It Takes a Village to Get YOU Back to Work!

  • Erin Shackleton
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  • Back to Work, Weekend Reads
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  • 13 May 2017


It takes a village…Back in my carefree childless days that was a phrase I often heard bandied about by exhausted parents.  “It takes a village to raise a child,” they’d sigh, while arguing over school runs and doctors’ appointments.  I’d hear stay-at-home-moms talk about how it was impossible for them to go back to work, because who would do the childcare? The housework? The endless to-ing and fro-ing to nursery, school, football practice, ballet….

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It takes a village… That phrase would come back to me over and over during the hectic first weeks after my son was born.  While I struggled to get him to breastfeed, while I wondered whether he was hitting his milestones, while my husband and I sorted out who could pick him up from nursery on what days and who would make dinner that night?  And for the love of Pete, whose turn was it to empty the diaper bin?!  

The idyllic set up 

 In my more exhausted hours I daydreamed about the aforementioned idyllic village.

Where every person worked together to raise children, provide food and necessities, and simply survive the day.  

Where husbands, wives, parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles, neighbours and friends would band together so that everyone got what needed to be done, done. 

A village where toddlers were handed to elderly grandparents while the able-bodied young men and women went off to till the fields and harvest the corn, and older children made sure the evening meal was on the table. 

Where jobs were something everyone had and nobody thought a working woman was shirking her child-rearing duties.

I have no idea if this utopia ever actually existed; in fact it probably didn’t. But when I hear it takes a village, that is what I imagine.

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Like so many of us in today’s world, my family is dispersed far and wide.  My parents and in-laws are an-hour-flight away, my brother on the other side of the globe.  While giving us amazing support and love from afar, they can’t help much when there’s a hiccup during the school-run.

Building your Own Village!

When the time came for me to go back to work (too quickly), I realized that I had to make my own village. 

Nurseries were too inflexible and expensive to provide the support my husband and I needed as working parents, so we hired a nanny.  She’s our angel, taking care of housework and childcare while we’re at work.  

It was hard to hand over my babies to her, the refrain “Why did you even have children if you aren’t going to raise them yourself” spoken by every disapproving ninny ever rang in my head. 

But it’s not like that.  She doesn’t raise our children.  She makes sure they're fed lunch, get outside to play, and basically not kill themselves in the run of the day.  My husband and I are still the huggers and discipliners, the shoulders to cry on, and the adults they look up to (at least until they turn 13…).

But what about the school runs? The to-ing and fro-ing?  The last minute panics that happen when my husband and I both have a meeting scheduled at the same time as school pick-up?

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A Support System to Pull You through

I’ve made friends.  A group of women just like me, working moms far from their families.  They’re my safety net, my stress ball, my sounding board and my hand to hold when juggling the demands of family and career.   I couldn’t do it without them. 

We are there for each other when a sick child needs immediate pick up but you’re still in an urgent meeting with the boss. 

We are there for each other when a lunch has been forgotten and needs to be dropped off. When pick up and drop off times don’t align.

We are there for emotional support when ageing parents get sick and our worlds shatter. 

So, when people ask how I juggle a management position at a busy university, a husband and two kids, and all the trials and tribulations of modern life I tell them, it takes a village.

It's not a sign of weakness to look for support. A strong backing is what we need to help us out during our bad-hair-days.   Because, after all, what would we be without each other helping to make our otherwise mundane worlds a little better to live in!

So, get out there, build a little idyllic set-up that works for YOU! 


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About the Author


Erin Shackleton lives in Dubai with her husband and two children, three cats, one tortoise and tank full of fish.  She’s currently employed at Canadian University Dubai as the Communications and Alumni Manager. 

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