and brother, their aunts, uncles, and cousins, but they were stuck with two vagabond parents and whoever they could pay to help out. A life away from home follows a lonely road. We didn’t have regular visits to grandma’s house, cousins didn’t stop by to play and sisters weren’t around to babysit.

In 1.5yrs time, our housekeeper in Mexico knew our children more than the rest of our family, and in return they loved her more than we could imagine. It was the kind of love and adoration that should have been reserved for our family members and close friends. We tried to cultivate this kind of love by having family photos around for their sticky fingers to point to and mutter “annya, annya” for grandma and ask “theeese? theese?” for who’s that?

We created bedtime songs that included the names of everyone in the family. We even threw in names of close friends and our favorite family pets. We would put the telephone to their ears hoping to see traces of recognition in their face as our loved ones try to reach out through the telephone line, often getting disconnected by their curious, grabby hands.

And there was video conferencing on the computer, but only after spending days organizing a mutual time that didn’t get canceled, and getting the technologically challenged to connect at all (first we only got voice before they realized that the button that looks like a video camera actually puts it into video mode).

Even then we would spend our ten minutes “face-to-face” either wrestling the kids into the video frame or keeping those sticky fingers and grabby hands off the screen and, worse yet, the keyboard which always ended up closing the video screen, muting the sound, and ultimately disconnecting the whole cumbersome production.

Our children’s “village” was a virtual experience for them, some kind of amorphous idea of the people in our lives that we tried to implant into their hearts so they would love them even though these people rarely (if at all) existed in their day-to-day lives.

So there is little wonder when we finally left Mexico and returned to the United States that our children experienced increased stranger anxiety. We were finally in the veritable village where people were real flesh and blood, with their love pouring in to make up for times missed. Yet our children were not comforted. To them, their village was actually reduced in numbers from three to two – mommy and daddy.

They clung to us tighter than their vice grip on an ice cream cone. They threw harder tantrums. One started sucking his thumb, the other chewing on her finger. The relief and freedom I expected to have with family around to help was non-existent. Worse yet, the abundant love and joy from family we anxiously awaited for them to finally experience was also non-existent. Sigh…

By now, however, things have improved since the initial move. The natural course of adjusting takes over as everyone acclimates to their new environment, a new routine, a new set of people to get to know and even perhaps eventually love. We are growing a new village here, and will have to do it again after each move to a new country.

We’ve learned that we alone cannot be enough for nurturing, teaching, guiding, inspiring, disciplining, and loving the two young lives we brought into this world. Not that we ever believed we could do it alone. Rather we now see the significance of trying harder to have more people in the lives of our children on a day-to-day basis because a village of two is just too small.

Are you raising your children near your family? How do you nurture your children’s relationships with their relatives if you live far away from them?

This is an original post to World Moms Blog by our mother of twins writer,  Dee Harlow in Virginia, USA.

Photo credit attributed to goforchris. This photo has a creative commons attribution-no derivative works license.

Dee Harlow (Laos)

One of Dee’s earliest memories was flying on a trans-Pacific flight from her birthplace in Bangkok, Thailand, to the United States when she was six years old. Ever since then, it has always felt natural for her to criss-cross the globe. So after growing up in the northeast of the US, her life, her work and her curiosity have taken her to over 32 countries. And it was in the 30th country while serving in the Peace Corps in Uzbekistan that she met her husband. Together they embarked on a career in international humanitarian aid working in refugee camps in Darfur, Sudan, and the tsunami torn coast of Aceh, Indonesia. Dee is now a full-time mother of three-year old twins and continues to criss-cross the globe every two years with her husband who is in the US Foreign Service. They currently live in Vientiane, Laos, and are loving it! You can read about their adventures at Wanderlustress.

More Posts